As it turns out there are far more “Christmas” beers on the market than I realized. And I’m not just talking the strong Belgians which seem to be the traditional choice. If you shop around, you’ll quickly discover that the marketers have taken some liberties with interpreting what exactly a “Christmas beer” is, and I was prepared to walk right on by an entire row of them with lots of elves and Santas on their labels, all produced by Oxford, England’s Ridgeway Brewing. That was until I came to the last bottle in the line, called “A Lump of Coal”. Based on the name alone, I could not pass this one up, gimmick or no. Why?
Cast your mind back to Christmas of 1991, and a small indie label, First Warning Records released an eclectic compilation of Christmas songs by a stable of BMG alternative artists ‘back when “alternative” still meant something substantial’ according to one review. To this day it remains one of my favorite Christmas compilations. Pairing a beer of the same name with it was a no-brainer, and I listen to it as I type this review. A few examples can be found below. I encourage you to try to track down this hidden gem which is long out of print.
On to the beer itself. It pours a clear red/amber color with a head that disippated too quickly for me to get a good photo. Lacing on the glass is mild. Some coffee, raspberries, and malts on the nose.
This is a nice, creamy beer with tiny but aggressive carbonation. When it first hits your palate it appears to be thicker than it actually is due to the carbonation. I’d have liked to see something a little heavier for the style. It’s a little heavier on the coffee flavors than I was expecting, but there’s also raisins, plums, and what I’d describe as chocolate/raspberry like a Lindt bar. Slightly bitter finish at the back. Overall a very drinkable beer.
Taste: B Solid. A little more substantial body might have pushed it into B+ territory.
Drinkability: B- It’s quite smooth drinking, but I think a beer that’s this sweet is a one and done.
Vitals: Bottle into a pint glass at about 49F initially, but warmed closer to 55 by the end. ABV: 8.00%
As stouts go, this is good, but definitely an after-dinner beer as most Christmas beers tend to be. It didn’t blow my doors in, but I enjoyed it. And thanks for the memories.