Christmas Ale - Shepherd Neame Ltd

Not Rated.
Christmas AleChristmas Ale

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BA SCORE
77
okay

53 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 53
Reviews: 28
rAvg: 3.3
pDev: 15.76%
Wants: 0
Gots: 3 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Shepherd Neame Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  7.00% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 12-06-2003)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 53 | Reviews: 28 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of thehyperduck
3.38/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

500 mL bottle picked up at the LCBO, served slightly chilled. One of several English winter warmers I picked up during my last trip, which I have either not seen or neglected to try until now. I generally enjoy UK takes on this style, at least in comparison to domestic examples which I find tend to have the living shit spiced out of them.

Pours a bright, clear orange-amber colour, generating two fingers of frothy, resilient off-white head that gradually seeps away. Gobs of lacing are left sticking to the glass as it recedes into a thin, creamy cap and collar. The aroma is a little too sweet for my liking - lots of dark fruit and caramel, toffee, baker's chocolate, with a hint of spice and fig newton. It's not really off-putting, but it smells more like a confection than a beer.

After my first sip I really want to like this, but I just can't find any compelling reasons to. There's lots of bready malts, with toffee and fruitcake as well, and it doesn't get any less saccharine from there. Toasted nuts and earthy, spicy hop notes remain hidden until the finish, with the ethanol providing some warmth - I appreciate it on a cold night like this, but truthfully it doesn't blend well with the flavour profile, and the resulting syrupy mouthfeel does not help matters much. Medium-bodied, leaving a slick, unappealing sensation behind on the palate after each sip. Not that difficult to drink quickly, and otherwise I can really only say 'meh'.

Final Grade: 3.38, a B-. Shepherd Neame's Christmas Ale is serviceable, but compared to some of my favourite English examples of this style it just seems dull and forgettable. It's not bad - it's just plain, with too much alcohol for such a sparse, unvaried flavour. Worth a try I suppose, at least if you're a fan of stronger English ales, but the next time I want a warmer I'll probably stick with Samuel Smith's or St. Peter's.

Photo of rorjets
2.75/5  rDev -16.7%

Photo of biegaman
3.35/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale sounds like an ideal holiday offering, but it doesn't quite look the part. The orange-brown colour is actually more fall-toned (like a pumpkin ale) and its clear complexion looks far too light to chase a cold winter chill. Not to mention there's no garland of white lace atop!

The aroma smells superficially like cheap fruitcake and... cue the crickets... not much else. While I appreciate the nuances of toffee, cinnamon, and dried fruit, I'd have preferred a homemade-quality Christmas cake (as oppose to Tesco-brand). It's actually rather pleasant but leaves way too much to be desired.

The taste registers as being heavily-pasteurized; it lacks both depth and detail as if they were each filtered out intentionally. Some toffee notes are appreciated from the malt, but I imagine this flavour is something like what you'd get trying to steep fruitcake like a tea: watery with vague notes of dried fruit and stale spice.

The extra couple notches of alcohol may make visiting the in-laws less painful, but it does the opposite for the mouthfeel; it's not tasted outright but the beer's lack of maltiness really becomes apparent, especially as the esters take over entirely on the finish. A bit of crystallized ginger is the texture's only saving grace.

Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale is the equivalent of running down the stairs only to find that Santa brought you socks. It's disappointing enough to make Hanukkah seem the more appealing holiday. This brewery had the right idea (spicy fruitcake) but the wrong execution - next year they should ask for an improved recipe.

Photo of BartMcStout
3.75/5  rDev +13.6%

Photo of liamt07
3.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

500ml bottle from the LCBO, into a tulip.

Translucent dark red, thin off white head with mild retention and some spots of lace. Nose is sweet, some bubble gum, some gentle spicing, and some bready character. Not the most complex nose, but not bad. Taste has some grainy bread character, obscure fruit notes and some peripheral spicing. Bitterness in the finish. Medium feel, medium low carb. Ok, nothing exciting.

Photo of cfalovo97
3/5  rDev -9.1%

Photo of mintjellie
2.35/5  rDev -28.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Medium amber colour, brilliant clarity. Small, poorly retained off-white head. Almost no lace. Weak aroma, primarily floral with lighter notes of toasted cereal and diacetyl. Malt-forward flavour up-front with a nutty toasted malt note, followed by light butterscotch and an earthy/spicy hop note. Light-bodied with low carbonation and a thin, greasy mouthfeel. It doesn't taste bad, just overly plain and boring. Lacking in depth and complexity of flavour. Unpleasant mouthfeel. A disappointment.

Photo of KrisDLSmith
3.75/5  rDev +13.6%

Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.5/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Single 500ml bottle from the LCBO, part of the 2012 holiday release. The bottle is quite nice, big Christmas wreath with hops.

Poured into a nonic. Light copper-amber, clear, decent head of foam that survives as a sturdy ring.

Nose is English pale with a little extra spice and earthy hops. Some citrus as well.

Decent pale ale taste with earthy hops, a bit of fruit (orange peel), tea, caramel. Standard stuff, but balanced and not bad.

Light bodied, easy to drink, mild carbonation.

