They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor

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Harveys Christmas Ale

ABV: 8.1%
Origin: Lewes, East Sussex, England
Website: www.harveys.org.uk

Christmas Ale

The end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 found me tasting an unusually large number of British cask ales as I worked my way round potential places to drink for my guide. Normally, to preserve as clear a head as I could when visiting up to 21 in one day, I’d pick something low gravity and limit myself to a few sips. I made a point of paying a special visit even to places I already knew very well, just to make sure I had all the information I needed for the book, including the famous White Horse in Parsons Green SW6, where I found myself early in January. When I saw the cask version of Harvey’s classic seasonal strong ale on the bar, I gladly made an exception to my usual rule, buying a half and drinking the lot.

The beer, which is also available all year round in a filtered, bottled version, is described by the brewery as a which recalls 18th and early 19th century stock ales of the sort that were laid down in better off households. I suspect the recipe has undergone a certain amount of modernisation, but it’s still a traditional treat.

Christmas Ale is a deep burgundy colour, with a light bubbly head. The aroma is relatively restrained, with pronounced fruity and toasty malt notes. A rich, sweet and oily but all too drinkable palate has cherry fruit, with light wood hints and emerging almond flavours. A tasty, nutty and fruity finish is long and gently warming with drying woody vanilla flavours and lightly tangy hop resins. The beer is actually relatively heavily hopped, but at such a high strength and with good residual sweetness, the bitterness is balanced out.

I also have a tasting note from a bottle I tried a few years back, which I found had a creamy off-white head, a cakey vine fruit aroma with hints of angelica, a full and slightly treacly and vinous palate with some light fruit, plum and coffee, and a little peppery dryness, orange peel and mincemeat in the finish. I suspect the relatively higher carbonation in the bottle offsets the sweetness and brings out a little more of the hops.

The bottled version was good, but the draught was stunning, and well worth keeping an eye out for at the right time of year.

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