BeerCast #9 – Christmas Special

Posted by on Dec 15, 2007 in BeerCasts | No Comments

Happy Christmas from all at the BeerCast! Hopefully you’re all eager to indulge in the trappings of the season – and time spent with the family sitting in front of Morecambe and Wise repeats is great beer drinking time. So with that in mind, the BeerCast panel sample four festive beers that you might come across in your local tinsel-decked bottle shop. Firstly we sample Meantime Winter Time (5.4%), from Greenwich in south London. Then we journey to the scene of our last podcast and taste Erdinger’s Schneewiesse Winterbier (5.6%), to see how it differs from their usual wheatbeer fare. Our third tempter is Anchor’s Special Christmas Ale (2006) (5.5%), surprisingly the first ever American beer drunk on the BeerCast. But as the scores show, one that was certainly worth the wait. Finally, the panel drink a Belgian Christmas tipple with a fantastically OTT label – Gordon’s Xmas (8.8%). Find out how we get on, and if any bring some festive cheer to wintry Edinburgh…

1. Meantime Winter Time (5.4%abv)
Meantime Brewery, Greenwich (UK).
500ml glass bottle

Founded in 1999 by a group of friends in London, production at the Meantime brewery first started in April 2000. It was the only British brewery to win medals at the 2004 World Beer Cup (for it’s Viennese lager), and repeated the feat in 2006. They went considerably better in 2007, collecting five ‘world’s best’ at the World Beer Awards, then having four of their range included in the International Beer Challenge’s 50 best beers in the world. They have a large and adventurous range, from coffee and chocolate beers (the latter of which was recently voted the world’s best), to a porter, IPA, wheat beer and raspberry beer. But today the BeerCast sample their seasonal Winter Time…

What They Say“To best enjoy Meantime Winter Time wrap up warm, go outside and kick up leaves in the street until the end of your nose goes red. Then step back into the warmth, open a bottle and let the soft aromas of roast coffee, chocolate and vanilla beckon. Savour the richness of dark, smokey malts supporting a palate of roast chestnuts, caramel and molasses whilst you wiggle the warmth back in your toes. English fuggles hops, dark malts and smoked malt provide a fireside warming brew.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – Some burnt flavours in there, it’s a tasty brew
Richard – Dark, smokey maltiness, really nice stuff 7
MrB – Definately a warmer, it’s like a nice smokey mulled wine 7
Grooben – Smells heady, it tastes a bit like a stout

2. Erdinger Schneewiesse Winterbier (5.6%abv)
Brauerei Erdinger, Erding (Ger).
500ml glass bottle

Our second visit to the Bavrian wheatbeer behemoths in two podcasts, as last time out we sampled their extremely tasty Dunkel Weissbier. For this seasonal edition, we got hold of their Schneewiesse Winterbier, or ‘Snow White’. Almost opaque when held up to the light, Erdinger describe it as a ‘special’ winter beer, which they first produced in December 1997. It is matured longer from the summer malt harvest until mid-October, apparently to make the flavours more pronounced. It’s only available from November to February, so is this one-off one to savour, or one to avoid?

What They Say“With a slightly darker colour and a slightly higher alcohol content than the classic Erdinger Weissbier, Schneewieße offers a really pleasant change at the coldest time of year, a time when we like to treat ourselves to something special. It’s amber colour and spicy taste is an ideal compliment to hearty foods such as those round the Christmas table. The taste of winter just got better!” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – Just tastes of wheat beer, not great but not bad 6
MrB – There’s something slightly different that detracts from it 6
Grooben – Some honeycomb going on, I’m not sold on it 6
Richard – If I had it with a turkey dinner it would be nicer 5

3. Anchor Our Special Ale 2006 (5.5%abv)
Anchor Brewery, San Francisco (USA).
350ml glass bottle

The Anchor Brewing Company is a well-known feature of San Francisco, and started life in 1896 under the resourcefulness of two German immigrant brewers Ernst Baruth and Otto Schinkel, who acquired the Pacific Brewery started by another ex-pat, and renamed it Anchor. After overcoming several tragedies, and the prohibition era, the landmark company were saved from closure in 1965 by Fritz Maytag, and have since gone from strength to strength. They are renowned for their annual special Christmas beer – which remarkably is brewed to a different recipe every year. Sadly the 2007 vintage has yet to reach us, but we more than made do with the 2006 version. BeerCaster Shovels used to live in San Francisco, and is a devoted fan of Anchor – but will he take to the Special Ale?

What They Say“Every year since 1975 the brewers at Anchor have brewed a distinctive and unique Christmas Ale, which is available from early November to mid-January. The Ale’s recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent with which we offer it remains the same.” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – Mulled red wine, cloves, it’s the most fantastic beer ever
Shovels – This tastes of Christmas, it’s spicy and just wonderful 9
Richard – What a great mix of spices, sugar and Christmas taste 8
Grooben – Great berry fruitiness, for the season it’s exceptional 8

4. Gordon Xmas (8.8%abv)
Brasserie John Martin, Genval (Bel).
350ml glass bottle

John Martin is part of the Anthony Martin conglomerate that dominates Belgian brewing. They also own Timmerman’s, whose Peach Lambic we were distinctly unmoved by in BeerCast 5. A municipality in Walloonian Brabant, along with nearby Rosieres, Genval is home to a large lake and fancy hotels used by Brussels weekenders. The Gordon Xmas beer comes in the most Christmassy bottle any of us has ever seen, and when you’re scouring shelves for potential seasonal ales, this one shouts at you to choose it. But should you?

What They Say“A top fermented dark ruby Scotch ale. The real beer for Father Christmas. Created in the 30’s, Gordon Xmas initiated the tradition of Christmas brews. To accompany your festive evenings, Gordon Xmas is all dressed up in it’s party clothes. Don’t forget to ask for some in your letter to Santa…” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – This is port-like after-dinner cheese & biscuits drink 8
Richard – Warming and it lingers, this is really drinkable
Grooben – Sweet and rich, with a thick taste not for everyone 6
Shovels – Sweet sherryness, the more I have the less I like

BeerCast panel verdict

Anchor Our Special Ale (2006) – 34½/40
Meantime Winter Time – 28/40
Gordon Xmas – 27/40
Erdinger Schneeweisse – 23/40

Panellists – (from top left) Shovels, Grooben, MrB, Richard



We’ll be back in early January with our 10th episode, our first annual BeerCast Beer of the Year 2007 show. Stay tuned for details…and please leave us comments on the blog or iTunes, or emails. Cheers!

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