Drinking The 12 Stouts of Christmas

22 12 2011

In a year when Bristol Beer Factory won the BBC Radio Four Food and Farming Awards Best Drinks Producer, it was an honour and indeed a privilege to last night sample, one by one, the Ashton brewery’s 12 Stouts of Christmas, one of only 150 crates to be produced.

It didn’t start off well. I cycled yesterday afternoon to the Bristol Beer Factory HQ in order to pick up my 12 stouts, but when I arrived their American member of staff Brett Ellis looked high and low for a pre-packaged case, before eventually finding a dozen bottles fitting the description of the 12 Stouts of Christmas. Thank goodness for that.

And so it was that last night, Tim, Tom and I took it upon ourselves to sample each brew one after the other. What follows is a contemporaneous account of proceedings, written surreptitiously in my notebook as proceedings proceeded.

19.54 Leave my flat.

19.55 Arrive at Tom’s.

20.10 Begin eating cheese.

20.15 Bristol Stout, 4%. An old favourite. “Irish-style stout. Velvety and full-flavoured”.

20.31 One down, 11 to go.

20.32 Milk Stout, 4.5%. A drink that for Tim and me has warranted a special trip to a pub which has it on tap. “Beautifully creamy… Does not contain milk.”

20.43 Talk turns to our next pub crawl, which will be in Bath.

20.44 Tom tells a joke about a Thai girl he saw on the bus.

20.50 Half-time in the Wigan vs Liverpool game we are watching on Sky Sports 1. 0-0.

20.53 Vanilla Milk Stout, 4.5%. “Gently infused with vanilla.”

20.56 Three men drink beer on a sofa in a Carlsberg advert. Looks familiar.

20.58 Mark Albrighton scores the 20,000th Premiership goal.

21.14 Hazelnut Latte Stout, 4.5%. First seen at Factoberfest 2010. First time bottled. Roasted hazelnut and Java coffee added to Milk Stout.

21.20 Tim: “It’s like when you have a packet of Revels, unlucky if you get the coffee.”

21.37 Chocolate Orange Stout, 5%. Orange zest and juice added to Chocolate Stout just prior to bottling. “Fresh orange aroma and flavour.”

21.49 Chocolate Stout, 5%. “Gloriously chocolatey from blend of five different malts.”

21.56 Wigan vs Liverpool finishes 0-0; more than 20 Premiership goals tonight.

22.00 We realise we’re less than halfway through the evening’s drinking and the beers get stronger from here on in.

22.01 Chilli Chocolate Stout, 5%. Chillis from Upton Cheney Chilli Farm “infused with Chocolate Stout with amounts of chilli aroma and pleasant warming aftertaste”.

22.22 Chilli flavours starting to come through, but not as much as we expected.

22.26 Raspberry Stout, 7.7%. “Strong and black, yet tarty and fruity.”

22.42 Ultimate Stout, 7.7%. “Unctuous.”

22.57 Conversation turns to midgets after Life’s Too Short comes on television.

23.02 Imperial Stout, 8.5%. Best fact of the evening: “Originally brewed in the early nineteenth century for export to the Imperial Court of Russia’s Catherine the Great. Its high alcohol content prevented it freezing in transport in the Baltic Sea.”

23.11 Ricky Gervais mentions Bristol in Life’s Too Short.

23.22 Imperial Stout aged in Laphroaig whisky casks, 9.5%.

23.23 Tom: “It’s a bit like eating an oak barrel.”

23.25 Tim: “This is like gravy. Rancid, worst drink I have ever tasted in my life.”

23.36 Imperial Stout aged in Glenlivet whisky casks, 10.7%. “After-dinner treat.”

23.59 Tim leaves. Due home in precisely 60 seconds. Lives other side of bridge.

00.16 Tom’s girlfriend arrives home.

00.20 Bristol snooker player Judd Trump features on Question of Sport.

00.28 Watford is an answer on Question of Sport.

00.51 My glass of port is finished.

00.54 Recycling begins.

00.57 I leave Tom’s flat.

00.59 Arrive back at my flat.

09.08 Morning after verdict: The 12 Stouts of Christmas was a splendid idea from the Bristol Beer Factory and we had a super time sampling them all with cheese and biscuits. The consensus was that 10 out of the 12 were top tipples, the only downers being the Hazelnut Latte, with the hazelnuts rather overpowering, and the stout aged for six months in a Laphroaig oak barrel, which was difficult to drink, tasting like whisky mixed with beer. My personal favourite was either the Chocolate Orange or Vanilla Milk Stout, delightful flavour combinations.



One response

22 12 2011
Steve Lamond (@BeersIveKnown)

Unfortunately the “fact” is not true! See here:http://zythophile.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/imperial-stout-%E2%80%93-russian-or-irish/

What was your fave? raspberry for me

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