29 December 2007

A la maud

What will probably be the last beer of the year is another of my winter Canadians: Maudite from Unibroue. It's an interesting mix of the Belgian golden ale and the typical bière de garde. The former comes through in the rich, powerful and spicy flavour, the soft texture and also the mandatory demons on the label. The latter lends a dark amber colour, opaque as the yeast goes in at the end of the 75cl bottle, and also a lovely sweet and malty character.

Maudite is a magnificent beer, and the perfect send-off for what has been a busy year on this blog, and in the beer blogging world in general. I'm away now for my annual New Year jaunt. Christmas has left me with enough new beers to keep me in entries for the first couple of weeks of 2008. Looking forward to getting stuck into that.

25 December 2007

Selection box

Christmas Day draws to a close. I was fortunate enough to make it to a Sainsbury's yesterday, where I picked up a variety of seasonal beers from their compact but bijou range.

The first isn't at all appropiate to this season: Try'd & Tested was brewed by Harviestoun for the rugby world cup back in the autumn. It pours a beautiful deep red colour and delivers lovely porter-like coffee and chocolate notes. True to the Harviestoun way, it's mostly very smooth with just a slightly unpleasant bitter buzz at the end. Nevertheless, it was just the sort of thing I was in the mood for and I enjoyed it.

I don't think I've ever been so disappointed with a beer as I was with Fuller's Old Winter Ale. It's dark enough, but is packed with very harsh, dry, bitter flavours. There's tonnes of alcohol in the taste, despite a mere 5.3%, but a total absence of spice or sweetness or body. Rarely have I been so looking forward to opening something else at the end.

Fortunately, the something else I had to hand was Meantime's Winter Time. This is full-bodied and full-flavoured, with slightly bitter dark winter fruits to the fore. The triumph of this rich and warming number is that it manages to be heavy, satisfying and sippable without being for a moment cloying or difficult. Another hit from the folk in Greenwich.

And so to the day itself. I picked two beers to go with my pudding: the first being, imaginatively, Young's Christmas Pudding. This is one of those ales that I really enjoyed but which wouldn't be to everyone's taste. It's very strange, possessed of an odd spiciness which tastes vaguely fruity but not at all Christmas-pudding-like. It's an easy going and rather quaffable beer, but it's not one to buy in large quantities if you've never tasted it.

Finally, having been disappointed by Wychwood Bah Humbug, I decided to give them a second chance with their Plumduff Christmas ale. I'm glad I did: it's lovely. It's a sweet red beer, light of body and loaded with real plum flavours, putting me more in mind of a Belgian fruit beer than anything English. If I had to fault it, it would be because it lacks a heavy, malty, bready character which would have made it genuinely puddingy. Still, very tasty.

And that's it all over for another year. Apart from the box of beery goodies Santa left me. Compliments of the season to all readers.

21 December 2007

The Adoration of the Shepherds

The Christmas holiday begins today. This year I managed to avoid the worst of the work-related bad-drink events that I tend to get sucked into: just a couple of fairly civilised lunches for me. To celebrate the end of work for two weeks, I laid in a couple of Shepherd Neame Christmas Ales, having seen them last week for the first time.

I cracked one open by the fireside this evening, and was struck first by the heady aley aroma from the neck. It's pretty close to a skunky waft, which wouldn't be surprising given the brewery's ridiculous preference for clear glass bottles. I rather like that smell, however: it's the first signal that this is proper beer. On tasting I was surprised there wasn't more of a Christmas character to it. There's just a little more warmth coming from the high alcohol (7% ABV), and a hint of spice on the very end as it warms, but mostly there are just big, candied, crystal malt flavours, and I must say I loved them.

This is a very easy drinking number, and the sort that could very easily sneak up on an unwary drinker and knock them out. Just a couple as the logs crackle in the grate, though? Lovely.