Christmas

Fundamentals #16 – Anspach & Hobday The Pfeffernüsse Saison (A Christmas Gift for You)

Hello, this is Matthew Curtis.

It is so difficult at this time to say words that would express my feelings about the beer to which you have just consumed. A beer that has been in the planning for many, many months First, let me thank all the people who worked so hard with Anspach & Hobday in the production of this beverage and in their endeavour and desire to bring something new and different to the beer of Christmas. And to the brewing industry which is so much a part of our lives.

Of course, the biggest thanks goes to you, for giving me the opportunity to relate my feelings of Christmas through the beer that I love. This intensely spiced Pfeffernüsse Saison features notes of cloves, cinnamon, biscuit and brown sugar, with the saison yeast leading way to an intensely dry finish. May you enjoy it now, or in several years time as it slowly ages towards perfection.

At this moment, I am very proud of all the brewers and on behalf of all of them, Anspach & Hobday, Hop Burns & Black and myself. May we wish you the very merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years. And thank you so very much for letting us spend this Christmas with you.

(With no disrespect to the artists involved to the recording of the wonderful A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector and friends. Except for Spector himself, who turned out to be a murdering bastard. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, you filthy animals.)

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up this very special festive brew in store or online.

Fundamentals #15: Wiper and True Plum Pudding Porter

Finally, it’s December. It’s time to do away with restraint and to banish sensibly measured portions. The season of indulgence is here. Stock your larders with mince pies and hefty slabs of stollen – not forgetting the brandy cream of course – and make sure there’s a few measures of pâté in the fridge just in case. It’s time to build up that all-important layer of winter blubber to make these colder months vaguely bearable. See you in January, toes.

It’s also the perfect time to break out some stronger, darker and more decadent beers. If you’re anything like me you’ll have a habit of accumulating imperial stouts and barleywines without even realising it, then forgetting about these and buying more. The great thing about many spiced Christmas beers is that they tend to age rather well, so forgetting them is not too much of a worry.

Bristol’s Wiper and True has been knocking it out of the park this year. From its Kaleidoscope Pale to its Milk Shake Milk Stout to its sublimely delicious Ambers. It’s no surprise then that its seasonal Plum Pudding Porter is a Christmas cracker.

The foundations of this beer are everything you’d expect in a great porter. There’s a hint of sweet tobacco smoke and leather on the nose, which are a precursor to notes of bitter dark chocolate that lead to a palate-cleansingly bitter finish. There’s more though - this is a Christmas beer after all, so indulgence is fundamental to its existence.

Additions of dried fruit, cinnamon and lemon zest complete the recipe, adding notes of stewed figs, winter spice and hints of lemon in the bitter finish to the already heady mélange of flavours. Drink immediately and pair with a mince pie or two, or stash it away for next year - as I said earlier, spiced beers always have a habit of evolving and improving with a little age on them.

Whenever you choose to open it though, you can be certain that it will enhance your Christmas spirit a hundredfold.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a bottle of Wiper and True Plum Pudding Porter in store or online.

No More Heroes XXX – Titanic Plum Porter

No, this isn’t an article about a substandard action movie starring Vin Diesel, it’s the 30th edition of No More Heroes! It’s also our second Christmas edition, although I’m going to spare you from an attempt to repeat the Paul McCartney infused heroics of last year.

In fact after the hell-ride that has been 2016, I’m going to spare you from any frivolity whatsoever and get on with reviewing this week's beer, Titanic’s Plum Porter. We’re fond of championing breweries we see as new and exciting here at Hop Burns & Black and that’s because these breweries are exciting. However we’re guilty of not paying our dues to more established breweries such as Titanic, which laid its roots in Burslem, Stoke-on- Trent, back in 1985.

Plum Porter has rightly won a string of CAMRA gold medals but this is not a beer that’s just for traditionalists. For me there’s plenty going on in this beer that should satisfy even the most hardened beer geeks. For starters it’s easy drinking, despite being a robust 4.9% porter, with East Kent Goldings hops adding a herbaceous bitter note to the finish that soon has you reaching for another sip.

