“On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…” BEER. Hopefully. If they care for you that much.
Season 3 of the Beer O’Clock Show is coming to an end and now it’s all about those all-important Christmas beers that have been squirreled away throughout the year. I’ve got 12 ‘special’ (for one reason or another) ones put aside and from Friday 20 December I’m going to be reviewing one a day until Tuesday 31 as part of our #12DaysofXmas
My #12BeersofXmas are below – each day I’ll be releasing a new blog reviewing that day’s beer.
If you want to take part, you’ll need to select 12 beers and then leave a comment each day telling us what beer that you are drinking and giving a short review of what you thought of it. At the end of the #12BeersofXmas I’ll release a blog featuring all of the beers that have been drunk.
Why am I finishing on 31 December instead of doing the more ‘traditional’ 12 Days of Christmas? Simple. In January, I’m doing the Dryathlon for Cancer Research and I’m asking anyone who reads this blog to ‘Buy Me A Pint’ by clicking on this link to go to my Just Giving page.
So back to the beers – here they are and the reasons why they are featuring in my 12 Beers of Christmas…
Day 1 – Friday 20 December – Honest Brew ‘Riwaka Hop IPA’ (personalised label edition)
I won this beer in a competition earlier on in the year by supplying the photo that is on the label and that’s why it’s got the honoured position of being the opener for 12 Beers of Christmas.
What the brewer says… “Brewed with one of the finest rare hops from New Zealand and brought to the UK by a daring #HopMule. Expect sweet grapefruit and tropical fruit flavours.”
Day 2 – Saturday 21 December – Hop Stuff Gunners Porter
We’ve been following Hop Stuff from their crowd-sourced beginnings through to production at their new brewery at the Royal Arsenal. This mammoth 750ml corked porter is a real winter warmer that I just can’t wait to get stuck into.
What the brewer says… “Gunners Porter is Hop Stuff Brewery’s take on a traditional English Porter, and a nod to our home at the Royal Arsenal and its rich military heritage. Made with roasted and chocolate malts and blended with Pilgrim hops from the UK and a little Willamette from over the pond to add spicy notes – a perfect winter warmer”
Day 3 – Sunday 22 December – Truman’s London Keeper Double Export Stout
This was quite a late entry to the #12BeersofXmas and one that am I really looking forward to. The whole presentation around this bottle (wax sealed, hanging label, signed limited edition etc) is something really special and I’m just hoping the beer inside is equal to that.
What the brewer says… “After hours spent looking through Truman’s Gyle books at the London Metropolitan Archive, Truman’s London Keeper – based on the recipe for a Double Export Stout from 1880 – was born. Head Brewer, Benedikt Ott, explains: “An 8% ABV double export stout intriguingly brewed with American hops.” Despite their modern popularity, American hops were only used in the 19th century when the UK hop harvest failed. Although it was impossible to find out which hops were actually used at the time, Willamette and Sterling were selected due to their similarity to older hop varieties. The beer pours a gorgeous midnight black, with aromas of toasted nuts and dark chocolate. It then delivers an explosion of crunchy, malty flavours with background notes of liquorice and black treacle. The malty sweetness is balanced with a delicious lick of hop bitterness.”
Day 4 – Monday 23 December – Brewdog ‘ Mixtape 8’
I got very excited about this when it was released. It’s a blend of a Belgian Tripel and a Triple IPA – what could possibly go wrong?
What the brewer says… “Mix Tape 8 is a blend of two huge oak aged beers – half a hopped up Belgian Tripel, and half a Triple India Pale Ale. These beers have both been aged in single grain whisky barrels for close to two years and finally blended to create a beer that our head brewer Stewart Bowman can most helpfully describe as ‘fucking complex’. From the Tripel side we get earthy, phenolic, dry qualities; from the TIPA we get apricot jam sweetness and nectarine. All these flavours are beautifully rounded off thanks to the oak, which has imparted some incredible vanilla and coconut aspects to the beer.”
Day 5 – Christmas Eve – Harviestoun ‘Ola Dubh 18’
If I could have got my hands on a bottle of the 30 I would have been drinking that tonight. Ola Dubh is a stunning beer and it seems the right beer to slowly enjoy on Christmas Eve.
What the brewer says… “The initial whisky hit on the nose gives way to more delicate aromas of chocolate, fruity coffee grounds and hints of woodland berries. The flavour is a very appetising blend of sweet malts, vanilla, oak and tobacco. It has undertones of raisins and other dark, dried fruits; a delicious testament to Highland Park’s bias toward sherry casks.”
Day 6 – Christmas Day – Magic Rock ‘Strongman’
There’s been some umming and erring around whether this was going to get drunk this year but I simply can’t hold back any longer. This is my ‘official’ Christmas Day beer and will be enjoyed with dinner and long after. It has also been a lesson in buying two special release beers in the future – one to age and one to enjoy now!
