December rolls around again, the countdown to Christmas begins and households around the globe start meticulously planning one big glorious day of family, friendship and festive food. Once you’ve agreed which in-laws to invite, ordered the turkey, put the sprouts on to make sure they’re ready for the big day, got stuck in traffic at Bluewater/Lakeside/Westfield Stratford [delete as appropriate] and finally spent a small fortune buying gifts from Amazon & eBay there is just one more important job to do, choose the booze.
Christmas is a special time of year and deserves something special to toast with family and friends. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the traditional bucks fizz for breakfast, midday pint at the local, lashings of red wine with dinner followed by a wee tot of whisky or glug of port before a nap on the sofa, but there are some lovely alternatives and I’d like to share my thoughts…
Breakfast, brunch, elevenses
If you want to start off slowly then how about Wild Beer Co. Cool as a Cucumber [available from The Thatchers £7], only 2.9% this 750ml bottle is perfect for cracking open before the sun is over the yardarm and for sharing. It is utterly delicious with smoked fish, especially salmon, an ideal breakfast beer.
Feeling slightly more indulgent? Then try a Champagne beer, one of the best known Belgian examples Deus Brut des Flanders [available online from Beer Ritz £19.03] also goes beautifully with smoked salmon and ensures a real decadent start to the day.
There are a few British ‘Champagne beer’ alternatives, and we sell two of them at The Thatchers. First up Adnams Solebay Celebratory beer [£15.25 from The Thatchers], first brewed in 2009 to celebrate 350 years of brewing at Solebay, hazy gold with a luscious white head, Solebay has Nelson Sauvin hops and a touch of lavender and it is matured for 6 months before bottling, this is a delicate and delightful beer. My final choice is Wild Beer Co. Ninkasi [£13.00 from The Thatchers], named after the Greek goddess of beer this also has New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops with the addition of Somerset apple juice, wild yeast and finished with Champagne yeast, this would be equally at home with a cheeseboard at the end of the day.
Join us at The Thachers from 12pm – 2pm for a Christmas drink and a few mince pies, we’ll have mulled wine or cider and the usual Crouch Vale Brewers Gold and Adnams Southwold as well as hopefully some Tally Ho if you don’t drink it all on Christmas Eve!
Lunch, dinner (or tea if your from further North)
I know I’m going to have to work hard to tempt you from a big bold French or Aussie red, but have you considered drinking beer with Christmas dinner? I don’t mean cans of cheap supermarket fizz or even traditional brown bitter, but something rich and elegant packed with flavour… A Belgian ale? A full bodied stout? Perhaps even an American IPA. Aside from being less alcoholic than most wines leaving you room for another few drinks later, choosing an example of each from our cellar I’ll see if I can convince you.
St Stefanus [6.5% £3.75] is a rich golden Belgian ale, drink it with the yeast in to enhance the herbal bitterness, it’s delicate enough not to overpower the turkey with enough sweetness to pair with the cranberry sauce and those herbal earthy notes will wash a plate full of sprouts down delightfully.
The Kernel Export Stout [7.2% £4.80] is jet black with a caramel head. The unctuous black beer will work wonderfully with thyme roasted root vegetables and rich gravy, and if you’ve chosen duck or beef for your table it will quite simply steal the show.
Lagunitas IPA [6.2% £3.90] is hazy orange with buckets of bitterness balanced by sweet malt and fruity hops. This Californian IPA typifies the style and cleanses the palate after each mouthful making sure you’re always eager for the next bite or final helping of seconds.
Christmas pudding, after dinner, Eastenders Christmas special
If you really want to make sure you fall asleep before hell breaks loose in the Queen Vic then you’re going to enjoy this little selection. Big bold fruity drinks to enjoy with your Christmas Pudding, cheeseboard or on their own if you already had one too many stuffing balls.
Wild Beer Co. Wildebeest [11% £4.80] is an Imperial Stout laced with Cocoa nibs, coffee & vanilla. It’s hearty, sweet and sticky, you won’t even need any Christmas pudding, perhaps just a jug of brandy cream on the side.
If you usually prefer your dessert wine to your barley wine though, perhaps you’ll enjoy the drink I am most looking forward to at my Christmas table. Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider [12% £25 from selected Marks & Spencer stores including Bluewater]. I have been lucky enough to try a tiny taste of this before due to the generosity of Worlds Best Cider author Pete Brown. It is rich, complex, sweet, fruity and sticky with a delicate acidity to balance it all out. This really is the cream of the crop when it comes to cider. The juice of around 80 apples is crammed in to each 375ml bottle, the Canadian producers recommend it with rich blue cheeses or even fois gras. You may balk at the price tag, but you’re not supposed to swig this in a pint glass over ice, think of it more as a rival to ice wine or a fine Sauternes and it’s pretty good value for money.
Give the gift of Christmas beer…
Throughout December we are offering 20% discount on off sales when you buy three bottles of beer, wine or cider and we’ll even chuck in a handy gift box making a great present.
Many of the drinks above are available and the trio of 750ml beers [Wild Beer Co Cool as a Cucumber, Ninkasi & Adnams Solebay] comes in at under £30, our three Christmas dinner recommendations [St Stefanus, Kernel Export Stout, Lagunitas IPA] are under a tenner or choose a trio of local ales for around £8.50.