About Time: You Drank the Best Winter BeersBy Sam Holder
Winter is a magical time of year for beer drinkers. Along with long nights, miserable weather and TFL’s inability to cope with plummeting weather conditions, these dark and depressing months bring the promise of excellent limited-edition seasonal beers, full of spice, herbs and dried fruit flavours.
It’s a time when reaching for a decadent and boozy stout feels necessary rather than over-indulgent. Even traditional warm English ales come into their own, sat beside the log-fire (or Dimplex storage heater, depending on your financial situation).
With the UK’s craft beer scene being so alive with innovation and experimentation, and it being easier than ever to order hard-to-find foreign beers online, put down the slimline G&T and settle back with a delicious and experimental beer this Winter. Here are some of the best:
The Lowdown: Is it a beer? Is it a wine? No, it is a beer – but unlike any other you’ll have tried before. Wild Beer Co have taken a rich, chocolatey imperial stout and let it age for 9 months in red wine barrels. While the human body can reproduce in the same time frame, something even more special happens here: the dark beer takes on tart, juicy red berry notes and a jammy sweetness, becoming a beautiful beer-red wine hybrid. As the stout gets warmer, more and more of the vinous flavours emerge, making it a drink to savour slowly – especially as it weighs in at an impressive 11% ABV.
Flavours: Chocolate, coffee, red wine, berries
Price: £16 for 750ml, Wild Beer Co
The Lowdown: Christmas may have been and gone but this ale is a festive treat that keeps on giving. A thick, almost chewy texture with spice and dried fruit flavours makes this a winter winner. Plus it’s on discount because Christmas has already passed! Who says that the flavours of Christmas pudding can only be enjoyed on December 25th? You’re an adult now and if you want, you can drink Christmas Ale for as long as it’s in stock. (Which probably isn’t that long).
Flavours: Dried fruit, raisins, cinnamon, spice
Price: (normally) £2.20 for 500ml, St Peter’s Brewery
The Lowdown: Did you watch Nile Rodgers and Chic bring in the new year on BBC 1? If so, you’ll know that nothing beats the winter blues like a bit of funk. And this is one funky beer. Brewed with wild yeast and inspired by Belgian trappist ales, Matilda has a unique dry, spicy and yeasty flavour. It defies any traditional genre of beer, sitting somewhere as a cross between pale ale, trappist and saison. Le freak!
Flavours: Yeast, cloves, hops, funk
Price: £3.50 for 355ml or £11.99 for 765ml, Beer Hawk
The Lowdown: One sip of this and you’ll be seduced like a crew of Greek sailors. Bursting with flavours of fruitcake and a hoppy tang, Siren have once again delivered a beer worthy of its own mythology. Rich and indulgent but still supremely smooth, it’s like drinking a liquid hug. Unlike the sirens of old, this red ale is the most comforting of companions during stormy weather.
Flavours: Raisins, berries, biscuit, citrus
Price: £2.79 for 330ml, Honest Brew
The Lowdown: We all remember our first time; the nervous anticipation, the dry lips, the wondering – will it be as good as your friends say it is? Like many others, my first craft beer experience was with a Brewdog. And it didn’t disappoint. The ‘punk’ brewery may now be a multi-million bottle producing behemoth but they refuse to rest on their laurels, continuing to produce complex and unique small-batch brews. Here they’ve managed to take the richness of a stout and blitz it with loads of citrusy, bitter hops. The perfect winter beer for those whose first love was a Punk IPA.
Flavours: Malt, chocolate, tropical fruits, hops
Price: £3 for 330ml, Brewdog