Not bad, actually - classic case of the reviews setting me up for disappointment, but being pleasantly surprised, though this might just be this years' edition doing the talking. Might be a good stocking stuffer, but I'll stick with my usual holiday fare this year.

Photo of Sammy
3.6/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Slightly spicy light orange tinged bodied beer. Decently drinkable. Understated, medium bodied. Drinkable with supper, somewhat more fruity and spicy (mild cinammon heat)than your average English beer. OK, but nothing outstanding or worth seeking out twice.

Photo of djcreepshow
3/5  rDev -9.1%

Photo of beerhunter13
4/5  rDev +21.2%

Photo of spinrsx
3.53/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

500ml Bottle from the Ottawa LCBO for 3.50$

Appearance - Reddish copper colour with an average size fizzy and frothy beige head. There is an average amount of carbonation showing and there is some fairly good lacing. The head lasted for 4-5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, dark fruits, butterscotch

Taste & Mouth - There is an average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts and some butterscotch. There is also some raisin/cherry flavour and a bit of a fruit cake like taste. There is also a light amount of all-spice and the beer ends with a malty sweet aftertaste.

Overall - It's better than the previous reviews lead me to believe. The alcohol seems well hidden and while it isn't the most exciting winter warmer I've had this year, it has a nice well balanced flavour. Not something I'd buy another bottle of this year, but something I'd buy again next holiday season.

Photo of samEBC
3.5/5  rDev +6.1%

Photo of beerdrifter
3.53/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Picked up a bottle of this at the Mondial Bier Fest in Strasbourg, France. Clear light copper-amber pour with two finger head, good retention, and great lacing. The nose was a bit skunky at first, but quickly faded and gave way to banana bread, tea, caramel, and toffee with just a touch of dark fruit. The taste pretty much follows suit with hints of fruity tea, caramel, herbal hops, banana bread, and a bit of butter and metal as well. The balance is good and the 7% ABV warms slightly and makes for a pretty drinkable beer. Fairly dry mouthfeel with a nice bitter finish. Not really what I think of as a Christmas beer, but still pretty solid.

Photo of Evil_Pidde
4.05/5  rDev +22.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours copper with a large thick tan head. Dissipation leaves nice lacings.

S: Buttery creamy notes up front. Then sweet caramell malt and dark dried fruits together with citric notes.

T: Frutiy, English style. Citric notes together with green apples. But also dark dried fruits, figs and raisins. Sweet, a bit roasted, caramell malt. Buttery notes. A little bit spicy.

M: Long warming bitter-sweet afteratste. Body is full and carbonation only moderate (a good thing).

D: A highly drinkable beer. The 7% ABV isn't noticable at all.

Photo of charlatan
2.9/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2009 edition is 7.0% abv.

The beer is a dark amber colour with decent white head. My nose isn't working well at present but I note a nutty whiff and a hint of banana here.

A less strong flavour than I was expecting with a lack of the spice that characterises American Christmas ales. Malt, hops, slight alcohol warmth: it's as if they have set out to make as bland a 7 per cent Christmas ale as they can. Drinkable but that isn't the point....

Photo of wl0307
3.53/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

* Review Date: 17/01/2008
2007 Vintage, 7%abv. Coming in a 500ml long-neck clear bottle, BB March 2009, served cool in a straight imperial pint glass.
A: bright dark amber hue with moderate carbonation, topped with a well-lasting fluffy off-white head.
S: as it pours, the dancing aroma gives strong hints of the same brewery's Premium Bitter "Bishop's Finger", with the trademark fruity hop elements - orangey, berry-fruity and lightly apple-ish on the nose, added with caramely malts, creamy toffee, and a light hint of coconut-shaving. Pretty intense and sweet in aroma, but not overpowering.
T: caramelised-fruits (very mixed, but cherries & oranges are there), syrupy+toffee-ish malts and an alcoholic feel all approach at once upfront... gradually settling, while a mildly burned flavour of malts and a spicy kick of bitterness and floral hops develop in the aftertaste, pairing with a syrupy fruity and interesting, rum-like, dryish undertone.
M&D: the fizz level comes a bit too high for me (though fortunately it softens slowly), but I suppose this is necessary to neutralise the alcoholic mouthfeel. Overall, I think this vintage drinks better than the previous ones that were all lighter in alcohol and lacking a balance. Instead, this vintage shows a decent level of bitterness to go with the fruits, while a slightly higher alc. strength makes it more like a warming ale for winter. By no means fantastic, but this is not bad at all!

* Review Date: 22/02/2007
2006 Vintage, 5.5%abv., coming in a 500ml clear bottle. BB SEP 07, served cool in a straight imperial pint glass.
3 A: bright reddish amber, faint foam on top of fine fizziness with occasional ejections of large bubbles from the glass bottom.
3 S: densely sweet dried plums, Goldings and floral notes come on top of a touch of coconut and burned-sugary malts--slightly too intrusive and not balanced.
3 T: tangy and sour-sweet citrus fruits, caramel malts, mixed with a mildly dryish and yet rusty aftertaste of dried leafy hops--pretty tangy-zesty in the end. Little structure is shown on the palate, hence quite simplistic and boring, lacking a clear theme in the flavour profile.
2.5 M&2.5 D: thin-bodied and overly fizzy, in line with the poor bottling performace of most Shepherd Neame's bottled beers. I guess pasteurisation has killed off most flavours in this beer. Not recommended, but it's not horrible, either.

