MOVIES & BOOZE: Festive beers

Dean McGuinness suggests some beers for your Christmas dinner on today's Movies and Booze

There is a great amount of ceremony and tradition associated with Christmas, and it is only right that this be matched with a corresponding amount of ceremony and tradition in drinking beer over the holiday season.  After all – drinking beer in the appropriate glass is the most important thing to do over the holidays, with getting presents from Santa and eating nice food on Christmas Day coming a close second and third!

Nobody does ceremony in beer better than the Belgians.  As every beer has its own specific glass, it is nice to know that you can get the appropriate glass to have with the beer.  A number of shops around Ireland are stocking gift packs of different beers that contain bottles of the beer with the appropriate glass.  To-day, we are tasting two beers that are out in the shops in a gift pack with the corresponding glass – Averbode (a Belgian Abbey beer) and Delirium Christmas (a strong dark Christmas beer).


Averbode –

Beer Style                           -  Belgian Abbey Blonde Ale 7.5% a.b.v.

Brewed by                          -  de Huyghe Brewery

Brewed in                           -  Melle (near Ghent), Belgium

Some things are particular to the culture of a country, and the name ‘Averbode’ is one of these things.  If you went to school in Belgium, this would be a name that would be most familiar to you – many of the text books – particularly religious text books –  used in schools have ‘Averbode’ identified as the publisher.  While it is the name of an abbey in Belgium, this association means that is a word that has significant name recognition among Belgian people – a little like ‘Faber Castell’ in Ireland.

Abbey beers are beers brewed using the name of an abbey, and with a contribution paid by the brewery towards the abbey and its work for every bottle of beer sold.  With abbey beers, it is very much a commercial beer with a charity slant (as compared to Trappiste beers, which are charitable concerns with a commercial slant).  That being said, there is a recognition among the breweries of the connection of abbeys to the history of brewing around Europe, and the concept of abbey beers is a way to pay respect and homage to this tradition and heritage.

Averbode Abbey Beer is brewed by Brewery deHuyghe.  Pouring with a pale straw golden colour, and a full, tight white head appropriate to a strong Belgian Blonde.  For a 7.5% beer, this beer is incredibly delicate.  With gentle pale fruit flavours coming through on the palate and in the aroma – juicy white grape, golden raisin and suggestions of a blend of delicate stone fruit flavours (peach, cantaloupe melon) – this beer balances this fruit with an incredibly clean grain base of water crackers and wheat bread.  Delicate spice is in evidence, but again very gentle given what one might expect from a 7.5% beer – touches of black and white pepper come through on the palate and in the finish.

A deliciously sophisticated beer!


Delirium Christmas –

Beer Style                           -  Strong Belgian Christmas Ale 10% a.b.v.

Brewed by                          -  de Huyghe Brewery

Brewed in                           -  Melle (near Ghent), Belgium

The story of Delirium Tremens and their pink elephant has become part of craft beer folklore.  While the original strong Golden Ale from the range (Delirium Tremens) was only first brewed a few decades ago, it is brewed by a family brewer currently in its fifth generation, and on its way to its sixth generation of family brewing.  As founders of the Delirium Cafe – the bar with the most extensive range of beers in the world (guaranteed to have at least 2,004 different beers at any one time, and usually with around 2,500+ available), this family is dedicated to diversity and choice in beer.  No surprise, then, that the success of Delirium Tremens has triggered a range of beers under the ‘Delirium’ name, including a dark ale (Delirium Nocturnum), a strong fruit beer (Delirium Red), a beer brewed entirely by women (Deleria) and an anniversary brew (Delirium Argentum).

The beer that we are tasting to-day is the Christmas version of the beer – called ‘Delirium Christmas’ or ‘Delirium Noel’ depending on the country that you are in.  In keeping with their tongue-in-cheek humour, the glass for this beer features a Santa sleigh being pulled by a team of pink elephants wearing Santa hats!

Delirium Christmas pours with a red-brown appearance and a slightly tan coloured head.  Christmas pudding fruit flavours – dark raisins, plums, figs, dates – all come through in the taste, and merge immediately with Christmas spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice.  Roast malt plays in the background behind the hops and fermentation fruit, and give a counterpoint of roast bitterness in the finish, and roast acidity which lifts the mouthfeel of this beer.  While the colour and flavours in this beer (and the alcohol content) would lead one to expect that it would be a full and heavy beer, this expectation is confounded – in reality this beer has all of the complexity of a superb Christmas beer, but the body is lifted by carbonation and roast acidity, the sweetness is only sufficient to give appropriate flavour to the beer, and the overall impression is that of a beer that is quite simply far too drinkable for a 10% a.b.v. beer.

Truly delicious.

Beer Gift Packs Available in –

Probus Wines , Fenian Street, Dublin 2

Achesons, Crumlin

Dicey Reillys, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal

Next Door, Athy, Co. Kildare

Foleys, Sligo

Baggot Street Wines, Baggot Street, Dublin 4

Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, Co. Dublin

Next Door Kildare, Kildare Town

Egans Off Licence, Portloaise

Wine Centre, Kilkenny

Donnybrook Fair, Donnybrook, Dublin 4

O'Donovans Off Licences, Co. Cork (16 outlets Munster)

Carryout Tyrellstown, Co. Dublin

Comet, Santry

Kellys Wine Vault, Clontarf

Martins Fine Wines, Fairview

Drinks Store, Manor Street, Dublin 7

Redmonds Off Licence, Ranelagh

Callans Off Licence, Dundalk

The Laurels, Perrystown

Hollands Off Licence, Bray

Supervalu Dalkey

The Malt House, Trim, Co. Meath

Mc Hughs Off Licence, Kilbarrack

Next Door, Wicklow Town

The Ice Box, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin

Next Door Clonakilty, Co. Cork

Bradleys Off Licence, Cork

Next Door, Shannon, Co. Clare

Number 21 Off Licence, The Glen, Waterford

Number 21 Off Licence, Listowel, Co. Kerry

The 1601 Off Licence, Kinsale, Co. Cork

Mc Hughs Off Licence, Malahide

Fine Wines Off Licences, Nationwide