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lagerIs there anything more pleasant than being thrown a beery curveball? The lack of anticipation lowering that guard; the lack of anticipation letting you experience something fresh, without preconception, without hyperbole. This is what life outside the bubble must be like…

Me, I’m a man who doesn’t leave much to chance, especially over the holidays. Time off (anything really; work, kids, blogging, writing, exercise, anything) is precious these days, and I want things to go right. Everything correct and in its place. Anchor Christmas takes pride of place in the Yuletide roll-call; but this year’s edition leaves me cold – in fact, I couldn’t finish it. Harsh, unloved and astringent, this was the first year that I actually poured some of it away.

I’m sure you all got bought beer for Christmas, too. Boxes of the stuff will be sitting around for weeks yet; I’ll get through it though, no fear. A package from Booth’s (as in, bought from Booth’s by a relative) contained not one, but two complete curveballs. First up, Broughton’s Organic Lager (5% abv). Those that know me know I’m a bit of a Lager nerd; constantly on the quest for a UK one that lives up to style – and therefore- billing. You know, this one’s pretty good; the key is the finish. It has to be snappy. I find so many UK Lagers simply too sweet –  by some long margins.

Broughton’s retains a keen balance; the nose doesn’t really give much away apart from really rich, creamy malt – which is so rich as to be a little disconcerting – but that lightly toasted malt note reduces in the body where it eventually diminishes into a relatively snappy, flinty finish. Brightly gold and with a sustaining condition throughout the glass, it’s one of the better attempts at a style that we’ve yet to nail in the UK.

IMG_1294Booth’s 1847 Ale (6% abv) was brewed by Hawkshead Brewery, which should have served as a portent of the quality within. After teaming up in the summer for their excellent beer festival, Hawskhead not only stepped up to the plate for this commission but knocked the ball out of the park. Coal-black with a yuletide red streaking through it, 1847 delivered every flavour that I expected of the Anchor Christmas; Raisin, Rum, Plum, Almond and Molasses topped off with a defined, pine-led hop finish. The balance of flavour is really quite something; there’s so much going on but the way the beer flips between moreish and robust to refreshing and clean within one sip is quite astounding.

I will take this opportunity to plead Hawkshead to brew more. Next year, if this reappears, I’ll be buying a case. Or three.



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