9 of the best Christmas beers: Spice up your life

Although it seemed Christmas kicked off way back in September with advent calendars going on sale, it’s December and time to crack out the festive brews.

You might be pining for warmer weather and pale ales, but while you can still get the latter easy enough, winter is a great time for beer. If you’re like me, it’s actually one of the best times of year for beer with plenty made especially for the festive season.

I’ve rounded up a number Christmas ales and beers including some favourites I get every year and some that are new to me for 2017. Here’s some I couldn’t get hold of: Weird Beard Black Christmas, Northern Monk Festive Star and White Hag Yule Ale.

These high abv beers will keep you warm and merry this Christmas.

Anchor – Christmas Ale 2017 (6.7%)

Anchor Christmas Ale 2017Anchor almost solely got me into craft beer so it’s no surprise that the San Francisco brewery’s Christmas Ale is top of my hit list when December comes around. It’s been going since 1975 and the same artist since the beginning draws a new tree for the label.

The top-secret recipe is changed slightly every year (great for vertical tastings) and as with the last few years, the spices are pared back. Fewer ingredients mean the ones there get more chance to shine. The 2017 edition is still packed with flavour with speciality malts – think coffee, chocolate, nuts, fruit and spice.

Find it here

Wiper and True – Plum Pudding (6.8%)

Wiper and True Plum Pudding PorterWiper and True makes some awesome lighter beers but I think its dark beers are more outstanding – try Milkshake and Winter Palace if you haven’t and you won’t be disappointed.

As the label suggests, Plum Pudding is the festive brew and features darker malts. The porter has been brewed with dried fruit, lemon zest and cinnamon so you can imagine the taste. Christmas cake in a bottle.

Find it here

Harvey’s – Christmas Ale (7.5%)

Harvey's Christmas AleYou’re probably bored of me banging on about Harvey’s but bear with me here. Along with some of the Sussex brewery’s other beers, Christmas Ale is somewhat legendary and award winning – and now has fancy new labels.

Barley wine says Christmas to me and that’s what you’re getting here. It’s a small bottle but this beer packs a punch and not just the abv. The flavour is deep and complex with fruits and spices going on mainly but also has a nice hop bitterness.

Find it here

Anspach & Hobday – The Pfeffernusse Saison (7.5%)

Anspach and Hobday Pfeffernusse SaisonA saison doesn’t exactly make thoughts of Christmas spring to mind, but how about a pfeffernusse version? Yes please, A&H!

Translated, pfeffernusse means gingerbread cookie (like those lebkuchen you get in Lidl every year). It’s nice to have a lighter beer as an option and this pours amber and although gingerbread is a key flavour you’ll also find hints of toffee, pepper and cloves.

Find it here

Wild Beer Co – Jambo! (8.5%)

Wild Beer Jambo Imperial StoutChristmas is about sharing so what better for this list and 750ml bottle of imperial stout. Wild is best known for sours and various experimental beers, but like Wiper and True the dark ones are my favourite.

Jambo is not just a plain impy stout though, that’s not Wild’s style. It’s made with locally foraged raspberries which makes it a little tart and Valrhona cocoa nibs. Rich, fruity and boozy – forget pudding and skip straight to this.

Find it here

Shepherd Neame – Christmas Ale (7%)

Shepherd Neame Christmas AleIt doesn’t get much more traditional than Shepherd Neame in the UK and although I’m a fan of Late Red, the Christmas Ale is the only one I get every year without fail – namely as it’s a guaranteed present from my mother-in-law.

The flavour might not be mind blowing, but you know where you are with this beer. It’s a traditional strong and dark ale for Christmas time that’s got plenty of booze and flavours of namely dried fruit but also some spice.

Find it here

Siren – Sheltered Spirit (14%)

Siren Sheltered SpiritIn my mind, Siren makes some of the best beers in the UK and not just dark ones – although it’s hard not to mention Bourbon Milkshake and Blacklight Banana. Well here’s another and it’s a bomb.

Sheltered Spirit is a bourbon barrel aged imperial porter that’s been brewed with Tamarind, usually found in Indian cooking. This means bags of aroma and the beer also has wheat and rye in it.  At 14% it’s a sharing beer to be sipped, even in a 330ml bottle.

Find it here

Thornbridge – Cocoa Wonderland (6.8%)

Thornbridge Cacoa Wonderland Chocolate PorterOk, so Thornbridge has a Christmas beer called Tonttu but I couldn’t get hold of any (shout in the comments if you’ve tried it). However, a chocolate porter is another great beer for Crimbo and is easily obtainable.

A boozy porter will make a decent pudding beer, especially when the malt bill naturally provides a mocha profile. Thornbridge then adds cocoa beans for maturation so why eat a chocolate liquor when you can have this?

Find it here

Fuller’s – Vintage Ale 2017 (8.5%)

Fuller's Vintage Ale 2017If you’re not on the vintage ale bandwagon then all-aboard. For starters, if you keep a bottle about 10 years it’ll be worth over £100. But you should really drink it; try buying multiple and age them different amounts.

It’s a new recipe every year and this 21st edition is by new head brewer, Georgina Young, and uses malt and hops not used by the brewery before. There’s new British malt, Laureate, and also Denali hops used late in the boil and for dry-hopping for pineapple and pine notes.

Find it here – also available in Waitrose

Images by Becca Martin Photography

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