The real highlight of this beer, though, is the rounded tartness provided by the plum flavouring. It’s not a sticky, cloying sweetness that bites so many other flavoured beers in the arse. This is a more akin to the bittersweet flavour that you get when you suck the last chunk of fruit from a plum stone. The way it lingers makes it ideal with mellower cheeses such as Wensleydale or mature Cheddar. Something about this beer just feels cosy, which makes it a perfect beer to snuggle up with on the sofa this Christmas. The addition of a well-stocked cheese plate is mandatory.

Music Pairing: Eels - Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas
“Baby Jesus, Born to Rock!” At least so says Mark Oliver “E” Everett in what is my favourite Christmas banger of all time. It also helps that Eels are one of my favourite bands, of course. This Christmas it’s time to put all the weird shit that 2016 has thrown at us to one side, for a little while at least. So settle in with loved ones and a metric shit-ton of great booze and let's enjoy ourselves. We’re going to need a period of brief respite before 2017 inevitably gets even weirder. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everybody!

Find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total AlesGood Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. You can find Titanic's sumptuous Plum Porter in store or at our online shop to get it delivered to your door.

The 2016 Big Beery Advent Calendar

We are ridiculously excited about this year's HB&B Big Beery Advent Calendar.

We've collected together 25 of our favourite beers of 2016 from our favourite breweries. Details of the beers are under wraps until they're revealed, day by day, throughout December, but you can expect a wide and varied selection, from juicy pale ales, funky saisons, delicious darks and everything in between. As with last year's calendar, our guiding principle has been "Is this beer going to make people very, very happy when they unwrap it?" If the answer is yes, in it goes.

This year's calendar (available in store or online) costs £79 which includes 25 mind-blowing beers AND a £10 voucher for the online shop, and comes with our promise that you won't find a better advent calendar out there. Satisfaction guaranteed. 

Every night from 1 December, we'll be revealing each day's beer here on our blog - why we've chosen it, why we love it. You can drink along and give us your thoughts on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #hbbadvent.

These are selling out faster than we could have imagined, so don't delay if you want to have a very beery December. 

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 23: Harviestoun Ola Dubh 18, 8% (Scotland)

glenn@hopburnsblack.co.uk

Each night, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Harviestoun says: "Ola Dubh 18 is what you get when you age Old Engine Oil in casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 18 (‘Best Spirit in the World’), which imparts a fruity, whisky character into our rich, dark beer."

We say: Like whisky? Like beer? This is your night-before-Christmas-Eve beer. The great thing is, you don't have to stop at just a dram. This is Glenn's stocking stuffer (don't tell him) - beautiful, rich, peaty goodness.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 22: Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar, 5.6% (US)

rogue.jpg

Each night, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Rogue says: "A nutty twist to a traditional European Brown Ale. Dark brown in color with a hazelnut aroma, a rich nutty flavor and a smooth malty finish."

We say: Christmas in a glass! Beer does not get more festive than this. Proper special pudding beer.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 21: Gosnells London Mead, 5.5% (Peckham)

Each night, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Gosnells says: "We employ traditional brewing methods and blend carefully sourced citrus blossom honey with water to create a new style of mead that is very different from typical meads. At 5.5% ABV, Gosnells is both drier and lower in alcohol than most other meads, and makes for lighter, more refreshing drinking. We have gone back to the traditional base of mead, using just honey and water – no addition of hops, apples or grapes – to make a product that celebrates the simplicity of the drink, and the sweet, floral notes of the honey. We use traditional ingredients and methods to create mead with a modern twist; served in a 330ml bottle, 5.5% ABV and lightly sparkling. Fermented for 10 days, we then hand-bottled, pasteurize and label on-site in the Peckham meadery."

