It's the somethingth day of Christmas! That point of the holidays where I lose track of the day of the week and what I do on those days of the week and what my routine is and so on and so forth. I've seen Moana with my family, it was nice, and we're going to play Cluedo this evening - a present from my mother to our eldest - so it's all shaping up to be a rather lovely end to the day. We may also have played Exploding Kittens, a present from some friends of mine, and the youngest has been playing with his Lego. All told, good day and time for another Christmas ale.
This one is Jingle Fells by those lovely brewers up at Hawkshead in the Lakes. I recall that it was the block I lived in when at University, a block now long since demolished and cleared to make way for redevelopment. Would you like to know more?
I was promised a malt-forward Christmas spiced ale and the opening did not disappoint. Instant whisp of carbon dioxide in the bottle and a full aroma of cloves and cinnamon and even a tinge of coriander as I sniffed it. A massive head forms on the pour, and I was being very careful indeed, but it diminishes more rapidly than the elves in Tolkien's world. Good body and colour, deepest ruby to the point of almost being a dark ale, and a proper compliment to the season in that regard. Not as tropical as the film we just got back from (though I suspect it's too early to be having the Christmas at the Beach yet - I'm saving that for a day with fish and chips) but warm and bracing after a walk in the frosty outdoors. It's proper cold out there and this brings in some homely warmth to proceedings just from the aroma. Now freed from the bottle there is a definite sense of the malts as promised and more of that mustiness from the coriander. I've had ale with coriander recently this year and was unimpressed but this seems to be doing a better job of it.
I could smell this one all day and so I resolved to take it slowly and enjoy the sensation. I started it as soon as we got back from the cinema, around 2pm, and I'm still drinking it now so make of that what you will. But the decision seems to have been a good one and the ale can certainly take that amount of sipping whilst playing card games with the family. Despite there being three types of hops in this brew it is the ginger and caraway that open proceedings, with the bubbles doing valiant work bringing the fuggles to the surface in the huge hit of Christmas spice around the middle of the taste. The malt works round the edges like outriders on an ocean-going canoe and then there's a softness as it gathers for one last storm surge to the back of the throat. The nutmeg and chocolate malts combine to offer an almost dessert-like end, trailing that caraway and cinnamon wake so that you can see the passing and muse on the position of the stars. Despite being relatively light at 4.5% ABV the spices and the malts make this something of a heavy hitter - the sort that drinking quickly would give you a bit of a headache come morning.
Being brutally honest, I'm not used to having this much ale in this short a time frame and though I realise that I'm being a bit of a lightweight here, it is something to take into consideration. I woke up with a bit of a heavy head following my adventure so far but this ale is remarkably forgiving of that background. And yes, I've been nursing it for a few hours now, and yet it still works. Each mouthful carries the same amount of promise and the swirl of flavours that can be picked out and enjoyed. I said that this was looking to do the coriander thing better than my last sojourn there and I have not been disappointed. I rather like the way that this has stood the test of time and remained an interesting and enjoyable brew to be drinking. It hasn't gone flat, though the head has now retreated to a bare covering of the top so thin that to sip is to break it, and it has maintained an impressive aroma without feeling as though I have wasted it. More to the point, it has maintained something of a chilled aspect despite being in a heated room during the Christmas holidays.
All that and I've managed to talk about the film, play a card game and prepare to play Cluedo without having to resort to the internet to shield my woes. I think that is a pretty good advert for drinking this ale. I can now safely say that I have enjoyed it and think it a worthy addition to the crate my family bought for Christmas. If you still have time, and if you see it about, I can recommend getting your hands on this one.
Enjoy slowly whilst playing the Christmas games with the family across the dining table. If you're unlucky this will accompany the annual game of Monopoly until someone else, for the ale will soothe and help relax you, flips the board in anger. Luckier people will get to play some games with actual skill involved and chances for everyone to win or, better yet, co-operative games where the players work together against the game itself. Whatever you end up playing you will find this ale a worthy companion that will last the course and give you respite even at the point of having to explain to your children, or your grandmother, about that simple rule from the beginning for the umpteenth time even though it is not relevant to what they are doing. Take another sip, let out a contended sigh and then repeat as necessary.