In the run up to Christmas we started receiving a few gifts of beer. Mostly from PR companies hoping we’ll feature their clients’ booze on our website. It’s a simple beer-for-words tactic they’ve employed and, if we like the beer, it usually works.
So to help those nice PR people earn an extra star on their lapels, and to provide our readers with some suggestions of what’s worth loading into their fridges to keep the festivities rocking for a few weeks yet, here are the five best winter ales to have landed on our desks…
1 Goose Island Winter Ale, 5.3%
Craft ale pioneers Goose Island may be owned by corporate monsters AB InBev, but the brewing team still knock out some great booze. Their IPA featured in our ‘ten best IPAs’ list and it came up in our conversations with Danny Wallace and Sophie Atherton. This is our first sampling of their Winter Ale and it’s a lovely drop: dark brown with sweet caramel malts, nutty, roasty flavours and a mild bitterness.
2 FourPure, Northern Latitude, 7.4%
Nick has been a particular fan of FourPure for a while and gave their excellent Dry Hop Pils a beer of the week slot on this site and included Beartooth as one of his 10 best London Beers. So he was a bit miffed when cans of Northern Latitude AND a natty T-Shirt arrived on Rich’s door mat. “It’s an IPA with bells on, with rye bringing a slick mouthfeel and spicy twang” he crowed smugly, leaving Nick to re-check a fifty metre radius around the front door ‘just in case’. Nothing.
3 Leffe, Biere de Noel, 6.6%
Leffe is another brewery we’ve given plenty of coverage this year, having both praised their brune and blond in various media outlets, including one of our own coveted BOTW slots. They were the first Belgian beers we ever drank and have remained among our favourites ever since. This time it’s Nick that’s crowing having been the recipient of a huge bottle of their fruity and spicy Biere de Noel beer along with two Christmas puddings. It’s a smooth, creamy affair, slightly sweet and comes with festive feel good flavours. Negotiations of an exchange involving pudding and Northern Latitude are already under way…
4 Big Hug Brewing, Hibernation IPA, 5.2%
Although not a winter ale style, this white wheaty IPA is as crisp as a drift of snow with a refreshing citrus character that is worth snuggling up to of an evening. The can came courtesy of beer retailer Honest Brew, with an honest letter about their drive to help promote the little breweries against the corporate might of the big global businesses such as AB InBev. We think there’s room for all sizes of brewing machine, so long as the end product is good, but it’s working with these independents we find most rewarding and we’re especially looking forward to helping promote Honest Brew’s endeavours throughout 2017.
5 Marks & Spencer, Southwold Winter IPA, 6.7%
For the past few years the best beer retailer within walking distance of Nick’s home has been Marks & Spencer and many trips to buy expensive bread to go with dinner would be mere disguise for popping a new beer in his basket. If ever rumbled by the wife he would mumble ‘it’s work’, proving the point by loading up an article one of us has written about the beer online. This time, he doesn’t have to wander far because the friendly retailers sent us some of their winter beers to try. Our favourite is this Winter IPA, brewed by Adnams. Its high alcohol content carries a layer biscuity malt spread with sticky citrus fruits and an easy going pine bitterness which makes it a dangerously drinkable winter guzzle.