Beer for Christmas

Christmas is a time for a bit of indulgence (even more so after the year we have all had) so here are five ideas for London beers for you to splash out on.

Let’s start with Solvay Society, who base most of their beers on Belgian styles. One of my favourites is Mutual Attraction, a barrel aged Saison at 6.4% ABV. It comes in 75 cl bottles, so it is one for sharing. It’s a complex smooth hazy yellow beer with tart funky notes coming from the Brettanomyces yeast. The barrel ageing is reflected throughout. The nose has slightly earthy and citrus notes, which are also noticeable on the palate where there are also hints of vanilla. It has a dry, bitterish finish and is dangerously easy to drink. It makes a good aperitif. The 75 cl bottle costs £12.

Solvay’s range of bottles

For something more mainstream, you can’t go too far wrong with Fuller’s 1845. Winner of CAMRA’s Champion Bottled Beer of Britain three times, this 6.3% ABV beer came into being to celebrate Fuller’s 150th birthday and is based on recipes dating from the mid 1800s. It is a tawny brown ale with spicy, earthy, aromas and flavours of oranges, dried fruit, fruit cake overlaid with caramelised toffee and a dry complex aftertaste. This full rich tasting beer goes well with both cheese and chocolate. A pack of eight bottles will cost you £15.95 direct from Fuller’s (delivery extra).

For something darker, try the 1820 Porter from Beerblefish. The recipe comes from around that time. It’s a well balanced 6.6% ABV dark brown porter with aromas of blackberries, blackcurrants and bitter chocolate that carry through to the palate with dried fruit and prunes, raisin with a little bitterness and dried banana in the finish. It’s a good beer to accompany roast beef or lamb or go for a complete contrast and have it with vanilla ice cream. It retails at £5 for a 500 ml bottle.

For a beer that goes well with cheese try Wimbledon’s limited release XXXK. This is another beer inspired by the past, the idea coming from a late C19th Wimbledon Brewery poster advertising ‘XXXK Strong Ale’. The result is a 10% ABV unfined barley wine, reminiscent of a desert wine. There is rich sweet orange marmalade throughout and a honey sweetness and some spicy hops that develops with a hint of bitterness and a growing dryness. £22 for a 75 cl bottle.

The strongest beer in this selection is a 10.4% ABV Imperial Russian Stout from Sambrook’s Brewery. In a more manageable size for one, 33 cl; it retails at £2.75 per bottle. It’s a complex beer with a smooth rich mouthfeel. There is black treacle on the nose and in the flavour, where coconut, coffee, sweet caramel and cherry notes are also present. The aftertaste has spicy notes with an increasing black roasty bitterness. Definitely a beer to go with chocolate after the Christmas meal.

With the strength of these beers (and the size of some of the bottles), they are really ideal for drinking at home. So, if we do end up with a lockdown over Christmas, they could be a way to cheer yourself up over the festive season. Enjoy!
Christine Cryne

All of these beers were available on the breweries’ websites at the time the article was written.