Thoughts on the other Christmas spirits

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…

Permission to have one drink a night, as long as it was after 10pm and provided I felt up to it. Very sensible really, what with the kidney failure, medication and so forth, but I digress. Now and then I just like to chill out with a glass of something suitably strong, ideally cask-aged Whisky, but weird and wonderful bottles of ale works sometimes

Smiley relaxing

DrinkAware Drink responsibly, responsible drinkers don’t exceed 4 daily units (3 for women)

My ‘more factor’ rating

Note that I generally won’t touch anything under 5.0% vol. as I find them bland – I have no sense of smell and (thus) a weak sense of taste, so I look for stronger, earthier drinks. I also only really drink at Christmas.

Under 5 and it’s basically watery or horrible.

5 and I can take it or leave it. I probably wouldn’t buy it again, but I wouldn’t turn down a second either.

6 or over is obviously best, 7 being the point were you look for it on the shelves, with 8 upwards being the point were you will actively seek this out to the exclusion of all others.

Whisky drinkers can think of this in terms of Talisker and Oban…

On the second day of Christmas my true love passed to me…

Two golden ale!

OK, it was only one, not two and I got it out the fridge myself and it was more a dark brown but allow me some artistic licence here, eh. It was actually:

Marstens Double Drop (5.0% vol, 2.5 UK units)

Crafted using the almost forgotten ‘double dropping’ fermentation technique to deliver a fresh and brighter beer that brings out the full, clean flavour of the malt. A large application of late hops are added to the wort kettle to enhance the aroma and give a sense of the bitter flavour of beers of the past.

Thoughts: Malty, good head on it. I could get to like this. They have another called ‘Marston’s Owd Roger’ that uses a 500 year old recipe and is 7.6% vol. Have to try that too!

More factor: 7

Website: [ was : marstonsdontcompromise .com Now just show’s a smiley ], est. 1834

On the third day of Christmas…

Kronenbourg 1664 Premier Cru (6.0% vol, 3 UK units)

Thoughts: I actually tried Kronenbourg first in the early 80’s when I was living in Lincolnshire and quite got a taste for it. It’s quite a nice lager too, my wife tried a sip and claimed the second bottle!

More factor: 6

On the fourth day of Christmas…

A four pack of Carlsberg Special Brew, the original strong lager (9.0%, 4.5 UK units)
You have got to love anything that can take you over the legal limit with one can Smiley is shocked

Thoughts: It is a really nice lager, but I find it a little gassy for me now. I remember drinking a four pack once (a long time ago) while running somewhere. Really, don’t ever, ever try this. very stupid thing to do! Anyway, one of Louise’s favourites – the other being ‘Breaker’ which you just don’t see any more – so she’s claimed the other 3 cans for other nights.

More factor: 6, but remember, this is seriously strong lager.

On the fifth day of Christmas…

Cain’s Fine Raisin Beer (5.0% vol, 2.5 UK units)

Apparently Cain’s is the official brewer/beer for ‘Liverpool ’08, European Capital of Culture’

Prize winning. A rich, fruit and amber ale infused with succulent Californian raisins. Choicest hops give depth, density and complexity. Great with fine cheeses, red meat and game or simply savoured on its own.

Cains Raisin Beer

Thoughts: It really does taste fruity! Louise took one sip and said, Dear god, no! and ate a chocolate to take the taste away but I think it is quite ‘more-ish’. Prefer a bit more kick to them mind so for me it’s not strong enough, alcohol wise, to rate an 8 but once you get to the bottom you are left thinking, you know, I’d like another…
Note that this is a ‘Seasonal Ale’ for the brewer and is only available in November and December.

More factor: 7

Website: Cain’s, Liverpool

On the sixth day of Christmas…

Wychwood Hobgoblin Strong Dark Ale (5.2% vol, 2.6 UK units)

>Full bodied & well-balanced with a chocolate toffee malt flavour, moderate bitterness & a distinctive fruity character with a ruby red glow

Amusingly, they also have a seasonal ale, "Bah Humbug, Wychwood’s Christmas Beer" Nice line in t-shirts and other promotional merchantise too.

