Tuesday, 23 December 2008

How to warm yourself up in Winter

Well, the obvious answer is to sit by the fire, but a delicious and more convivial alternative is to find a pub that does a good selection of winter ales (preferably with a real fire, as well).

For the uninitiated, Winter Ales are slightly heavier ales, designed to warm the cockles of your heart. They are often brewed with additional ingredients such as raisins, ginger and cloves to give them a stronger, more seasonal taste: some even resemble Christmas Pudding. Another favourite method is to use dark, roasted malts to give rich, chocolatey flavours.

If a seasonal ale isn't your thing, you could always choose styles such as Porters and Stouts, which are naturally richer and heavier in flavour, and which are often not brewed during the summer months.

We recently went to the Charles Dickens pub in Southwark, and they had an excellent selection of winter ales: almost like a mini beer festival (see photo). Winter ales styles included Harvey’s Christmas Ale (8.1% ABV!), Okell’s St Nick (4.5%), and Rudolph’s Ruin (4.6%). As ever, these seasonal styles have great names.

Alternatively, head for the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester, from 21st until 24th January 2009, at the New Century Hall. With a selection of 200 beers, real ales in a bottle, as well as ciders and perrys, there's bound to be something there to lift the gloom of cold January nights!

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