Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Brewing special ales for Christmas has been a long held festive tradition and offers some seasonal cask ale fun.
There was time when brewers would go perhaps a little bit over the top with fruit, spices and herbs and powerful abvs. They could be more like a drop of liquid Christmas cake than a refreshing pint. And often they would linger on into January, to be ignored just like that leftover cake.
Nowadays the scene seems a little calmer, more tempered, with some brewers producing ale still with that festive feel but quite sessionable .Here we take a quick look to see what you may find around the seasonal landscape of Chester and South Cheshire. We can't guarantee them obviously.We may add to the list as we find others.
So what about the lighter, more sessionable brews? Well, we see Ossett Nervous Turkey (4.3%abv), stray across the Pennines from the much lauded Wakefield brewery to put in an appearance at The Henry Potts (Potts) in Lower Watergate, situated just toward the race course. This is a lovely pale and clear golden beer with a snowy white head, citrus notes and a lingering malty sweetness that gives a sessionable balance to the those citrusy hops. One to toast the turkey feast on offer at this cosy basement bar, opened only last May but which has quickly established a reputation for excellent cask ales and an interesting choice of craft beers. Well worth seeking out when you tire of the busy festive streets.
Peerless Jack Frost Blond (4.3%abv) is another seasonal that won't put you on the sledge too soon - and one that can respectably still be around in January. Beautifully blonde ale there's a splendid hoppy finish from late hopping with Cascade and Citra, but also hints of underlying malt sweetness to match well with rich festive dishes.
From the award winning Birkenhead brewery which produces such delights as Triple Blonde and Knee-Buckler IPA, this is another cracking session beer for the celebrations and may be found at The Hare at Farndon for a limited time. Hopefully in some Chester pubs too.
The Isle of Man's Okell's Brewery says Christmas only begins when St Nick Ale (4.5%abv) arrives in their island pub estate. Maybe eh, but it's a long way to go for a pint. Fortunately Chester is home to Okell's splendidly historic Bear & Billet in Lower Bridge St, so with luck you may find a pint there this month. The brewery keeps the ingedients a bit of a a mystery, in keeping with the mystique of St Nick it says, but expect a full-bodied, dark-coloured ale with an aroma of fruit and malt at a modest strength.
Also on the darker side is Three Tuns Fruit & Nut (4.1%abv) - a very tasty and sessionable brown ale for the season, sampled at the Hare, Farndon. Enjoy malty chocolate and berry understones with a spicy, nutty and long dry, moreish finish to tickle the tastebuds with something a little different from this historic Shropshire brewer.
Old No 6 Winter Warmer (4.8%) is Santa's offering from Joule's Brewery, a more traditional brew, yet without being extreme.Brewed with roasted barley and Munich malt it delivers nutty and roasted fruit flavours with a hint of liquorice.
This is very warming ale that was inspired by a trial brew discovered by the Market Drayton brewer from the past, namely No6. It should be found at Chester's Cross Keys in Lower Bridge Street and will go well with the tasty snacks often rolled out on the bar.
Just a liitle further up the road you can climb the steep stone steps of the Brewery Tap to find the Spitting Feathers Christmas Crackers (5.8%abv). Now this one is in the traditonal style, rich ruby and strong and full bodied with fruity with festive notes of cinnamon and cloves; very drinkable and an ideal accompaniment perhaps for the luscious traditional pie dishes served up to befit this former Jacobean banqueting hall.
The magnificent high-ceilinged hall plays host to one of the tallest
Christmas trees you will ever find indoors - a real festive wonder.