Onward! Now that we have finished the season 6 boxset of Game of Thrones (that didn't take long) we are moving onto other films such as the Harry Potter franchise. No, I haven't ever seen them in the cinema - well, okay, I went to see the first one and was so underwhelmed that I didn't go back. I saw the second one on a video whilst training as a teacher and have only just seen the third this holiday (and I did spend rather a lot of time playing on my phone).
I digress, the purpose of this post is to continue the trend of drinking all my Christmas ales in the yuletide season so that I'm not still reviewing Christmas ale deep into March. Also, I may be enjoying the novelty of having so many ales so close together. I know, but for me this is a thing. Anyway, the ale of choice this time, before a blazing fire and with the Christmas tree still looming in the corner despite the twinkling lights, is Cotleigh Brewery's Red-Nosed Reinbeer and I am rather looking forward to it.
Will the ale be like the nefarious artificial tree, all happy looking and slightly garish but still evil lurking beneath like some atavism of the year? Or will it be more benign like the personalised number-plate I saw today: "B9 DAD"? You be the judge! Well, okay, no, I'll be the judge. Would you like to know more?
It opens and pours well, with a decent head development despite my exaggerated care due to it being bottle-conditioned. There's a deep chestnutty colour and an abiding contrast twixt that full body and the head that develops and then maintains itself. All creamy and welcome with a biscuit-y quality. The label tells me to expect toffee and chocolate and, even though this is very deep, I was not expecting that to actually happen. However, there is a toffee element to the aroma, good and deep rather than sickly and sweet. And it's a good dark colour too, elements of ruby caught by the flickering of the fire behind, and this all bodes pretty well for the next stage!
Lots of chocolate on the opening, with a skein of cherry like with Black Forest Gateaux stretched over the top of yeasty bubbles carrying the scents and tastes of proper good ale. I can't vouch for the toffee at this point but there's a good depth of chocolate into the middle where the fruit takes over, mainly sour cherry again, and then roils for a moment as if to luxuriate on the tongue. This is, indeed, a rich and powerful tasting ale even though it clocks in at 5% ABV. It hits well above its weight, with the kind of quenching power of something malty and thin in a summer ale but with a depth of character and power that would make even Michael Winner as Dumbledore pause. And given what he had to deal with... No, this is bloody good ale!
Keeps its aroma too, so that on subsequent sips this ale just adds more and more layers. Fresher cherry, deeper chocolate (though I shall confess to having a chocolate truffle too, so that may explain it) and much more of that roasted and burnt edge to it all. As the middle fades toward the back of the throat there is a dark chocolate bitterness that stays a moment, hanging in the air like some kind of dark apparition, then it is gone, replaced by an airy biscuit texture at the back of the throat and on the back of the tongue. It has a ghostly quality to it, the kind that has form and can haunt for many generations rather than the playful spectre, and then it fades almost nothing with the hint of cherries chocolated, like the sort of fruit you can get at the fair in Ilson during October, a thin crust of recently liquid chocolate atop the juiciness of ripe fruit. In short, this is a powerful brew and I think I may like it. A worthy addition to my Christmas haul from my family indeed. I'd say more but I'm going to just indulge in it for a bit.
Enjoy this any time you have it. Literally any time. Whenever you have it and however you pair it, this is the sort of imperial taste that will win out and dominate. A richness that lingers and a depth that relaxes. Deceptive, because of the whimsical name, but an excellent brew that you will be glad you got in. Get it in sales, get it out of date, save it or have it immediately, this is a brew that will reward your faith!