It’s that time of the year again, you know the one, where Christmas ads appear on TV and the arguments begin about when exactly it’s appropriate to talk about Christmas. Some will vehemently insist that Christmas can’t be mentioned until December 1st and others look forward to the early start of everything Christmas.
One thing we can all agree on is that it’s now winter, and we can talk about the winter beer specials coming up from Irish breweries. For me, it’s my favourite time of year. The dark nights leave me wanting big bodied, strong beers, usually dark but not necessarily. I’m a big fan of barrel aged imperial stouts and winter is the perfect time for that kind of beer, ideally by an open fire.
I know for Christmas dinner I’ll have my traditional bottle of Samichlaus from Austria. The name literally translates into Santa Claus if you didn’t guess. It’s brewed on December 6th (Saint Nicholas' Eve) each year and then aged for 10 months. It was once known as the strongest lager in the world at 14% ABV, but that was topped years ago. Expect prunes and caramel on the nose. Once in the mouth, you will find it very sweet and tastes syrupy but doesn’t have a cloying mouth feel. This is a lager, so it will be rather refreshing despite its high alcohol level. A wonderful beer to sip on a cold night. Prunes and fruitcake abound. The bottle I have is one left over from last year so that will make it about 2 years old when opened.
In terms of winter specials, the two that are always around this year are:
- White Gypsy’s Yule Ól is another regular. This should be on everyone’s Christmas drinks menu. It’s a big 6% ale with lots of toffee and chocolate flavours as well as some coffee. You can also expect some dark berries and spices. White Hag have their Yule Ale for comparison if you like.
- Trouble Brewing’s Dash Away is a seasonal special I love, I can’t be 100% sure it’s back this year but if it is, make sure to grab some. It’s a cherry chocolate stout. Their other special is Walk on the Mild Side, a simple dark mild which if you can find on cask, be sure to grab a pint.
If Trouble disappoint with Dash Away, Lough Gill Brewing will have an Imperial Chocolate Cherry Porter to sink your taste buds into.
5 Lamps will have a beer with probably the best name I’ve ever seen. It’s called Ale Mary, Full of Spice. I know nothing beyond the name I’m afraid.
Dungarvan’s Coffee and Oatmeal stout is already out but keep an eye out for their barley wine. West Cork will also have a coffee and oatmeal stout.
Wicklow Wolf bring back their Poles Apart, North & South. One a white IPA, the other a porter.
Yellowbelly has some super secret seasonals.
8 Degrees will follow on from last year’s 750ml bottle specials with The Oak King, A Belgian Pale Ale (6.5%) that has been aged in French oak & made with Brettanomyces C yeast. They suggest serving well chilled in champagne flute as an aperitif on Christmas morning, with a half dozen oysters or some smoked salmon, or take it to the dinner table to pair perfectly with your turkey.
Also, The Holly King, Imperial Stout (ABV 9.5%) has been aged in pinot noir barrels again with Brettanomyces C yeast. They say It's a hugely complex beer, so pour it into snifters and sip it slowly to end a meal with a slice of spicy Christmas cake, studded with nuts and dried fruit, classic black forest gateau or a box of cocoa-dusted dark chocolate truffles.
This is just a taste of some of the seasonal beers going to be available over the coming weeks, many are already available with the rest coming very soon.
Beoir.org will release a full list soon that will be updated on the front page of the website and keep an eye out on social media.
I hope everyone finds something interesting to drink this Christmas! I know that I will.