Friday, 16 December 2011

When brewers go mad for Christmas

I mentioned last month, the secret Christmas ale I was asked to brew for a large Irish brewery. It was never to see the light of day, just an internal competition for brewers. It could be anything they liked but the idea was to make it festive. I was given a recipe that was never brewed, and with good reason because it was rubbish and made no technical sense.

Well I got the finished product. And in fairness it looks the part. Theirs is on the left* and mine on the right. They filtered theirs and it looks quite appetising. I am comparing theirs with my bottle conditioned version as the keg is long gone and the kegged version was of course a lot clearer, though not as much as their filtered batch. 

They decided that my Christmas cheer was too subtle, as in they could not taste it. Weird because it was pretty obvious to me and most others that tasted it, though they were beer geeks like me. Anyway they wanted more cheer so they went a little overboard with spices, especially the cloves.

What they ended up brewing was a clove bomb. It was almost undrinkable but I did battle through my two bottles. I had been intending to bring the second one up to Steve last weekend but I forgot it. He does however have a bottle of my bottle conditioned version so maybe he can leave a comment with his thoughts. Was there enough Christmas cheer for you Steve?

Baring in mind, the recipe I put together was as close to the boring recipe they gave me that I could make and still have it in some way worth drinking. Had I been brewing a Christmas beer of my own accord, I would certainly be using more interesting ingredients, starting with a more interesting yeast instead of a Neutral one.

As it turns out, they did not win the competition with their beer. They would have failed on the beer alone but in fact the best beer does not necessarily win, it's the best overall presentation so labelling and spiel behind the beer goes a long way. Interestingly when I gave them the bottle conditioned version, I was told that had they brewed my recipe exactly, they might have won it. When I gave them the samples from the keg, it was only a day old and force carbonated at that. The kegged version did condition nicely and after a couple of weeks it was beautiful.

Moral of the story? Professional brewers in mega breweries should listen to small scale brewers a bit better.

*If you zoom in a little, you might figure out the brewery in question. No names though.


  1. I've not drunk it yet, been a busy week! Guess I'd better get it out of the fridge!

  2. Pours hazy amber with good carbonation. Subtle sweet ginger and clove on the nose. Warming spices - liquid gingerbread. fairly brief finish. A nice drop but as Reuben said, needs a few twists to make it moreish

  3. Thanks Steve, there is in fact ginger in it, though dried as opposed to fresh as that's what their recipe called for and I was sticking to it as much as possible for their sake.