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Advent Calendar Window 6 - William's Nollaig

This years calendar introduction is here. 

"Dear Santa I've been good this year
Can't you stay a little while with me right here
(Tell me) I've got to know
Where do lonely hearts go
Because nobody ought to be all alone on Christmas"

I imagine that the majority of us were first introduced to the Williams Bros through their “Historic Ales of Scotland” package (that used to even grace a stall at Manchester’s infamous Christmas markets.) My brother bought me that gift box some 5 years ago for Christmas and I was instantly enamoured with the styles and techniques – particularly Fraoch and Alba.

Since then, I’ve actually read rather reproachful comments about these traditional ales from bloggers more interested in Williams’ modern exerts into the likes of Joker IPA and Caesar Augustus. These are solid brews in their own right, but I’m still impressed by the likes of Fraoch and its story.

William Bros. Brewing Co. started life as a Homebrew shop until they came by the ancient gaelic recipe for a heather beer: Fraoch. Within a year of the beer being released, demand was far outstripping supply and, with the addition of the other Historic ales in subsequent years, the brewery continued to expand. It wasn’t until 2004, when the brewery moved from Strathaven to Alloa that they started to divulge into the more “contemporary” beers that grace a lot of supermarkets. But the market for the Historic Ales remains strong.

It seems only natural then that if any brewery was to try and create a Christmas beer brewed with actually Christmas trees (spruce) then Williams Bros would be prime candidates. It also happens that I’ve never tasted Nollaig but it is behind the Window of Day 6 of this Beer Advent Calendar.


Nollaig pours a murky persimmon shade with perfect marshmallow head. My immediate thoughts as the aroma of the beer fills the room are of barley wine. There's so much honeyed caramel and burnt sugar. There's extra hints of orange peel and a little clove but it's dominated by a massive sweetness. To taste, Nollaig is a stumping delight at this point. It's incomparable so I'm searching for fresh tasting notes; the sort of beer you’re happy to review as you’re not just repeating what you’ve said about a thousand previous beers. There's lemon, honey, pine - not in the hoppy sense of pine, but the actual tree branches - there's rosemary, Satsuma and just a little caramel in contrast to that deftly sweet nose. It manages to be light but full bodied all at the same time. It has many orange fruit flavours, but it's powerful, warming feeling looks at snow-covered mountains, rather than sunny beaches. It's complex and intriguing and is only letdown by an aftertaste of washing up liquid that mars what is quite a delightful - and very different - drink. What it lacks on the finish, it makes up for in originality. This is what Williams Bros do best for me.  

Christmas Spirit Rating: 73%. I want to frolic in a snow covered spruce tree forest. 

Revisit: La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux 7.3% from December 2013 
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