Thoughts: Something you have to be in the mood for, I think. I’d tried several of their range over the years and sometimes one just isn’t enough. And sometimes, like tonight, it is. If you like strong ale, give it a try.

More factor: 5

Website: Wychwood

On the seventh day of Christmas…

Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale Limited 2006 vintage. (5.5% vol, 2.75 UK units)

The finest Christmas Ale from Britain’s Oldest Brewer. A beer of the highest quality, handcrafted by our Master Brewer at the Faversham Brewery. This ale is brewed using carefully selected Goldings hops, the finest malt barley and the purest water extracted from the brewery’s 300 year old artesian well. Sip, savour and enjoy.

This golden amber ale has a generous aroma of tropical fruit. The fruity flavour has hints of mangoes, oranges, lemons and sultanas. The pleasant floral hop balaces this beer perfectly. It is a drying, warming, rounded ale to sip and savour at leisure.

Established since 1698, Shepherd Neame claim to be Britain’s oldest brewer. They are also the only one so far not to promote the ‘DrinkAware’ website and the only one not to label the UK units as well as the ABV. They also choose gold lettering on red! Presumably this is for a Christmas look to it, but it makes it dashed hard to read!

Thoughts: Unfortunately I kind of lack a sense of smell so any and all promise of fruity or floral aromas is rather lost on me, so I can only go by (a muted) sense of taste… It’s OK. It does actually grow on you as you sip bottle. You start of thinking, ‘It’s ale’ and about halfway down you are licking your licks and thinking, ‘Hmmm, not so bad’. To be honest I expected a lot more something from this, maybe a hint of mince pies, but something. It is better than the Hobgoblin, perhaps, unless you like the smoky taste of darker ales. I guess it depends on your mood.

As this is a seasonal drink anyway I might try their ‘Bishop’s finger Kentish Strong ale’ next.

More factor: 5

Website: Shepherd Neame

On the eighth day of Christmas…

Grolsch Premium Lager Since 1615 (5.0% vol, 2.5 UK units)

Another one without mention of the ‘Drink Responsibly’ campaign, or the units measurement. I guess, perhaps, they would prefer we all drunk ourselves senseless every night on Grolsch to maximise their profits?

Smiley in denial

Also, like the one above, ridiculously hard to read writing for the most part. I ask you, tiny white letters on a silver background!

Holland’s Golden Age of Brewing dates back almost 400 years, when Peter Cuyper first brewed Grolsch. He used a unique pairing of two different hops that gave the beer its distinctive, perfectly balanced taste. We apply these same principles today.

It’s gassy! I seem to remember this coming out it the 80’s as a bottled import, quite expensive at the time. It’s a decent lager and leaves you wanting to reach for a second, and maybe a third, which isn’t really in it’s favour to my thinking as there’s nothing memorable about the taste. Hmmm.

More factor: 5

On the ninth day of Christmas…

Camerons "Challenge" Ale (4.5% vol, 1.75 UK units est.)

A dark amber coloured beer with a clever twist of orange.

Camerons brewed its first ale in 1865 and is the oldest brewery in the North East of England. We like to think that you can taste the tradion in every sip of this award-winning ale.

Yet another without mention of the ‘Drink Responsibly’ campaign, or the units measurement.
Thoughts: Don’t know about orange, but both me and my wife agree it tastes like bread! It has a not unpleasant yeasty taste like freshly baked bread. It’s OK

More factor: 5

On the tenth day of Christmas…

Morland "Old Speckled Hen" (5.2% vol, 2.6 UK units)

Named after an unusual, speckled, vintage MG car, Old Speckled Hen is a pale ale which owes its distinctive character and dry taste to a unique strain of yeast, first used in 1986.

