It’s that time of year again. Christmas beer time.
In a lot of cases, this still means Rudolf-labelled muck from half-arsed brewers; however, there are a few brews out there to restore faith in this alleged genre of beer.
Last week saw a couple of Christmas themed brews hit Ireland from that Danish Gypsy Brewer extraordinaire, Mikkeller: Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas and Via Till Fra Christmas Porter
First up, like any beer tasting worth its salt, let’s start with the lighter side…
Mikkeller Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas
This cheeky, Crimbo-labelled, chappy is an interesting one: an IPA brewed with root ginger and pine needles. Hello Christmas, eh? A hazy orange pour awaits you, with a big lasting white head to boot. Plenty of pineapple and mandarin orange in the aroma, alongside some really sweet ginger, and some lightly herbal pine-tinged notes. The taste lathers on the tangerine orange and mango, sweet ginger biscuits (gingernuts, for those Brits out there), pine resin, light caramel, more root ginger, and a touch of pithy grapefruit. Plenty of great flavour here, that’s for sure. It’s medium bodied, decently balanced too. Lots of pine and grapefruit bitterness. Lingering juicy citrus and tangerine, with some extra (slightly odd) herbiness. This tastes nowhere near the 7.8% ABV it is. Definitely on the sweet side of things (in terms of IPAs), but there’s still plenty of good hop character alongside those interesting additive flavours. If Santa brewed, I bet he’d add pine needles to his fermenter. Just sayin’.
Let’s take it to the darker side of Christmas, but stopping short of those horrible ‘Bad Santa’ clichés: Mikkeller Via Till Fra.
Black pour with literally massive tan head – looks like a bloody Michelin-Starred restaurant dessert. 8% ABV for the record. Lots of dark roast coffee and figgy stuff in the aroma, light cinnamon and earthier spice too. Taste hits big on the dark roast coffee and dark chocolate; lots of roasted malt, some burnt leather and tobacco smoke. Earthy spices and cinnamon come through lightly. Medium mouthfeel. Slight herbal astringency. Full of chocolate, herbs and coffee in the finish. Burnt coffee lingers, but not in an overly bitter way. Oooh. This is a tasty little porter. Definite extra herbal and spice notes to move it into the ‘Christmas’ arena of brews, but nothing too outlandish to make it utterly disgusting. A good balance has been found, evidently. Easy drinking but fairly complex, you’d have it after your Christmas Pud, no doubt about it.
So there we go, two tasty Christmas-themed brews to get stuck into this Yuletide. Both will be found in your local beer specialist off licence for around a fiver a piece. You’ll not go far wrong with this pair – they’ll make even the most arse-painful relative seem like an absolute dream. Maybe. Not guaranteed.