Photo of travolta
2.73/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Appearance:
Gold/apricot and scotch in color with a sticky, bubbly and light khaki head. Nice retention with spotted lacing.

Nose:
Fig, malt, light caramel, candied fruits, sweet.

Taste:
Clean light carbonation, easy caramel, yeasty aftertaste, crisp on the finish, smooth on the palate.

Photo of BlackHaddock
3/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Christmas Ale 2006. Clear 500ml bottle, 5.5%.

Best before end of September 2007, drank early November 2007, so just out of date.

Poured into my bateman's straight half pint sleeve glass, twice.

Light amber in colour, with an off white head, plenty of bubbles rising through the beer. Head shrinks too fast.

The label claims it has an aroma of tropical fruits, it did smell fairly sweet, but I thought caramel (I often do) and flowery perfume.

For a special Christmas brew it falls well short of a top winter warmer in my eyes, this is a good solid ale but it doesn't carry enough taste, power or umph to make it stand out. I detected oak within the aftertaste and I enjoyed the beer, but not enough to buy another if I see one.

Photo of kmacphail
2.6/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 1 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

I am always keen to try limited availability beers and Christmas beers are no exception. The nice octagonal packaging certainly stood out on the crowded supermarket shelf. This would have been a much better ornament than a beer.

The beer poured into a mug pint glass a dark orange-amber colour. This produced a 3mm head for all of 5 seconds and then died to leave the pint looking very poor.

The nose was a complex mixture of various fruits, spices and nuts along with a floral scent of hops. I was fully expecting these rich fragrences to continue through to the taste, but sadly I was disapointed.

Whilst it wasn't awful to take, it wasn't ver pleasant either. Surprisingly light with some of the fruits and spices coming through but these were faint in comparisson to the nose, the taste was dominated by (all too floral) hops. The beer was too carbonated and the fizz swirled round the mouth but did leave a crisp and dry finish on the palate. The spices and fruits made a cameo appearance after having swalled the beer.

I managed half the pint, not a good Christmas brew. Maybe it would be better on cask without the excess fizz.

Photo of Reidrover
2.78/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Very attractive packaging. Nice Olde Worlde bottle in a nice red octagonal box. Amber colour, nice sized light tan, bubbly head. Pretty feeble aroma, grassy with a little watered down malt, unimpressed. Smooth ,weak malts, a little spice and some fruit..boring taste Thin mouthfeel but reasonable. I found this bland but ecause of its supreme blandness could probably drink a couple. This was very very dissapointing. This was very weak ,tasteless stuff compared to the Scottish Ales I had been drinking. Back to the drawing board on this one
2006 version

Photo of Globetrotter
3.45/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Found in a Moscow grocery store - in April. Clear half liter bottle with "1698 - Britain's oldest brewer" etched on the glass. Silver and red label indicating 2005 vintage. No ingredient information. Best before end of September 2006, I opened it on 4/26/06.

Pours a clear pale copper under a one finger beige head with big bubbles but decent contour and good retention - albeit very little lace. The nose is strong and spicey, raising initial feas of skunk, but then unfolding as more syrupy and crisp. The mouth is light and very well-carbonated. Strong hoppy flavor, but weak on malt balance. The hops are very dry and quite bitter, like espresso. The dryness lingers long into the aftertaste. A touch of fruit emerges as it warms, this brew remains pretty one-sided, but pleasantly so.

Photo of bark
4/5  rDev +21.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2005.

The colour is deep copper, the thick off white foam sinks slowly down to a finger thick lid, leaving a massive lacing.

When I first opened the bottle, I recognized a familiar scent of another beer from Shepherd Neame: Bishops Finger! Sweet notes of malt, caramel, marzipan, dough and a touch of chocolate. There are some mild notes of some kind of bitter hops. The smell is weaker than I had expected.

The taste is very malty with a balanced sweetness. Somewhat roasted notes mixes with creamy butterscotch, sweet fruits, hazelnuts and vanilla. The medium long aftertaste got notes of mango, papaya, bananas and a refreshing background-bitterness.

The carbonation is soft and very pleasant. The strength of the carbonation suits this malty ale very good.

Not the most complex beer that I have reviewed but very well balanced and crafted. A perfect beer for chilling after a laborious day of Christmas shipping

Photo of helloloser12345
3.88/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving Type: 500ml, Presented in a very nice silver box.

Pour: Nice tan head foams up but quickly subsides.

Appearance: Beautiful dark amber colour with warm red hues.

Smell: Biscuit, dried fruit. Aromas are unusually subtle for this kind of beer and are very hard to pick out.

Flavour: Dark fruity malts, raisins and slightly nutty.

Overall: Not bad at all, very drinkable. I agree with my fried bob that it isn’t just a typical winter warmer.

Christmas Ale from Shepherd Neame Ltd
77 out of 100 based on 53 ratings.