Nogne O, Norway – Underlig Jul; 6.5%; £5.70
Nogne O are one of Norway’s best-known real ale breweries outside of their native land. In fact as a brewery they export far more beer than they sell to the domestic market – perhaps in part due to the extraordinary tax applied to Norwegian alcoholic beverages.
Ironically enough, their wares are much cheaper in the UK than at home; a fact that vexes Norwegian visitors to the Trembling Madness every now and then, causing some to fill their suitcases up before returning home (if £5.70 a bottle sounds “a bit much”, in Norway this bottle would be two to three times this price – if you can find it on sale).
Underlig Jul is a light, sweet porter spiced with cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and all the other Christmas spices you can think of. This is pretty self-evident on opening, with fresh bountiful spices leaping out of the glass at the most cursory of nudges. The body is relatively light, making for easy drinking, and the prickly carbonation prevents any sense of over-indulgence that bogs down a lot of recklessly sweet Christmas ales.
The spices and malty ale combine to create an intense, bitter chocolate and gingerbread beer, with flourishes of botanical cola and liquorice. Easy drinking, yet complex, sweet and spicy – Underlig Jul is certainly my favourite Christmas beer, and is brilliant at cutting through the rich food that reigns supreme during the festive season, especially those covered in gravy, or Christmas pudding.
• Recommended by Michael Bates of The House of Trembling Madness, Stonegate, York.
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