Christmassy beer time of the year! Yes, for Christmas I was bought a whole selection of Christmas themed beers and so it stands to reason that I should review them as and when I get round to them. Bear in mind the fact that I have brewed my own this year as well and so I have been drinking considerably less professionally brewed stuff, this could take me a while.
Tonight it is the turn of an effort by Thwaites called Yule Love It (I see what they did there) and I confess that I was looking forward to this one because of my love of Thwaites as a brewery and the efforts of theirs that I have enjoyed in the past.
None too clever bottle though. I mean, the design lacked the gravity that I like to associate with a brewery from Lancashire whose older symbol was two plough horses. The bottle was reassuringly dark and brooding however and the love I have for them outweighed my disquiet at the almost too cheery and simple packaging. On opening one is immediately taken to task by the odour, in a nice way. It is very Christmas spice. It was very much what I associate with rich Christmas cake and brandy butter and the taste of a Christmas tea I had a few years ago (I don't really drink tea, but I could tell that difference). So full marks for getting the right kind of perfume for the Holiday period. On pouring one is struck, or I was anyway, by the tawny and oaky colouration to the beer. Not too much carbonation but more than I have had with my own, slightly sparkling I suppose.
The first sip revealed a hint of fuggles in the bittering hops with an underlying light malt that seemed almost at odds with the generally darker colour of the beer. There was a big head, not too vigorous but still making it's presence felt, that was creamier than I have come to expect from bottled beers. Having an actual walk to pubs where we now live means that I can actually partake more often of cask ales and I have realised that they have creamy heads as a rule (even Black Sheep!) so I was a little surprised by the creaminess of the head. There was a richness of flavour that gave way rapidly to some string bitter hops. A lasting aftertaste follows, fading slowly to a memory of smooth malt at the back of the throat, in the nicest possible way.
After mulling it over (ah yes! Mulled wine! That's what this smelled of!) I believe that this ale smells much nicer than it tasted, but I don't mean that as a criticism, for it tasted pretty good. Had this beer tasted as the smell suggested it ought then we would be looking at the kind of ale that would make you stand back in fear and wonder after taking a sip. Indeed, truly awesome ale. As it is, we're looking at merely good ale. The kind of 4.5% ABV middle-of-the-road ale. The kind that would session well and play a keen role in any evening in which it was a part but not one that would have you writing home or seeking out immediately.
Enjoy around the festive season, accompanied by a proper meal of turkey with all the trimmings (maybe get an extra bottle to add to the gravy, you won't be disappointed), or late on a winter evening. It's not, strictly, a winter ale (it lacks the weight) but it will serve you nicely if you don't expect too much from it and take it as it comes.