When I started writing for The Brew Club a few years ago, I offered Scott my services as a reviewer of beers from England and elsewhere, confident that we regularly get brews here in blighty that are unlikely to make it across to the United States.
Fortunately craft brewing is enjoying a renaissance over here as well, and new, exciting brews regularly appear.
I’m conscious that there’s a danger of reviewing the offerings of certain breweries in preference over others, and while I’m conscious of it, I make no apologies. Breweries such as Thornbridge and Brewdog are continually ‘pushing the envelope’, developing new brews and, more importantly, getting them to market.
While friends and a few breweries have been kind enough to supply samples for me to review, unless I see a brew in my local stores, or on my (very occasional) trip to UtoBeer (it rhymes with Utopia) in Borough Market, then it’s not going to make it to my beer shelf, and thus here at The Brew Club.
Which brings me to the subject of this review, two seasonal offerings from those boys in Fraserburgh. Okay, so in the past they’ve done extreme things, antagonising ‘the establishment’ by brewing the UK’s strongest beer (and then responded to the controversy by brewing a 1.1% ABV beer called ‘Nanny State’), going head to head with the Germans in an eiss-beer war, serving their strongest beers in ‘roadkill’ bottles, and putting unpasteurised craft beers in cans. But they’re constantly trying new recipes and, when they get it right, their results are little short of spectacular.
There Is No Santa 4.2% ABV
Okay, so a contentious name from a brewery that thrives on controversy, I guess we should be grateful they haven’t put this into a reindeer-skin flask.
It’s described as a ‘a limited edition seasonal stout brewed with cocoa nibs and ginger stems’.
Okay… here goes.
It pours very dark but shows up as garnet when held to a halogen light; the head is a creamy off-white that dissipates with unseemly haste.
The nose, well firstly there’s not much of it, and secondly, what little there is smells slightly sour, but with an underlying hint of gingerbread.
It’s less full-bodied than I expected; not quite a lightweight, but a missed opportunity. I expect my stouts to be, well, stout! I know from the Scotch Ale in the prototypes I tasted a few weeks ago, that Brewdog can brew full-bodied dark ales, but this isn’t one of them.
The flavour, well to be honest it’s slightly disappointing, not being overly complex; what few hints of ginger that can be detected, are balanced by the chocolate nibs.
Two stars… maybe 2½ but I still wouldn’t leave this out on Christmas Eve, I’d hate to offend the big man in the red suit!
Christmas Porter 6.2%
After “There’s No Santa” (TNS), coming in at 6.2% ABV I had higher hopes for Brewdog’s ‘Christmas Porter’.
This is based on their ‘Alice Porter’ (which I haven’t reviewed yet for The Brew Club) – in true Brewdog style they’ve deconstructed ‘traditional’ porters by blending ‘a twist of vanilla’ and English (Bramling X) and Japanese (Sorachi Ace) hops into an (alleged) 300 year old porter recipe.
For Christmas they’ve added orange zest, cacao and ‘a tiny bit of chilli’ to this, already complex, recipe.
It pours very dark, with a full but fleeting, mocha coloured head. Like TNS the underlying brew is actually a dark garnet colour.
There’s not much nose, what there is is okay, nothing to write home (or here) about, there are definite clues of chocolate but also threats of soapiness.
The mouth-feel is good, it’s reasonably full bodied, but again nothing to write home about. The flavour is very chocolatey, and initially wrote that I could barely detect the chilli, and that had I not known about it, then I probably wouldn’t have detected it.
However, like a good chilli con carne the heat crept up on me, and by the bottom of the glass I noticed a real tingle.
With chillies, that subtlety works for me.
All in all, I gave this three stars.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with these brews, but as I said at the top “when they get it right, the results are little short of spectacular”.
For me, these Brewdog beers fell slightly short of the mark. I know they can do better, and looking at my beer shelf, I know I have better Christmas brews waiting for me.
And, on that note, may I wish you all the very best for this festive season, a time for some (responsible) excess!
Bob the Brit