Gingerbread stouts, cranberry wheat beers and whiskey barrel-aged ales: 2015 is the most exciting Christmas yet for London's beer scene. Here's the best of what's brewing in December, as well as the brewery-based parties you should get stuck into.
Strong enough to knock your stockings off
Celebrating five years in business, Camden Town Brewery have launched their yearly barrel aged lager. Matured in tequila, rum AND whisky barrels, it goes by the name... Beer2015. Fair enough. Deep amber in colour with a sweet vanilla, nutty aroma, it's been described as "like a pecan pie with a shot of whisky. Notes of dry sherry add guaranteed festive cheer. Get it at the brewery tap, or brand new bar Camden's Daughter.
Wimbledon's By the Horns have gone down the ageing route too, with a 6.5% Belgian dark ale that they've "oak aged the hell out of" in Irish whiskey barrels. It's called Energy of the Dark Side, and is available at the brewery tap.
Brixton Brewery is celebrating the second annual launch of their seasonal Megawatt IIPA, packed with citrus, apricot and pine flavours, and racking up 8%.
Hackney Brewery have gone one better (or stronger at least) with their 9% Barley Wine, which is being sold exclusively in 330ml bottles; try good bottle shops or the open day at Hackney Brewery on 5 December. The brewery recommend you pour this strong but smooth brew into classic festive recipes such as mince pies and Christmas puddings, although we suggest your pour it straight down your gullet (responsibly).
Over in Elephant and Castle, Orbit have produced double brown stout Seven, which is a nod to the great stouts brewed in 19th century London. It's packed with roasted malt and grassy hop character on the nose, followed by notes of bitter chocolate, toast, coffee, liquorice and dried fruit — perfect for December. Stock up on it when the brewery opens on 19 December.
Fruitier than Widow Twanky eating a plum pudding
Spicier than a turkey curry
Chocolatier than the Quality Street factory
If chocolaty Christmas brews are your preference, we've found a couple to get your chops around. The Park Brewery's Park Porter is made with lactose, which provides a silky smooth taste while dark malts lend it a rich chocolatey finish. If you fancy a sup, visit the open day at their Kingston-upon-Thames brewery, on 6 December.
Fans of beer and the chocolate orange need look no further that Brew By Numbers's chocolate and orange stout (aka 08 | 03), which we tasted at Londonist's recent talk about drink, and instantly fell in love with. Find it at their brewery tap in Bermondsey.
The one that's actually a Christmas pudding
While some festive beers taste like Christmas pudding, here's a Christmas pudding made with beer. Walthamstow brewery Wild Card have teamed up with their neighbours Thelma's Trailer, to produce a pud infused with Jack of Clubs ruby ale. Get your mitts on one from the tap bar, which is open every day until Christmas.
Christmas brewery parties
Literally everyone loves Home Alone, and on 4 December you can watch it at the By The Horns taproom, while glugging their festive beer (and various others). There's also pizza, which is all you need to know really.
Hackney Brewery are hosting an open day on 5 December from 12pm-7pm, with a great range of bottled, cask and keg beers available as well as a mulled beer (we sampled it last year, it's very good).
LOTS of festive beery goodness is happening on 12 December:
Camden Town are launching their Christmas Beer Shop at their brewery bar, where you can get hampers and gift boxes while slowly getting merry yourself. Running from 12pm-6pm there'll be live music, street food from Prairie Fire BBQ who’ll be selling their sauces, rubs and nuts, as well as pre-order turkeys.
Down in Bermondsey, Ubrew are having their Christmas tap takeover, with eight member's beers served from the newly renovated bar. This will include Ubrew's very own Cinnamon and Clove IPA, Project-X's Pomegranate Saison and an Apple Strudel Milk Stout by Julian, Kiran and co. These are very exclusive indeed, so get them while you can.
Also on 12 December, from 12pm-8pm, Brixton Brewery celebrates the season with an all-day brewery open house launch of batch two of their Megawatt IIPA (see above). Stock up on stocking fillers with gift packs, t-shirts, glasses and limited edition prints. They're also raising money for the Norwood and Brixton Foodbank through sales of delectable homemade mince pies.
On 13 December, it's time for Weird Beard's Christmas shenanigans. From 12pm-8pm they'll be serving Black Christmas (see above) on draught and five other keg beers. There'll also be lots of drinkable stocking fillers for sale, including Jack's Rye Smile, a Jack Daniel's barrel-aged rye wine. Add music and snacks to the mix, and it adds up to a pretty great Sunday.
On 27 December, Twickenham Fine Ales' brewery bar is open before the Big Game 8 at Twickenham Stadium. Soak up the atmosphere, sink a few beers (including their Winter Warmer, a dark brown, English-hopped ale) and fill up on pulled pork rolls.
Finally, Crate have just launched a new warehouse space, Mick’s Garage, which they've done up nice and festively (see image). Not only will there be tasty beer on tap, food is supplied by Shukshuk, a Middle Eastern market BBQ food shack from the guys behind Berber and Q in Haggerston. It's open from 5pm on Fridays, and from 12pm on Saturdays and Sundays.