What the brewer says… “Our sumptuous golden Barley Wine ‘Strongman’ hails from the same brew as our annual release IIIPA ‘Un-Human Cannonball’ . Using just our house pale Golden Promise malt the beer is then judiciously hopped with Centennial, Citra and CTZ whole hops in our hop back. However instead of assaulting the beer with dry-hops we then carefully age it in freshly emptied Amontillado Sherry casks until its ready to take the stage. The resulting beer is golden in colour with a rich pungent aroma and full palate, which gives way to rich fruit and brisk nutty flavours. Best drunk slightly cold a dry yet balanced finish delights the taste buds while a warming finish brings the curtains down”
Day 7 – Boxing Day – Thornbridge Hall ‘Raspberry Stout’
A late acquisition to the 12 Beers of Christmas and one that instantly earned a place on a ‘named day’. The combination of dark roasted flavours with a sharp hit of raspberry? Very exciting.
What the brewer says… “Dark rich stout, fruity aromas, hints of liquorice and chocolate, generously infused with Scottish raspberries.”
Day 8 – Friday 27 December – Firestone ‘DBA Double Imperial Bitter’
This is the first of two of the 12 Beers of Christmas that I will be sharing and the only pure American beer of the set. Not just with anyone but with my best buddy none the less. Apparently, we could be in for a right treat.
What the brewer says… “Our flagship beer brewed to double strength. Immense toffee, vanilla, coconut and caramel malt married with American oak aromas emerge. The first sip develops with sugary caramel, molasses and vanilla, finishing with English toffee and toasted coconut. A beer to be reckoned with and perfect for sharing.”
Day 9 – Saturday 28 December – M&S/Meantime ‘Bourbon Barrel Aged Greenwich Ale’
I’ve had this one stashed away since Father’s Day – it’s got a cork and is in a big round box and everything, so it MUST be special! This will once again be enjoyed with my buddy.
What the brewer says… “Brewed by the Meantime Brewery using 7 different malts to produce a very well balanced, traditional, London-style Porter, a style of ale which dates back to 1750. It’s then aged for 4 months in bourbon barrels, allowing sweet flavours of caramel and vanilla to infuse into the ale.”
Day 10 – Sunday 29 December – Ilkley ‘Speyside Siberia’
I tried the original version back at Urban Sessions in the summer and thought it tasted like rhubarb and custard sweets. Apparently this is the same, although it’s like the sweets have been soaked in whiskey.
What the brewer says… “Originally brewed in collaboration with Melissa Cole, Siberia used world famous Yorkshire Rhubarb to add a hint of sourness, with earthy spice, and fresh vanilla in this Saison. 6 months in Scottish Oak Whisky barrels has added maturity to this unique beer. With the spirit on the nose, and a mellow marzipan on the palate. The finish is as soft as the natural carbonation, and it is refreshing on the palate, with a long, satisfying bittersweet finish. Only 700 bottles were hand-bottled, so act fast to try this limited special release.”
Day 11 – Monday 30 December – Wild Beer, Good George Beer & Burning Sky ‘Shnoodlepip’
There’s been a lot of chatter about this beer this year so I thought it was about time I took the plunge. Some interesting ingredients on the list here and I’m keen to see if they all work together.
What the brewer says… “Somerset Sharpham Park Spelt has been used for a full body. Pink peppercorns give a gentle sweet spiciness. Saison and Brettanomyces yeast strains lead to a dry spicy character that will continue to evolve. Wood-ageing in French red wine barrels for 4 months adds depth and oak. Passion-fruit brings a tart tropical fruit character. The 4 month ageing process has been finished off with amazingly tangy Hibiscus flowers.”
Day 12 – New Year’s Eve – Magic Rock ‘Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady’
For my last beer of the year, what better way to go out? I plan to do this over the course of the evening, to enjoy and savour and to lose myself in the magic.
What the brewer says… “10 Month Bourbon Barrel Aged Bearded Lady, our uncompromisingly big and beautiful Imperial Stout. Born from our Dark Arts recipe she uses masses of magical malts to deliver deep chocolate, rich coffee and vinous berry flavours all complemented by a balanced yet subtly spicy hop profile. Powerful, robust, intriguing; yet decadently smooth and sumptuous, the lady demands respect… The barrel ageing softens the beer adding rich bourbon, sweet vanilla and a hint of Oak”
Feel free to share your full #12BeersOfXmas lists below (make sure to include your Twitter @name) or keep an eye out for the daily #12BeersofXmas blogs and use the comment box below each one to join in. You can also Tweet about your beers by using #12BeersofXmas (note the Xmas).
Looking forward to hearing all about it and sharing that first beer with you all on 20 December! Cheers!