We say: One of the most delicious drinks in London, and it's made just around the corner. We've been delighted to see Tom Gosnell achieve such great success - among other accolades, he scooped the Young British Foodie award for Alcohol at this year's YBFs - and this is always one of our best-selling products. Its light, effervescent sweetness makes it a natural for food, or it's just perfect on its own on a hot summer day. We're also loving the new Winter Mead and will be taking home a flagon of Gosnells Mulled Mead for Christmas Day.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 20: Brew By Numbers Saison Citra / Amarillo & Orange, 5.8% (SE London)

glenn@hopburnsblack.co.uk

Each night at 8pm, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

BBNO says: "The Citra Saison is Brew By Numbers' modern interpretation of a Belgian farmhouse classic. The hops balance the yeast character while a light spicing adds complexity. The Amarillo & Orange is brewed using Amarillo hops (known for their orange-like flavour) and Seville orange peel. It's light, refreshing and incredibly drinkable - a truly seasonal saison."

We say: We couldn't have an advent calendar of our favourite breweries without including BBNO and we couldn't have BBNO without including one of their saisons - or in this case, two, the Citra or the Amarillo & Orange, depending on when your advent calendar was purchased. The BBNO team were originally inspired by a trip to Belgium and the crisp and funky saisons they tasted there, and this fascination is borne out by the 15+ different saisons they regularly brew. Lovely stuff.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 19: One Mile End Salvation Pale Ale, 4.4% (London)

Each night at 8pm, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

One Mile End says: "Brewed with malted Maris Otter barley, a small amount of wheat and lots of US hops. This beer has an aroma of grapefruit and orange, mixed with a balanced bitterness and a slightly sweet finish."

We say: Our one complaint with One Mile End - the tiny microbrewery that lives under the White Hart Pub in Whitechapel - is that they never brew enough of the beer we love. All this is set to change, however, as the brewery is on the move to new, bigger premises, which is great news as it means MOAR BEER. Bad news in the short term is that you won't find this luscious pale ale in store while they make the move. Stand by for more One Mile End action in 2016.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 18: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace 7.2% (US)

glenn@hopburnsblack.co.uk

Each night at 8pm, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Brooklyn says: "Brooklyn Sorachi Ace is a classic saison, an unfiltered golden farmhouse ale, with a clean malt flavour and the quirky Sorachi Ace hop standing front and centre. Dry-hopping releases Sorachi Ace’s bright, spicy aromatics to tickle the nose before ascending into a fine harmony between pilsner malt and playful Belgian ale yeast. Brooklyn Sorachi Ace is sunshine in a glass, a shining example of the versatility of one of the world’s most intriguing hops. This beer is a superstar at the table, and we enjoy it with seafood dishes, fresh cheeses, poultry, barbecue, and even tomato-based pasta sauces."

We say: Brooklyn is best known for its near-ubiquitous lager but this is the undisputed star of the stable. We were first introduced to this when a friend gave us a 750ml bottle and we fell instantly in love. A beer that goes with everything but tastes best on its own. A beer to toast with - a beer to toast yourself with, for having such exquisite taste.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 17: Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale, 7% (New Zealand)

Each night at 8pm, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Renaissance says:  "Multi award winning Stonecutter Scotch Ale is the big, hearty, ‘red wine’ of our range. The Scotch Ale style is believed to have originated in Edinburgh in the 18th century and is colloquially known as "wee heavy" due to its higher strength than its paler siblings. We use nine malts blended together to produce layers of caramel, toffee, liquorice, chocolate and roasty flavours. These layers are balanced by a tart, raisiny fruitiness that gradually gives way to give this dark beer a lingering dry finish. Rich, full bodied, warming and moreish."

We say: We could rave on about this beautiful beer for ages but beer writer Matthew Curtis pretty much summed it up in his recent blog for us. It's an ideal beer for these dreary days - pair it with a hearty stew or a roast for the ultimate comfort food.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 16: Wild Beer Millionaire Chocolate & Salted Caramel Milk Stout, 4.7% (Somerset)

Each night, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Wild Beer says: "Sometimes a drink can make you feel so decadent it's like you're a millionaire; this beer wraps you in a velvety cocoon, dresses you in a smart suit and takes you out for a special night on the tiles. Sweet and salty collide in this rich, balanced and smooth dessert stout. Lactose, caramel and high quality Valrhona cocoa nibs provide a chocolate and caramel backbone alongside the roasty malts whilst the Cornish Sea Salts gives a savoury salty kick, raising this beautiful beer above the norm.

