Rated: 2015’s Christmas Beers

Whether it’s in the form of spirit soaked puddings, boozy Christmas parties, or a glass of champagne to toast the festivities; drinking season is upon us. So with the holidays just around the corner, here’s our round up of the best (and worst) Christmas beers on the market for 2015.

Anchor Brewing Co. Merry Christmas Happy New Year 2015

Strength: 5.5% ABV

Brewed: San Francisco, California

The Christmas offering from Californian Anchor Brewing Co. has become a tradition of America’s oldest craft brewery over the past 40 years, although the ingredients and brewing process are constantly altered. 2015’s effort is full bodied and foamy with a dark cola complexion, while the aroma is slightly muted with a subtle scent of roasted coffee, treacle and ginger. Ginger and coffee notes are also prominent within the beer’s taste, as well as a touch of syrup and malty sweetness. The finish, however, is less bitter than the complexion and aromas would suggest. With an acquired taste, this beer is not for everybody, yet it’s a respectable all round dark ale that pairs especially well with hearty winter dishes.

Overall rating: 3/5


BrewDog Hoppy Christmas

Strength: 7.2% ABV

Brewed: Ellon, Scotland

Aside from their core range, BrewDog’s guest beers can be a little hit-and-miss. Set up as the first crowd-funded brewery back in 2007, the Scottish company is now one of the UK’s leading craft beer producers, and their Christmas beer for 2015 – Hoppy Christmas – is a huge success. Not too dissimilar to the brewery’s 5AM Red Ale, although far more festive: boasting subtle candied peel aromas, although it’s the pine notes that are most prominent and lend an overall grassy nose. What’s most impressive however is the balance between sweet and bitter that’s completed with a smooth, clean finish with plenty of big pleasant flavours that work incredibly well in harmony and taste like the embodiment of Christmas in a glass.

Overall rating: 5/5


Delirium Christmas

Strength: 10% ABV

Brewed: Ghent, Belgium

Apart from the iconic pink elephant brandished across the label, the thing that’s most striking about Brouwerij Huyghe’s Christmas beer is the potent alcohol content. Available from a frosted bottle that hides the rich, warming red body that’s topped with a particularly foamy head that lasts for quite some time. As for the beer’s aroma; it’s very complex – boasting notes of prominent biscuit malt and a combination of spices. The taste, although very alcoholic and quite carbonated, is actually quite promising. Featuring a balance of varied flavours from sweet toffee, gentle pepper and refreshing fruits, followed by a dry finish. It’s no wonder that Belgian brewery Brouwerij Huyghe’s Christmas beer has become world famous.

Overall rating: 4/5


Fortnum’s Christmas Ale

Strength: 5% ABV

Brewed: Yattendon, Berkshire

Created by West Berkshire Brewery, luxury department store Fortnum & Mason’s Christmas offering is a typical winter ale, juxtaposed to being specifically Christmassy. The bottle promises tastes of liquorice and damson, although the former is very subdued and only noticeable on the nose. Instead there’s an overall rich aroma of subtle spices associated with this time of year, joined by notes of coffee. Coffee is also present within the taste, as well as dark chocolate bitterness leading towards a balanced, well-rounded finish. In all, although not the most festive of treats, Fortnum’s Christmas ale is a very pleasant brew that’s aided by low carbonation and an agreeable balance of flavours.

Overall rating: 4/5


Hardknott Figgy Pudding

Strength: 7% ABV

Brewed: Millom, Cumbria

Named after the Cumbrian Hardknott Pass – the brewery’s birthplace – Hardknott have crafted a Christmas beer that delivers heavy emphasis on classic figgy pudding. Although figs are, of course, included in the brewing process – the taste of the fruit isn’t very prominent here. Instead the mahogany beer has distinct aromas of candied fruit peel, more reminiscent of mince pies. Meanwhile the taste is very sweet to begin, before notes of cinnamon, ginger and date take over. There’s also a touch of aniseed that leads to a moderately bitter finish. The idea of combining beer and figgy pudding is commendable, but the tastes are certainly best suited to a stodgy pudding that’s been soaked in brandy and served to finish a decadent Christmas dinner.

Overall rating: 2/5


Shepherd Neame Rudolph’s Reward

Strength: 3.8% ABV

Brewed: Faversham, Kent

One redeeming feature of Shepherd Neame’s Christmas ale is the price, with 500ml bottles available for a meagre 99p at budget supermarket Lidl this year. However, the overall result is disappointing when compared to the brewery’s other beers. First, a pleasing chestnut brown body is topped with a fine white head, while the aroma is particularly herby and potent. The taste does offer notes of spice associated with Christmas, but the overall product isn’t very exciting, especially when weighed against other Christmas beers available for 2015. Although clean, the finish is weak and hollow body does give Rudolph’s Reward an extremely diluted taste.

Overall rating: 1/5


Southwold Christmas Ale

Strength: 4.2% ABV

Brewed: Southwold, Suffolk

Crafted exclusively for Marks & Spencer by Adnams Brewery in Suffolk, this is just one of the guest  beers on offer for Christmas at M&S this year. A brew using English ingredients such as double roasted crystal malts and First Gold hops, this ruby beer is very easy to drink, indeed. Smells of fruitcake, prune and pine are combined with some subtle notes of spice, while the taste isn’t the most exciting on the market, but it’s particularly festive and certainly not unpleasant.

Overall rating: 3/5

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