Monday, November 28, 2005

Nut Browned Ale for Christmas 2005 - a review

Peter Scholey, ex lead brewer of Brakspear and soon-to-be brewer for the resuscitated same, has a line of Christmas beers he contract brews under the name Ridgeway. I believe he uses the Brakspear yeast strain which he rescued from oblivian. Anyway, the line includes Bad Elf, Very Bad Elf, Lump of Coal, and more. My favorite of the bunch is new this year - Warm Welcome Nut Browned Ale.

The label has a picture of Santa descending down the chimney, his lower extremeties about to be scorched on a roaring fire - hence the name of the beer. What a wonderful brown ale - nutty, light caramel, hints of low-toned fruit. Except for its higher alcohol - 6% - I could believe this to be what Newcastle Brown may have once been.

Banned in Connecticut due to the drawing of Santa Claus on the label!

From the importer's website:

It’s a sad tale, the closing of the venerable Brakspear brewery in Henley-on-Thames, where the most famous and surely the best Bitter in England has been made for centuries. The brewery, in operation since 1779, was sold off in 2002 in parts to make room for an upscale hotel, and everyone who worked there was let go, without so much as a by-your-leave. But for beer lovers, the closing was not a complete disaster. Thankfully, the master brewer at Brakspear, Peter Scholey, determined to strike out on his own. Peter has set up shop as Ridgeway Brewing, not so far from Henley, and already he’s putting out beers so good they could almost make you forget Brakspear altogether.

The Ridgeway Brewery is named for the ancient road – passable now only on foot – that meanders along a low escarpment across the high, rolling pastoral plain that is the southwest of England. The now patchy stone surface of the Ridgeway was laid by Britain’s oldest inhabitants – Druids and the like – thousands of years before the Romans turned up to build their own roadways. It is the oldest road in the British Isles and Europe, running nearly 100 miles, past that other ancient landmark, Stonehenge, as well as Peter Scholey’s relatively modern home, along the way.

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