Thoughts: Personally I’d say not so much named after an old car as poured out of one. I found it to have an unpleasant ‘tinny’ taste to it which I’m not sure I liked. One to miss, I’m afraid.

More factor: Just 3

Website: Old Speckled Hen

On the eleventh day of Christmas…

M&S Cherry Fizz (4.0% vol, 0.5 units per 125ml)
Aromatised wine product cocktail
A sparkling cocktail made with white wine and sour cherry juice

Thoughts: Louise asked me to get a few bottles of Bucks Fizz for Christmas and I saw this. As we like cherries, we had to try it. Not really a wine drinker myself and my wife isn’t greatly impressed with the taste either – not enough cherry. Think in terms of the cheap plonk you take to a party, with the intention of not sampling yourself.

More factor: 2 and that’s being kind. It’s dreadful!

Website: Marks & Spencer

On the twelth day of Christmas…

Thwaites Daniel’s Hammer Premium Ale (5.2% vol, 2.6 UK units)

Daniel’s Hamer, a strong beer, pale golden in colour, with a distinctive malty taste. It has a well balanced hop character with a slightly dry aroma.

For some reason they appear to have the drink responsibly campaign at ‘d-rinkaware’. I dare say it is a printing error that someone will pick up in time. Still, at least it’s on the label.

They also proudly display "Traditionally brewed in Lancashire" on the neck of the bottle. I suppose you have to be over a certain age (and English) to understand this. I was born in Lancashire, then the local governments moved the borders and all of a sudden I’m in Cheshire, then I’m in Merseyside. All politics. Whoever was – is – in power at the time shifts the catchment areas to slew the voting results in their favour. Gerrymandering, dirty trick, in my opinion. Anyway…

The web site wasn’t on the bottle but was easy enough to work out – it needs an update mind as it describes this as only being 5.0% abv and has it as a seasonal ale.

Thoughts: Not bad at ale. Not outstanding, but certainly worth trying one or two.

More factor: 5

Website: Thwaites

On the thirteenth day of Christmas…

Caledonian Golden Promise (5.0% vol, 2.5 UK units)

Caledonian Brewey created Golden Promise, the world’s first organic beer in the early 1990’s. The brewing process is certified by the soil association, and Golden Promise is one of only a few beers which are approved for consumption by vegans.
Winner of numerous awards, including the vegetarian Society ‘Best Beverage’, Golden Promise is a Golden coloured beer, which delivers a distinctive fragment aroma and a clean-crisp taste.

Wouldn’t have hurt to include a line or two on the UK units measure and the drinkaware campaign. Ah well.

Smiley Boggle!

I’m sorry, what!? A vegetarian beer? Beer is essentially barley hops and water, not a lot of prime steak in your average pint. I know vegans are a funny lot, I’m been out with a few, but really! My sister is vegan and I am absolutely positive sure she doesn’t look for ‘vegan ale’
Mind shuts down at the concept

Daft marketing strategy aside, it is actually a very nice beer. Smooth, not to gassy, very palatable. My wife agrees too. Pity I only got the one bottle, I was ready for a second after sharing it.

More factor: 6, maybe a 7

Website: Caledonian Brewery

On the fourteenth day of Christmas…

Slalom Strong (9.0% vol, 3.0 UK units (330ml))
Brewed by Scottish Courage Ltd.

No mention of the DrinkAware campaign, nor the number of alcohol units to a bottle (I calculated it to 3). Really, for such a strong lager, it should be there.

Thoughts: OK, that’s smooth. It’s nice, not at all gassy and it is deceptively mild. There isn’t that kick that says ‘take a cab home, mate’. I think a regular drinker could easily drink a few of these and still feel fine to drive – right up to the point they lose their licence for being several times over the limit!
Licks lips. Oh yes, we like this one, but seriously, one to sup at home. I wouldn’t say it’s taste rates that elusive 8, but I definitely like this one.

More factor: 7

On the fifteenth day of Christmas…
(more reviews to follow).

(Or not).

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