After the hustle and bustle of the festive season there'll be a fair few of us wanting a little bit of a pick me up as the January blues kick in. Those of you who have dismissed the detox will no doubt be interested in the following selection of ales I've chosen as the perfect tonic to guard against ailing away in the post-Christmas come down.
As I’m Yorkshire-based, some of these beers may not be available in your own neck of the woods, but it’s worth searching for them in your area or local supermarket if you can. Failing that, why not enjoy a lovely weekend in Yorkshire? I digress, so let’s bring an end to the Yorkshire Tourist Board spiel, and move back on to the booze:
Copper Dragon ‘Challenger’ 4.0% ABV
Brewed in Skipton, North Yorkshire, within spitting distance of where I’m sat typing this now in fact. This is a smooth, full-bodied, yet fairly pale, fruity ale. It’s very easy drinking - too easy some might say. Apparently it’s been brewed to “revive flavours enjoyed by our Victorian ancestors”. Another one to add to the list of ‘things the Victorians did for us.’ Despite their reluctance to distribute their beer too far to keep it at its best, Copper Dragon ales are slowly becoming available throughout more of the UK – I’d recommend the whole range if you happen to spot any of them down your local, or more likely bottled in the supermarket or off licence.
Greene King ‘Fireside’ 4.5% ABV
This is a beautiful ruby ale, perfect for those horrible winter evenings when the sleet cuts into your face like a thousand little knives. It’s nice and hoppy, but not overdone, with a pleasant fruity aftertaste. According to Greene King it was only available throughout November, however I’ve had this very recently in my local Greene King pub, so it’s in the list. Find it if you can and enjoy by a roaring open fire. Does what it says on the pump clip.
Fullers ‘London Pride’ 4.1% ABV
Now this might be an overly obvious choice, but there is a reason why this beauty is now the UK’s most popular premium ale. It does everything it needs to. A lovely smooth yet hoppy taste, a decent drinkable ABV and it’s available almost anywhere (mainly in cans and bottles down your local supermarket at 4.7% ABV). Though try and get it on draft if you can. It’s just what the doctor ordered to kick off the New Year, and might just help you through the constant ‘London 2012’ barrage which inevitably started at 1 second past midnight on January 1st.
Timothy Taylor ‘Ram Tam’ 4.3% ABV
Brewed in Keighley, West Yorkshire, Timothy Taylor ales are available throughout the UK – their most famous ale is the multi-award winning Landlord. However I’ve chosen this dark, heavy ale for the purposes of some January first aid. Almost stout-like, this is a pleasant nutty ale. There’s a clean fruity aftertaste with, I thought, notes of aniseed – unless I’m very much mistaken and the chilli con carne I'd had for dinner had burnt away my taste buds completely.
Ilkley Brewery ‘Mary Jane’ 3.5% ABV
Ilkley Brewery in West Yorkshire is fairly new to the scene but is expanding at a rate that would make Usain Bolt shit himself. This beer is quite frankly superb. It’s a very light, easy drinking beer, so not normally one you would associate with winter drinking. I’ve chosen this though for those who are fed up of the over indulgence over Christmas and require something more delicate. At 3.5% it’s great for January boozing sessions and it goes well with a cockle-warming curry too. Very much worth hunting down - it seems to be available in most of the pubs owned by Yorkshire based chain Market Town Taverns - if you’re near one of those, check it out. Make sure you’re not ‘baht ‘at’ though – it’s cold out there.
Black Sheep Brewery ‘Black Sheep Ale’ 4.4% ABV
Another Yorkshire based ale, brewed in Masham, North Yorkshire, but widely available nationwide (I even saw it in a supermarket in New Zealand). This is a proper no nonsense ale. Full bodied, bold, fruity and nicely malty, it’ll warm you up properly when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Pair it with some Wensleydale cheese (preferably melted on a steak or some gammon, with a massive pile of chips on the side) and you’ll probably spontaneously explode with delight. Sod the diet, get stuck in.
Thornbridge Brewery ‘Jaipur’ 5.9% ABV
Winner of more awards than James Cameron’s ‘Titanic,’ and it goes down just as well when it’s icy all around. This is an ‘East India Pale Ale’, but it blows your head off. It’s citrusy, with more than a touch of honey, but not one for a serious session though. I had one pint of this potion during our Christmas do and certainly felt it the next morning. The fairly high ABV and bitter finish means it’s one for those who prefer more of a smack around the chops than a tickle on the tastebuds. Well worth trying though, even if it’s only the once.
Thwaites ‘Wainwright’ 4.1% ABV
Brewed in Blackburn, Lancashire, this is another golden, light ale, named after Alfred Wainwright, the well-known fell walker, walking guide book author and general miserable misogynist. Thankfully the drinking experience here is a delight. Very smooth, drinkable and sweeter than Alfred ever was, it won’t take you to the heights of some of the fells he once stalked whilst his wife washed his smalls, but it’ll certainly fill a hole (or maybe even four thousand in Blackburn, Lancashire) after a day on the hills blowing away the Christmas cobwebs.
Itchen Valley Brewery ‘Godfathers’ 3.8% ABV
A heart-warming ale with a heart-warming tale for those not done with the season of goodwill just yet. I stumbled across this beer during a pub review in Skipton one evening. The Itchen Valley Brewery can be found in Hampshire, and was founded in 1997 by two businessmen. They’d just seen their Godson Christened, and in the post-ceremony booze-up they decided to start a brewery as a tribute to the little chap. Unlike most of us who vow to do something crazy during a piss-up, they actually went and did it. Within a year they’d won the Bronze Award for best ale in Britain at the Great British Beer Festival for this belter. It’s a light, golden but very flavoursome ale, and the low ABV means you can get through quite a bit of the stuff without feeling too ropey the next day. I’ve not had the pleasure of it since, but if anyone finds it I’d be interested to know where in the comments below.
Bridgehouse Brewery ‘Heathcliff Stout’ 5.0% ABV
I’ve stuck this at the end because it's not an ale, it's a stout - but it's bloody lovely. Brewed in Oxenhope, West Yorkshire, just down the road from Haworth where the character ‘Heathcliff’ was created by Emily Brontë. Rather like ‘Wuthering Heights’, this is dark, moody and very tasty indeed. Bridgehouse Brewery would seem to be a micro-brewery and don’t yet have a fully functioning website, so it’s unlikely to be engulfed by Japanese tourists like Haworth is these days, but if you happen to stumble upon it whilst roaming the bleak moors, make sure you get a pint down you. Unless the ghost of famous booze hound Branwell Brontë has beaten you to it, in which case there may be none left.