So, I thought I would add my twopenny worth, although in these times of inflationary pressure, it is now probably worth 1.5p
Well, Christmases past? Coming from a family where alcohol was only added to the cake, Christmas pud and trifle, early Festive Ones were relatively dry. However, since the rite of passage which was sneaking half a bitter in the Tavern in the Town, things have been somewhat different.
Christmases past were Banks'. Mild, to be specific. A group of us would come home from various points around the Black Country and find ourselves in the Clarendon Hotel on Christmas Eve night. I still hanker after Banks' Mild, regardless of its name change (and its name change back to 'Mild'!). It is always my first drink at GBBF, when it turns up. If Marstons let it out. Well, needless to say, this session went on way past the last bus home, so a brisk(ish) walk home down the Birmingham new Road ensued. There were many chilly walks....but it brightened one up for Christmas morning. The other great thing was that since you had plenty of Mild on Christmas Eve, the juxtaposition of a lunch the following day which included sprouts hid some of your worst excesses!
Since those days, people have graduated and moved far and wide, and from its website the Clarendon looks a tad posher than I remember! Things have been quieter, but no less interesting beerwise. Since I live down the hill from The Beacon Hotel, it has been my pleasure to also indulge in Christmas pints of Dark Ruby Mild. I probably do not have to write much about this for UK beernuts, but the Beacon has a special place in my heart. A really great pub, rescued and renovated tastefully to its Victorian roots, it was at the vanguard of the rise of real ale drinking for me. The brewery behind the pub echoes days when pubs made their own. The recipe for Ruby was reputedly found by a relative of Sarah Hughes, the old landlady. The pub has never looked back. The beer is, quite simply, one of my favourites. Dark, rich, sweetish, full bodied, drinkable, and a tad too strong for a session (not that that stops you). The place, and the beer, are regular stops on beer tours, and rightly so. The fact that it is 20 mins walk up the hill from home was just a bonus. My abiding memory is walking up the Beacon with our kid one Christmas morning. It was sunny, crisp, with snow on the ground. We decided to pop in for a pre-prandial pint. A new barrel was on, the fire was roaring in the lounge, everyone was in the most convivial of moods. If mom hadn't had the lunch on it could have got very messy. Perfect.
Christmases present are quieter still. They involve lots of travel, and not much beer. To compensate, my annual large buy from Bitter Virtue is a must. Chris and Ann, who run the shop, are always knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and, this time of year in particular, their range is dangerous. A good browse amongst their bottles is one of my annual pleasures....which reminds me, I must pop up soon.
Onto Beermas Future, well that's always difficult to predict. Having recently visited Amsterdam again, and recalling my first ever visit just before Christmas in 1992 or 3, the standard of winter beers in Belgium and Holland is just exceptional. However, perhaps hunkering down in the bar of the Clachaig Inn if they stay open at Christmas would be a fine idea. Especially if it snowed.....now that WOULD be Christmassy!!