The following three are all from Reidgeway Brewing in Oxfordshire, seeming made for export to the US market, yet somehow finding their way to our shores. The novelty factor is high in these parts. You have been warned.
First up is Santa's Butt. The label explains that the 'butt' in question is not the big fella's arse, but rather a volume of liquid, in this case beer. It's a porter and pours like one, being ruby red when held to the light. The nose has touches of coffee but is generally red berries and sugary sweetness all the way. This is emulated by the taste, with sweetness, fruitiness and malts dominating. It doesn't start to feel like a porter until the very end, when the coffee you thought you smelled finally comes back into play. Like Innis and Gunn's Winter Treacle Porter, it is driven by a sugary sweetness, but thankfully it never quite threatens to cloy like that particular beer.
The name and label of this seasonal offering will prove a whole lot more memorable than the contents, while there's nothing really negative to say about the beer. It's tasty and drinkable, albeit instantly forgettable. And that's OK for a novelty beer.
Next we have Reindeer Droppings, an English amber ale, according to the label. It certainly pours amber, and supports just a tiny head, evidence of the light body that is only confirmed upon drinking. The aroma is mild to say the least, and is dominated by an unadventurous hoppiness. The taste delivers more of that bland hop quality, which is drowned out completely by the nutty finish. All of this happens on the back of a water-thin body, to create an experience infinitely less memorable than the already Santa's Butt.
Pickled Santa is the third of the lot, and the most appropriately Christmassy. This is mostly down to the use of spices (or spice flavourings) in the beer, adding to the novelty factor that I expect when I pay for such a beer. The aroma is not unlike the Shipyard Pumpkinhead I had a while back, with vaguely clove and cinnamon-like smells dominating from the off. The taste isn't much different, offering the same clove coolness alongside a sugary sweetness. It's not a very good beer, but to be fair, none of these are. To say it's the best of the bunch probably doesn't tell you much, but it's better than nothing.
Over the weekend I had the chance to pop out for a few drinks, and with this being such a rare occurrence of late, I made an effort to try something new.
First stop was, as usual, the Abbot's. I had a Barbar to start with, but followed it with an Augustijn on tap. An 8% tripel, it was sweet and grainy, with sugary malts blending well with lighter citrus notes. The pub soon became uncharacteristically cramped and loud so we left for the newest craft beer bar in Cork, the Porterhouse. This branch of the well-known Dublin crowd opened last week on Sheares Street, and I've been looking forward to checking it out. Instead of going for one of their own beers, I opted for one I should have tried a long time ago - Metalman Pale Ale. This is the brewer's flagship beer, and it's bloody gorgeous. It's very hoppy and fruity, though not as tropical as the summer seasonal Windjammer, and packs tons of refreshing flavour into every sip. Definitely one to enjoy again.
The three Ridgeways were the last of my Christmas beers*, and I'm bloody glad of it. It's high time I had something strong, dark, and Belgian, because to be honest, I can't think of anything other than a Dubbel or Quad to reach for over the big day.
Happy Christmas from the The Drunken Destrier.
*Christmas presents pending