So, as promised, I’m going to tell you about some of the delicious Christmas (and general wintery) beers I tried. I’ll try not to go on so I’ll only tell you about a few sessions. As you know already, the Bierebelle Christmas deliciousness award already went to Gourdon Carolus Christmas! In fact, since this was the first one I tried at The House of Trembling Madness, I regret to say that it stole the show from the rest of the seasonal line-up. Nevertheless, I was also impressed by Gordon Xmas which is a typical Belgian style but has a little hint of burnt toffee. As expected Delerium’s festive offering, Delerium Noel, was also of a typically high standard; quite sweet, a little acidity in the back and a hint of bananas. La Chouffe Christmas was quite similar in style but since this was drunk directly after the Gourdon Carolus, it was hard to find much to remark on.
At this point, I should mention that since most of the beer styles I enjoy are fairly strong, I prefer to go for halves, or maybe even thirds. I used to have a bit of a thing about not wanting to look like a typical little girl,and I still have pints where there’s not much of interest on the bar. However I’ve come to the conclusion that if there’s lots of beers to get through, it’s better to a) be sober enough to taste them properly and b) not be bankrupt (some of these aint that cheap!).
So on with the ales… unfortunately not all seasonal specials can be relied upon to be awesome. At the York Tap, I tried a variety of specials and not-so-specials and I couldn’t help wondering why there wasn’t really much that stood out on the 20 taps that time. The first disappointment came from Tempest’s seasonal ale, Chipotle Spiced Special Porter. It was an ok-ish chilli porter with a little bit of spice, but I expected a little smoke from the Chipotle and it didn’t deliver. The usually reliable Thornebridge also let me down a little with their McConnel’sVanilla Stout which was slightly too hoppy with not enough Vanilla. I don’t think this is strictly a Christmas beer so you might see it at other times of year, but the true masters of Vanilla Stout are still Titanic. Manchester Marble Chocolate Marble was another ale which, in my opinion, had too much hop for the style but it was perfectly acceptable, just not that special.
So, on to Brigantes, the best pub on Micklegate if you ask me and I’m so glad I managed a visit as I had the chance to try the very special Gyle 479 from Leeds. It’s aged in whiskey casks so it has a rich and complex flavor with dark winter berries and a hint of smoke at the back. Very well-rounded and satisfying – I hope I encounter this one again! They also had Dark Star Winter Solstice on which I couldn’t resist trying since this brewery never seems to disappoint. Not the typical winter style, it was strong and dark but had a strong citrus flavor with some biscuitiness and was very bitter. Not what I would normally drink but I appreciate what Dark Star were going for and they did it well.
Visits to York always have to include a few hotel room beers to unwind after doing the rounds with the friends and family. The city is lucky to have a few good bottle shops such as The Bottle on Stonegate and Gluggles on Goodramgate (http://gluggles.com/). The favorite this year had to be Southern Tier Iniquity – I really wish this brewery had more bottles imported since they are awesome (incidently their Pumpking halloween special is one of the best things I have ever tasted). If you can imagine a rich fruit cake with black cherries, but imagine it as a beer as well, that’s Iniquity. Amazing. Another fruity treat came from the boys at Brew Dog in their yummy Christmas Porter. A tiny hint of hopiness and coffee could be detected but mainly just an indulgent Christmas pudding in a bottle.
Of course hotel beer is not necessarily for the evening and Mikeller took the first step into the breakfast beer niche with their exceptional Beer Hop Breakfast. You will come to know that I am not the biggest fan of over-hopping but Mikeller somehow got away with it. I have a lot of respect for their no-compromise attitude. This one was a bit of a challenge but very rewarding with a chewy cereal flavor.
Being in York, I also took the opportunity to drink some local ales (believe me a lot of Old Centurion’s Ghost is always enjoyed on trips home). York Brewery’s 2011 offering, Humbug, was bitter, sweet and not really a Christmas beer. Dark toffee in color, it also has a slight burnt toffee flavor. Maybe it would make a good bonfire night beer. The other notable local ale, Sam Smiths Imperial Stout crammed in everything I love in a stout. Dark, creamy, smooth with chocolate, coffee and hazlenut flavors. Please please can somebody in the South start ordering Sam Smiths!
So there’s the Christmas report – I hope I didn’t go on too long! It didn’t even cover them all though. There’s still the 12 Stouts of Christmas from Bristol, but that might be for another day…