beer, christmas beer
AT THIS time of year I often hear people saying they don’t feel Christmassy ... that they’re not getting that buzz of festive anticipation. But I think they’re looking in the wrong place.
As a grown-up, we’re comparing Christmas to how it used to be as a child, but how can it ever be?
We’re different people with different priorities. Back then it was all about presents, but you simply don’t get as excited about them when you’re older.
When I was four I got a toy vacuum cleaner for Christmas and, utterly soused in happiness, insisted on vacuuming the entire house before I’d open any more presents (if it was an attempt to condition me into good habits early on, it failed miserably). As an embittered, cynical hack, how can I top that level of trembling, innocent joy?
No. Instead, you’ll find Christmas is just as wonderful ... if you look in the right place.
The importance of Christmas as an adult is found in those with whom we spend it, and in memories, and in renewing dimming relationships.
What I mean is, Christmas is a season to spend time with the beers that mean the most to us, getting together with our nearest and dearest brews.
Perhaps there are pints we haven’t bought in the pub as often as we should, off licences which we promised we’d visit regularly but forgot to, or online beer stores with whom we intended to keep in touch but lost correspondence.
Pop into Coppers 8til8 in north Gosforth, Rehills in Jesmond, Fenwick in town; they’ll be delighted to see you and have lots of treats.
For me, I’ll be looking forward to seeing Vitesse Noir from Cumbria’s Hardknott Brewery again, a treacle-thick Imperial stout which, despite being one of my favourite beers, I have neglected badly.
I reacquainted myself with Tyne Bank’s amazing cherry stout this past week, and will also try to spend time with Anarchy Brewery’s Sublime Chaos breakfast stout, a fantastic drink with an aroma of dark chocolate that you’ll notice from ten paces; and Cullercoats Brewery’s Jack the Devil, the richest local session beer and my favourite when talking with friends in the pub.
It is, of course, a time to remember those no longer with us; one-offs and discontinued beers. Durham Brewery’s incredible Diabolus, a sour stout whom I mentioned back in July, was only a 1,000 bottle run and is getting harder to find – but at least he will return next year. And, with 2012 representing the 85th anniversary of Newcastle Brown Ale, we did a three-part look-back at the beer. For many people it brought back memories of the sights and smells of Tyne Brewery.
Christmas also gives us time to look back and reflect on the past year – the happy times and highlights. The local petitions The Journal sent out to support the e-petition against the beer duty escalator was great fun and showed North East drinkers’ passion.
The Brandling Villa’s beer for dogs was a stroke of local brilliance which hit international headlines, from China to America. And in classic Christmas round-robin letter style, there have been some young arrivals to announce, from breweries to bars such as Ernest in Ouseburn and 3 Wise Monkeys in Alnwick.
In contrast, it’s also a time for a bit of innocent flirting under the mistletoe, a dabble at the Christmas party with something exciting from the fairer side of the beer spectrum.
I got my hands on Kelso-based Tempest Brewery’s Brave New World (7%) at our Christmas meal in the Town Wall. It is a stunning IPA that, once I’d introduced it to workmates, they couldn’t resist. Try it as an aperitif to Christmas dinner.
And last but not least, Christmas is a time to feel thankful as we remember those less fortunate than us ... those stuck with wine for Christmas dinner, who haven’t yet been struck by the divine epiphany of beer and food matching. They will continue in their heathen ways, glugging unwieldy reds and whites until they convert to the path of everlasting beer styles.
As an adult, these are the places where lies the magic of Christmas. I hope you and your beers have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.