It's December! And despite not really being the biggest fan of Christmas, this is usually about the time I find some Christmas-themed things to write about. Then the month culminates with my highlight of the year; my actual highlights of the year, in the guise of the Spirits of the Year post. Last year I even added a Beer of the Year award, so that's something else to look forward to. I'm starting off this festive season with a challenge I - and a few others - undertook last Christmas...
You don’t just complete a year long slog like the Distinct BeersChallenge without replacing it. But what do you replace it with? Well, do you remember how I followed up two posts about the Distinct Beers Challenge with a post about Christmas themed beers? That’s right, a Christmas Beers Challenge. That is, drink as many beers that have some connection to Christmas as possible. Not just winter ales. No, there definitely has to be something Christmas-related about it – a punny name like Yule Love It,a cartoon reindeer on the label, the specific notice that said beer is a Christmas beer…
It got complicated early on because I received an early Christmas present of three festive ales from Staffordshire Brewery. One was a Christmas Day ale, one Boxing Day, and one New Year. I asked for a ruling from the other competitors, and the scope had to be widened to include anything that could be identified as a winter ale and any beer of an obviously festive or wintery nature, drunk between the start date of 27 November and 31 December 2015.
Normal Stella Artois with holly on the label wouldn’t count, but should Fosters rebrand themselves Frosters for the period, that would. Pumpkin beers were also allowed, though I can’t say I was in agreement with that. So as a direct result of Untappd and more specifically, the Distinct Beers Challenge, I had gone from deliberately avoiding these kinds of beers, to actually looking forward to being able to get them. It’s strange where your life will take you.
I started my campaign with Had Enough Brewery’s Grumpy Santa Beer, which is a classic of the genre – playing on the bah humbug theme and featuring a comic image of a grumpy (and probably alcoholic) santa on the label. It was listed on Untappd as a golden ale. I scored it a 4.
After the three Staffordshire Brewery ales (the Christmas Day and Boxing Day ones each scored 4, while the New Year one scored 3.5), I called at Aldi, picking up Sadler’s Reigndeer, a misspelled winter ale with a reindeer on the label (which scored 3), then at Asda where there were no Christmas themed beers and finally Tesco, where Mrs Cake pointed one out that I had had already, but eschewing that one, I did manage to find Oakleaf’s Christmas Ale, packaged in its own tube, and worthy of only 2.5 out of 5.
I would be travelling to Canada on 11 December, so I was hoping that Christmas themed beers would be a thing over there, that would give me the edge on everyone else. I found a few more on a night out before heading across the atlantic, including Osset Brewery’s Nervous Turkey, which managed 3.5. I decided not to count Treacle Stout as, when I thought about it, what is explicitly festive about treacle on its own? Then there was Boggart Hole Clough Brewery’s Winter Sunset (-0.5/5 - it must have been really bad) and Caledonian Brewing Company’s Winterbrau (also 0.5/5).
So while everyone else was left to contend with a very wet December and quite possibly flooding, I headed to the Great White North and got stuck into the Canadian (and sometimes American) brews. Now, I can’t remember much detail, but here’s what I found:
Yukon’s Longest Night – 3.5/5. A black IPA – not specifically identified as a winter ale, but when is the longest night? In the winter. QED.
H. Egerer’s Winter Weisse – 3.5/5. A Dunkelweizen, but it has ‘winter’ in its name.
Fernie Brewing Company’s Black Mammoth – 3/5. A bona fide winter ale, and the first of a few massive bottles that I picked up at Calgary’s finest liquor store, Willow Park.
Postmark’s Winter Red – 3/5.
Rogue Ales’ Santa’s Private Reserve Ale – 3.5/5. That last of the Willow Park haul isn’t labelled ‘winter’ or anything, but there’s a definite santa theme.
Village Brewery’s Monk Chai Winter Porter – 2/5, was a leaving gift from my brother-in-law.
I carded 16 when the deadline came, though Phil claimed it was only 14. This was still one better than his tally, and that being the case, I couldn’t be bothered to check. It was only when I came to write this article that I realised it was actually 17. So I win another beer challenge. Some competitors didn’t even try this time. I hadn’t been monitoring them while I was away, so I hadn’t any idea how they’d been doing. Given the overall sorry state of affairs though, I think I’ll have to invite other people next time. Friend me on Untappd (I’m neilcake), and I’ll figure something out.