Shepherd Neame: Christmas Ale 2009 (England: Strong Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: A light clear metallic red with a bubbly but not overly substantial head.

Nose: Sherry spice, cloves, white grapes. A light smooth hop character, wood shavings.

Body: Rich warming and spicy, plums and red berries. Sweet, very syrupy and a fizzy sherbet feel. Black treacle occasionally.

Finish: Raspberry, sherry, slight roasted almonds. Hint of nutmeg and sponge. Slowly eases out to light fluffy hops.

Conclusion: I always love the arrival of Christmas beers; it’s pretty much the only thing that redeems the festive season.

This slightly spiced, warming and fruity ale is typical for the style and done pretty well. Lovely fruit sweet body and a very long finish. With the addition of the bitter core it hits a lot of right notes.

The beer is somewhat over syrupy which hits the quality the second half of a pint, and reduces the subtlety of the ale, which keeps it from the top end of the market. However whilst it is not innovative it is well worth drinking.

Now I wouldn’t go out and crucify a hippy to get to drink it twice a year but I will enjoy it while it is around, and heck you wont regret doing so as well.