Our pick of the best Christmas beers from Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 10:08 12 December 2013 | UPDATED: 10:09 12 December 2013
The threatened wine shortage will encourage us to try beer for Christmas. We can take it, says Martin Pilkington
The resurgence in craft brewing has brought a delicious dilemma for Yuletide lovers of the finer things. Special ales now compete with vintage vinos for celebrations and to match festive foods – this county’s producers making some superb examples.
‘At Christmas brewers tend to craft their best, most complex beers,’ says John Gill, beer buyer at Booths. ‘And we also now list products called vintage ales which are really made of the best of the season’s malt and hops, very special beers you can treat like a wine.’
Beer is no longer just for bearded men. ‘Recently, when I’ve been to the Great British Beer Festival I’ve seen lots more young women drinking real ale,’ says Thwaites’s head brewer Ian Bearpark.
Around Christmas we start seeing seasonal beers like Christmas Quackers (brewers love their puns) from Poulton’s Fuzzy Duck Brewery, whose strength and style is reasonably representative of the class. ‘We’ve been doing it since about 2007,’ says head brewer Ben Croston. ‘It’s copper coloured, with fruity spice and sweetness, and at 5.2% is on the stronger side.’
Unlike certain mass market products these specials have the x-factor that is individuality. ‘We do about 15 different Christmas beers, and they all have unique stories, unique characters,’ says John Gill.
Thwaites in Blackburn have not one but two Christmas specials for 2013. ‘We do a beer called Good Elf, which we’ve done for quite a while now,’ says Ian Bearpark. ‘It’s a lovely rich brown ale. One year we didn’t do that and got slated.’
John Gill is keen on a new Lancastrian ale, Mr Trotter’s, expressly made for a very unusual match. ‘It’s brewed with a company called Mr Trotter’s who make premium pork crackling. It’s made with chestnuts, a ruby ale with a honeyed taste.’
Tom Parker-Bowles and Matthew Fort were also involved in the evolution of the ale, proof positive that for foodies beer is now being taken seriously.
We asked the experts to match festive food and ale.
Food and Ale Pairings
Christmas Cake: ‘Something like a treacle porter, or maybe a chocolate style stout, with the fruit in the pudding matched by the fruity flavours in the beer.’ John Gill
Mince Pies: ‘Our Lancaster Red has lots of spicy flavours coming through which suits things like mince pies,’ says Elvin Willgrass
Turkey: ‘Blonde beer would certainly work as it wouldn’t overpower the turkey. Lancaster blonde would work or Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch,’ adds John Gill.
The Sprouts: ‘Mr Trotter - as we all know the dreaded sprout goes well with chestnuts.’- Elvin Willgrass
Christmas Pudding: ‘Something rich and chocolatey-roasty, so Porters would be good.’ Ian Bearpark.
Chocolate: ‘That’s an easy one. I’d recommend Mucky Duck, our dark stout that has some chocolate and coffee flavours,’ says Ben Croston