These “Christmas” beers, based loosely on the red ales and strong Belgian ales, create a sense of warmth, mirth, and other words ending in ‘th’, like breadth and yummyth. It makes absolutely no sense to drink in an Australian summer, but it feels merry. This clique of beers may be vestiges of a cold northern hemisphere Christmas, but like the traditional food that will weigh down our tables, these beers are complex, heady and filling. Christmas beers – a thoroughly non technical term- are usually higher in alcohol, darker in colour and not necessarily your sit-by-the-pool tipple. They do lend themselves to food incredibly well, so if your summer ale is too crisp or lean, then seek these out for a greater experience in your mouth.
Red Hill Brewery Christmas Ale
The colour of toffee this beer has a beautiful spicy nose; like brown sugar, dried orange peel and bananas. In the mouth it’s refreshing and brings a lovely bitterness to balance it richness. A beautiful beer.
Available at Blackhearts and Sparrows, Local Taphouse St Kilda
Moondog Jumping the Shark
This beer is aged in Hungarian oak and has a saffron addition. It’s also 14% alcohol. It smells a lot like saffron, a mash up of citrus and super ripe exotic fruits that heads towards a bitter treacle note. The beer is simply outrageous, like a sweet concoction of tamarind and brown sugar wrapped in a grapefruit. There’s a reason the Fonz is on the label. It pairs really well with a mince pie too.
Available at Prince Wine and Spirits, Purvis Beer
Boatrocker Sterk & Donker Belgian Strong Ale
Colour wise, we are almost into golden syrup territory which is fitting, as this takes like big dark chocolate biscuit without sugar. It’s toasty, nutty and smells fantastic. The more you smell it, the more fragrance you pick up. The bitterness of this beer makes it a real partner for something barbecued, or roast beef.
Available at Grape and Grain, Purvis Beer
Red Duck Rufus Icenium Red Ale
This is very similar to the Red Hill, lovely malty caramel notes, spice, fruit and a pleasing bitterness. Though slightly less aromatic it is no less delicious. It has a little more bite too.
Available at Purvis Beer, Carwyn Cellars
Bridge Road Fat Man, Red Suit, Big Sack
Everyone loves a funny name for a beer, and it’s even better when the beer is nice too. This has that over ripe fruit character, like a soft mango, that gives way to a snappy, peppery character. It has weight and softness, a feeling of richness on the palate like cream, reinforced with a chicory bitterness.
Available at Slow Beer, Purvis Beer
Brew Dog Hoppy Christmas Festive Pale Ale
This is easily the lightest of the bunch and drinks like many IPAs. It’s whacks you with hard spice and bitterness, but the fruit expression is far brighter, fresher and offers a greater opportunity to quench.
Available at McCoppins, Purvis Beer and Wine Republic
With the bitter element to lots of these beers, something fatty will work well – pork in particular. Don’t be afraid to add bitter elements to the dish: citrus rind and witlof, for example, will pair with the characteristics of the beer. These beers are, at their heart, quite playful, so the food can be too.