We say: This beer is notorious in HB&B lore for being the only beer we've opened on delivery and drunk before 11am. Our mouths had been salivating ever since we heard Wild Beer - one of our favourite UK breweries for their bold inventiveness - were making a chocolate and salted caramel milk stout. If there's a more delicious-sounding beer out there, we defy you to name it. It lives up to the description too. SUMPTUOUS. 

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes VIII – Delirium Christmas

Before we start this review, I’d like you to humour me a little. Please point your browser at your preferred music streaming service and start playing Sir Paul McCartney’s Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time. Let those bells ring out and that seasonally atonal synth part wash over you, while I tell you all about a little beer called Delirium Christmas.

The mood is right

I love Christmas - it’s one of the best times of the year to be a beer drinker. I don’t, however, enjoy the majority of seasonally inspired beers that flood the market over the holidays. I struggle with Christmas beer, be it a rebranded best bitter or an over-herbed and spiced atrocity against the alcoholic beverage industry. However, some breweries get it just right, and most of them are Belgian.

The spirit’s up

Brouwerij Huyghe’s Delirium Tremens is in itself one of the most underrated beers in the world. Its relatively low cost and the ease at which it is acquired often gets it associated, incorrectly so, with some of the super-strength beers at the lower end of the market.

We’re here tonight

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Delirium has a delicately sweet richness that’s complemented with a spicy, bone-dry finish. It’s near perfect on it’s own but when paired with a hard, nutty cheese such as Lincolnshire Poacher, it really comes into its own.

And that’s enough

Delirium Christmas seems to amplify almost every quality of its year-round brethren. It pours a beautiful, seasonally appropriate shade of chestnut and these darker malts add flavours of stewed figs and plums to the beer. It’s not quite as dry as the regular Delirium but it has that same, slightly spicy, muted bitter note that’s unmistakable in Huyghe’s range of beers.

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

Delirium Christmas is the kind of indulgent, satisfying beer that’s perfect for this time of year. It’ll go as well with your cheese board as it will with your Christmas pud. It’s an ideal beer to turn to towards the back end of Christmas day, right before the port comes out. And it’s got a pink elephant, alternately ice skating or on a sled [wearing a Santa hat - Ed], on the label, so everyone’s a winner. There’s no doubt that even Macca himself would approve.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. 

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 15: Stone & Wood Pacific Pale Ale,

StoneWoodPacificAle.jpg

Each night, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Stone & Wood says: "Inspired by our home on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and brewed using all Australian barley, wheat and Galaxy hops, Pacific Ale is cloudy and golden with a big fruity aroma and a refreshing finish. After being dry hopped at the end of fermentation, our Pacific Ale is then drawn straight from the storage tank at the brewery into kegs and bottles. Drawing it from the tank and straight into a keg or bottle without filtering means that the beer can be enjoyed at the pub or at home in the same condition as it is when we try it from the tank at the brewery … simply fresh."

We say: This is the taste of Australia in a bottle. The good bits, that is - the beach, the sunshine, the big blue skies, not the snakes, spiders and yobbos drinking dodgy lager. Just kidding, Australia. A great escape on this wet and nasty London evening.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 14: Five Points London Smoke Imperial Smoked Porter, 7.8% (London)

Each night, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Five Points says: "Originally brewed for #Collabfest14 with Brewdog Shoreditch under the name Smoke & Mirrors, London Smoke is a semi-seasonal Imperial Porter brewed with smoked barley and wheat malts. This is a distinctive, lightly smoked beer with rich flavours of dark chocolate, tobacco and hints of campfire.."

