As I struggle to keep this Advent Calendar fresh as it continues through its fourth year, it was nice to be confronted to a different approach on Saturday.
Saturday 5th December was a day to be out to celebrate the Grub MCR Christmas fair. Whilst the weather caused some disruptions to the plans, it was still a lovely way to spend an afternoon in Manchester surrounded by good people, good music, good food ... and good drink.
This included a Weird Beard Black Christmas on keg.
I've kept a few windows in my Advent Calendar open specifically for a few new Christmas beer releases this year that I've yet to track down, but have expected to. Surprisingly, Weird Beard's Black Christmas has proven deceptively difficult to find at my local beer retailers thusfar. When I saw it available as one of the beers here at this event, I decided that, rather than keep hunting for a bottle, I'd make an on-the-spot review of the beer in it's draught form.
So, for the first time, this Beer Advent Calendar has a beer reviewed direct from a dispensary method that isn't the bottle.
I'm also pleased to see, as with the previous Hop Studio Humbug, a different and welcome take on a Christmas beer. Whilst I still hear a remarkable number of complaints about Christmas beers being a weird style and not for certain people, I've long maintained that there's a lot of scope for brewers to experiment with the theme that hasn't been done yet. A cranberry stout seems like an obvious style choice for the season, but isn't something that I've come across before.
"Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!"
Weird Beard - Black Christmas (Cranberry Christmas Stout) 4.5%
Pouring a dark chestnut brown with slight white head, this is sadly not going to be at its best in its (required) plastic glass form and that it's served cooler than I would like. Still, there's plenty of ground roast coffee, damp woodland and a little heather on the nose. The taste, though, is so festive it makes a mockery of its plastic serving vessel. I'm not used to formulating reviews in such a social environment with the company I'm stood with. "This is Christmas in a cup," I say to anybody around, bringing out my least favourite holiday beer cliché. It does have a warming chocolatey body mixed with a rum liquor heat. The body is full for it's relatively tame ABV. There's woodsmoke, liquorice, cacao nibs and a touch of nutmeg, that are then gently infused with a red berry and holly branch sweetness. It's coldness is more warming at the time than any mulled wine.
Oddly though, amongst all this delicious praise, a strange figure reappears from the depths of my memory in my mind whilst drinking this beer. It takes me a while to recall where on earth this evil hooded cloaked figure is coming from but the unmistakeably brilliant art from Richard Elson brings it back to me. Richard worked on the brilliant Sonic the Comic - something I was a devoted reader of as a child. I don't know why but when drinking Black Christmas a one-off character from the comic named Vile Peter comes to mind. He was an evil child-kidnapper at Christmas if memory serves (I'm hoping the comics are still in my parent's loft.) Of all the emotions I've felt whilst drinking a Christmas beer, this is one of the strangest but one I had to share for that reason. There's a chance the comic strip Vile Peter featured in was named "Black Christmas," which is why my mind may have associated it with a comic strip from over 15 years ago. Incredible how memory works, isn't it?
Mince Pie Pairing Rating: N/A - sadly I didn't have a mince pie at hand in the Christmas fair environment
Best Paired with: an evening digging through your parents loft for old comics, with the pretence that you're after Christmas decorations.