Bristol Beer Factory, Bristletoe, 5.5%, £2.85
Full points to the Bristol Beer Factory team in the 'forced pun' category; when you've got a word like 'Bristol' to work with, it's quite impressive that they managed to come up with anything at all.
Bristletoe is, the brewery say, a dark Christmas ale brewed with an emphasis on malt flavours, using a Belgian strain of yeast to really push those fruity, spicy esters to the fore.
Throwing a load of raisins into the brew pretty much cements this one in the 'fruity brown ale' category, with some coriander and ginger bringing the Christmas cheer to the party.
Pouring a hazy chestnut, a quickly dissipating butterscotch head gives off a flurry of peppery yeast esters, and oddly something reminiscent of thyme or marjoram rather than coriander and ginger. More herbal than spiced and fruity on the nose, then, but pleasing nonetheless.
Sweet tangerine and chocolate flavours give way to buttered rum, and raisin fudge. Medium-bodied, yet almost dry in the finish, the lasting impression is of vanilla ice-cream, touched by a slight fructose sourness.
Almost refreshing compared to all the richer, heavier, high ABV Christmas beers most brewers push out at this time of year.
Be sure to give this brew a go if you fancy a festive one that can be easily enjoyed without sacrificing character.
Recommended by Michael Bates, Trembling Madness, 48 Stonegate, York, YO1 8AS
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