24 December 2011

Bah Humbug and McMullen Stronghart [Festive Beers] (Morrisons) [By @SpectreUK]

It’s Christmas Eve and what better than two festive beers to warm the insides on a cold winter’s night? Well, I can name one or two things, but this is a family blog, so I’ll say Christmas presents and loved ones! Cinabar is part German, so goes crazy for anything Christmassy, like bringing a tree into the house and hanging shiny dangly things all over it (but I guess that caught on mostly all over the world some time ago) and especially opening her presents on Christmas Eve. I was always a Christmas Day morning present opener when I was a child. I always tried to stay awake the night before as long as possible to catch a glimpse of Santa, but fell asleep before I saw him. I’d wake up and Santa would have left my presents at the end of my bed in a huge bag (well it was huge to me as I was quite small at the time). Since I met Cinabar, over thirteen years ago (poor thing), I switched to opening my presents on Christmas Eve.

Bah Humbug! (Morrisons)

Bah Humbug beer was brewed by the Wychwood brewery, in Oxfordshire. It is a Christmas beer with a drawing of grumpy old Scrooge and the ghost of Jacob Marley behind him on the label. I felt it fitting to drink this beer whilst Kelsey Grammer’s “A Christmas Carol” TV movie was on the box, at the same time as I was wrapping Christmas presents and writing Christmas cards. After twenty minutes of the film I complained that everyone kept incessantly singing, and then Cinabar reminded me that it was the musical adaption of “A Christmas Carol”. I commented that no wonder Scrooge was grumpy with all those overly cheerful people singing all the time…

The label stated that Bah Humbug had been spiced with cinnamon and had “subtle tones of dried fruit”. On opening, the beer smelt strong and fruity with a touch of cinnamon spice. I poured the 5% volume beer into my beer mug noticing that it was a dark brown bitter. In contradiction to the label I initially found that the taste had overtones, rather than “subtle tones” of fruitiness complementing the heavy bitter taste, there was also a hint of spice from the cinnamon in with the overall flavour, but this in itself was the “subtle” side to the beer. Bah Humbug undeniably had a wintery Christmas feel to it, with the mixture of fruitiness and subtle cinnamon spice merging with the strong bitter, lending to a well rounded fruity spicy bitter aftertaste. I enjoyed drinking this beer and felt that it helped to keep out the winter chill for a while. I savoured Bah Humbug on its own, but I reckon it would go very well with Christmas Pudding, Christmas cake or even mince pies.

McMullen Stronghart (Morrisons)

McMullen Stronghart is produced by McMullen & Sons, which has been an independent family brewer since 1827. Stronghart bitter was brewed with malted East Anglian Barley and whole leaf English hops. It was described by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) as; “Liquid Christmas Pudding” and was granted their first “Best Festive Ale” award. Stronghart was described as; “rich, dark and exceptionally smooth” on the label. With that description in mind and over a hundred and fifteen years of brewing experience, I just couldn’t wait to open this beer and give it a try.

I poured the bottle of Stronghart into my freshly washed beer mug (for the full flavour experience), noting that it was almost black in colour. There was an underlying sweetness and a hint of liquorish in the strong beery smell, but I was slightly confused by the “Liquid Christmas Pudding” quote, as I couldn’t find even a hint of fruitiness. This beer was definitely full bodied and I could feel the 7% volume strength of it just by standing next to the mug. I was taken aback by just how smooth this beer tasted, particularly considering its alcoholic potency. Stronger beers can often overly bite at the back of the mouth and frequently taste like they’ve been mixed with port or red wine. There was a taste of liquorish complemented by what seemed to be black treacle, which added the sweetness to the beer. There was definitely no fruitiness to this beer in any way, but none had been promised by the brewer. The liquorish was not overpowering and the beer had a sweetened, black treacle edge that in no way tasted syrupy. Both these flavours worked perfectly together with the hops and malted barley to create a luxurious richness to this almost black beer. This is a beer to be savoured on its own, with no added foods to complement or confuse the flavour. Out of all the many beers I’ve sampled and sozzled over this year, and believe me there’s been quite a few, I honestly hand on Stronghart proclaim this beer as one of the finest.

Merry Christmas everyone... or Bah Humbug, depending on how you feel! ;-)
By Spectre

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