Calendar introduction here.
Backyard Brewhouse are a Walsall based brewery, opened in 2008, I was sadly unaware of before this review. I suppose sometimes the benefit of making a Christmas beer is that it allows some brewers to see their beers reach those that may not have come across them if it had not been for the festive themed drinks.
Perusing their website, they seemed inclined to more traditional and sessionable beers (which there is nothing wrong with) and their rather ordinary branding comes across as... pleasant. However, the image of this Bad Santa beer is quite a cry from this and I really like the bottle's image and identity. The 6.8% "strong, tawny bitter" is also a bit of a diversion for them it would seem, but a good strength for a Christmas beer. I'm not expecting allspice or mulled beer here, but am intrigued by the unexpected.
As it's pouring, the room is perfumed with a rather overly sweet-malty, toffee scent that isn't appetising at first. It has decent carbonation but little head and is a murky dark brown. Once in the glass, that toffee scent is dominated by chocolate malts, parma violets and a rather familiar yeasty feel that reminds me strongly of something else; Robinson's or Fuller's I suspect. Frankly, it smells nightmarish.
The taste though is rather a surprise. There's initially lots of liquorice and chocolate that subsides quite quickly to become a smoother caramel and vanilla, barley wine style ale. The real surprise though, is the end-of-your-tongue tingling bite that comes with a sharp bitter and tingly hoppy finish. There's rather a lot going on at times, but it's not unbalanced and is very drinkable, aside from the ghastly nose. This beer needs time to breathe, to allow the overpowering scents to subside slightly. Once you're passed that, you have a rather unusual but solid winter warmer, that could just do with a bit more body to back up the flavours and ABV.
Note: I try not to read the tasting notes on bottles when I know I'll be drinking them for review. I felt it necessary to add this as the words, "sweet malt," "toffee" and "liquorice" all appear on the bottle, as does the fact that they used chocolate malts, none of which I was aware of prior to this.
Christmas Spirit Rating: 52%. Santa may be bad but I suppose I have been too this year.