Gold, Frankincense & Beer*


*It sort of scans and besides, it’s all I got

As we pick the last of the kids plastic Halloween crap up off the floor and the sound of distant fireworks is slowly drowned out by an insufferably twee ads for John Lewis, thoughts turn to all things Christmassy.

Depending who you speak to, Christmas is either an exploitive exercise in crass commercialism, the most wonderful time of the year, or the second most important festival in the Judeo-Christian calender. Christmas is many things to many people, but there is one thing the vast majority of us will be doing on December 25th whatever our faith, that is indulging in the biggest family meal of the year.

But how are we going to lubricate that fatty mass of protein and cranberry sauce? Tradition dictates we reach for a decent bottle of Cotes du Rhone, but is it possible to make your way through Christmas dinner substituting the grape for the grain?

When your guests arrive, they are going to be expecting a glass of cheap prosecco; why not surprise them with a young, vibrant saison? A good saison should be yeasty, bubbly, dry and zesty, making it the perfect palate cleanser. The Saison d’etre by Alechemy brewing is a great, well priced example. Last year I tried my parents on the wacky Cool as a Cucumber by Loch Fyne & Wild Brewing which worked a treat.

Any small gathering will have a dyed in the wool lager drinker and to keep them happy you need a half decent pilsner. Schehallion by Harviestoun is a great fail safe, being widely available, suitably conservative and bloody nice. It’s hard to imagine any Stella fanatic turning their noses up at it.

A big, complex, greasy roast dinner needs a richer beer to accompany it though. A full bodied, malty bitter would do the job nicely, as would a good 80 shilling. I’m currently drinking way too much of the RAW bitter by the Moor brewery down in the West country. It’s a great, toasted, nutty beer in sensible 66cl bottle.

For Christmas pud, you have to pull out the big, boozy guns and meet it’s sweet, spicy indulgence head on, with a mouthful of Belgian quad or barley wine. I usually fall back on one of two old favourites; either Trappistes Rochefort 10 or Gouden Carolus Cuvee Van der Keizer: Both enormous, double digit Belgians with a sweet, dark, raisin & quince heart.

Finally, when your guests have buggered off, the kids have gone to bed and you’re dozing off in front of the telly, it’s time to crack open that special bottle. You know-that one you’ve had your eye on for a while, but couldn’t bring your self to open. Now is the time to get comfortable and treat yourself (and I mean yourself-no sneaky sharing it with your other half!)

I’ve got a few barrel aged stouts lined up, but really anything goes-as long as you remember, Christmas is really all about the joy of getting (pished).