We say: We wanted to include a smoked beer in our advent calendar line-up and London Smoke, from Hackney's Five Points Brewing, was the perfect choice. This is a silky, fruity porter with hints of coffee and liquorice as well as chocolate. It has a touch of the bonfire but it doesn't smoke you out. Fantastic with food - try it with cheese or a mint dessert (trust us on this one).

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 13: Brick Brewery Red Brick Rye, 5% (Peckham)

Each night, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Brick says: "Red Brick Rye is an amber ale made with rye malt and North Amer­i­can hops."

We say: Timely that this beer appears in the advent calendar on the weekend Brick celebrates its second birthday. Not only is Brick the closest brewery to our shop, head brewer Ian is also our SE15 neighbour - we live a few doors down and have loved seeing his plans come to fruition over the past two years. From its humble beginnings, Brick now boasts a heaving tap room in addition to the brewery and is an essential stop on any self-respecting Peckham food and drink tour. The Red Brick Rye is one of our favourites from the Brick range (we also love the new Peckham Coal Line Porter) and we're looking forward to raising a glass of it tonight to toast Ian for his excellent endeavours. Cheers sir!

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 12: Tuatara Sauvinova Single Hop Pale Ale, 5.2% (New Zealand)

Each night at 8pm, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Tuatara says: "Kiwis are notorious for developing an enthusiasm for local commodities only after a thumbs up from the more discerning parts of the world. In the case of Nelson Sauvin hops we think that’s a little unfair. Tuatara and Sauvin were released into the world at about the same time so we knew them back in the day. We’re celebrating with Sauvinova, a single hop pale ale exploding with the distinctive tropical gooseberry notes that made its Sauvignon Blanc namesake famous. Tasting Notes: Full malt body copiously hopped with Nelson Sauvin displaying mouthwatering gooseberry, pineapple and grapefruit flavours. Balanced bitterness."

We say: Another stunner from the Tuatara crowd. Tuatara is one of the five breweries that make up the NZ Beer Collective, and with their stablemates they've helped us build our much-treasured reputation for the best NZ beer selection in the UK. This is a fabulous showcase for the mighty Nelson Sauvin hop, hailing from Jen's Kiwi hometown and lauded all over the world. Dankly resinous, this pale positively bursts with flavour and - along with the "air-hopped" Conehead IPA, is our favourite Tuatara brew.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 11: Green Flash Soul Style IPA, 6.5% (US)

Green Flash says: ”Our brewers rip-creating huge and complex double and triple IPAs at the pinnacle of craft beer enlightenment. Soul Style is their effortless and pure manifestation of the Single IPA. Citra, Simcoe, and Cascade hops are layered, allowing bright tropical waves of flavorful citrus and floral notes to break gently on the palate. Get stoked on a laid back single and ride a wave to soothe your soul.”

We say: Whoa, someone at Green Flash’s been pulling a little too hard on the peace pipe between those surf breaks… We bought this beer because it said “bright and tropical” on the label, and the label was orange. We like orange. Then we opened one and it was like opening a can of Orange Sunshine. This is such a tasty IPA - mangoes, orange blossom, so much tropical goodness you’ll be surprised it doesn’t give you a tan. We can’t think of a better way to kick off your wintry British Friday night.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 10: Trappistes Rochefort 8, 9.2% (Belgium)

The International Trappist Association says: ”Trappistes Rochefort is a brown ale, brewed and bottled within the walls of the Abbey of Saint-Remy in Rochefort. The modest dimensions of this brewery enable the Trappist monks and their collaborators to perfectly control production. Rochefort 8 dates from 1955. Originally this beer was only brewed for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Rochefort 8 begins with a density of 20.8º Plato and reaches a final 9.2% ABV. Masculine in character, it lends itself best to being enjoyed among friends!”

We say: We don’t even know what “masculine in character” means, but these guys are monks and maybe they haven’t been around women for a while, so we’ll give them a break. Anyway, this is one of our favourite Trappist ales - dark, rich and raisiny, it’s the perfect accompaniment for Christmas cake or just sipping slowly, all cosied up next to an open fire (or radiator - work with what you’ve got). Did we mention it scores 100 on Ratebeer?