Tag: christmas beer

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The Great Christmas Beer Hunt

I could rant about this but I’m not in a ranty mood, so instead I’ll make a simple plea:

Around this time if year newspapers and magazines are full of festive food and drink coverage. Publications like Sainsburys Magazine tell you where to get your ‘wine and fizz’ for Christmas as if no other drinks exist. Observer Food Monthly lists “Forty Festive Wines’ without telling you why any of them are more suitable for Christmas than any other time of year, without giving any food matching tips or anything.
And as every year, there are countless Christmas and winter ales being produced by brewers across the country and the world, and they’re getting no coverage at all.
It just doesn’t make sense. Our foodie culture is rightly getting more interested in seasonal produce. Beer is emphatically seasonal. You’d think it would be a no-brainer for any food and drink coverage. But as far as I can see – nothing.
So my plea is this. If you see any newspaper or magazine coverage of winter/Christmas beers, can you let me know where and when you saw it?

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As posh as the queen

I spent two days in Burton-on-Trent last week, brewing No.1 Barley Wine and P2 Stout in the White Shield Brewery with Steve Wellington. I’m spending today writing up the story – complete with some exciting news about the future of the brewery – for a piece in CAMRA’s Beer magazine. It’ll be running in the Spring 2010 issue, out around February.

Anyway, while I was up there, Mrs PBBB – sorry, The Beer Widow – phoned me to discuss Christmas pudding plans. We’ve never made our own Christmas pudding before, and she’d been rooting around for recipes. This is the week you ‘traditionally’ make your pudding, apparently. Anyway, she’d found a Delia recipe which called for some barley wine and stout. Hey, I was brewing barley wine and stout! There was no barley wine near to hand, but I was sure Steve would let me have a bottle of P2 for the pud.
But Steve went one better than that. Yes, he gave me several bottles of P2. But when I told him what I wanted it for, he also gave me a bottle of Queen’s Ale.
This is a special brew of No.1 Barley Wine brewed in 2002 to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. There are not many bottles left lying around the brewery, and we’d just polished one off for elevenses because Steve hadn’t tasted it for a while. It was sublime – dark and rich and sherrylike but not too aggressive. The age on it had done wonderful things, creating a beer that was still a beer but as soft and mellow and deep and satisfying as a vintage Bordeaux.
The thing is, Buckingham Palace use it to marinate the fruit they put in the Royal Christmas pudding. And that’s why Steve very, very kindly gave me a bottle to bring home for TBW.
This was one of those crises of conscience. All I wanted to do was stash it safely in my cellar, or maybe sneak it up to the study to enjoy to myself on a dark and stormy night. But Steve had only given it to me because of the pudding story. It seemed like a waste for such an amazing beer. But I wouldn’t have it in my possession otherwise. With a heavy heart and some anguished mewling noises, I gave it to TBW. On Friday night, after a few tweaks to the Delia recipe, she poured it over some fruit.
Well, at least our Christmas pudding will be as posh as the Queen’s.
Yesterday was the final mixing of the pudding before cooking. Its traditional to gather round and let each family member have a stir, and make a wish as they do so. I wished I could have some more Queen’s Ale.
Later, I went down to tidy the beer cellar and try to make some room – it’s a bit overfull at the moment. And lo, as I tried to make sense of the barley wine and vintage ale shelf, I found not one, but two bottles of Queen’s Ale that the generous-to-a-fault master brewer of Burton must have given me when we were working together brewing Calcutta IPA, my Hops and Glory beer.
The magic of Christmas is at work already.

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The Great Christmas Ale Hunt

Here’s a mystery – with Christmas and winter ales available from hundreds of British brewers, amply stocked in the larger branches of all major supermarket chains, where are the reviews of them in the press?

The food and drink supps of all major newspapers are, like every year, suggesting treats for the Christmas table. Observer Food Monthly had a page of festive wines and a selection of whiskies, but no mention of beer.

This must be a bit galling if you’re a brewer. You create a recipe specifically for the season, often using seasonal ingredients, and succeed in getting major retail distribution. Here are magazines with pages to fill, with writers and readers who are interested in more seasonal, natural food. And they recommend wines that are no different than those available all year round.

You could say people like me should be the ones writing, but I was away last week, and anyway, when I’ve tried before they don’t even return calls or e-mails.

Why do the press try so hard to pretend beer doesn’t exist? Have we done something to upset them? Maybe I’m wrong.

If you’re in the UK, and you have seen any Christmas or winter brews reviewed anywhere, please let me know!