THE festive period is almost with us. And many discerning ale drinkers across the locality will be looking forward to sampling some Christmas ales that will be available in our pubs and clubs across East Lancashire.

But what exactly is a Christmas ale? Well, I have to admit it can be as blurry as your eyesight after a few drinks down at the local pub. But generally they are beers that have a higher alcoholic volume; a rich malt base; fuller in flavour; and possess dried fruits and spicy notes.

But of course there are many exceptions to what I have just described.

So, what festive cheer have our local breweries made this year? Which Christmas beers will be jingling your bells over the next couple of weeks? Well, allow me to climb on board my beery sleigh, in order to recommend some of Santa’s seasonal favourites.

Let’s commence the tour on the outskirts of Blackburn with an established festive ale, namely, Thwaites Good Elf (4.9%). Dark chestnut in colour with a bubbly beige head. Caramel malt aroma leads to flavours of more caramel malt, dark stone-fruits and cinnamon. Dry, fruity, bittersweet and spicy warmth in the finish. Exceptional beer.

We now venture to the Three B’s brewery near Darwen, to sample Santa’s Skinful (4%). An easy drinking ruby ale offering a caramel malt aroma. The caramel flavour continues, along with dark berry fruits and a hint of orange peel. A pleasant spicy warmth in the dry finish.

Next stop is the Big Clock brewery in Accrington. Head brewer, Justin Grant, brews consistently fine beers. His Holy Christmas offering (4.5%) is copper coloured in presentation with a good malted grain base. It blends well with the dark fruit flavours. A hoppy fruit and dry finish to round off this fine beer.

Our next destination is Moorhouse’s brewery in Burnley. Here I highlight an alternative beer to the more festive style beverage. Ice Witch (4.3%) is the beer I’ve hunted down.

Now in its third year, this single hopped (citra) golden ale is a refreshing and tropical fruit delight. Citrus and light grainy aroma. Subtle biscuit malt base blends nicely with juicy pineapple and mango flavours. Moderate fruity hop bitterness in the drying finish.

A short trek is only necessary for our next port of call to Reedley Hallows brewery. Fine beers always guaranteed from the brewhouse of Pete Gouldsborough. Clausing Time (4.2%) is the festive offering I’ve chosen. It’s a refreshing, tangy, fruity hopped, golden ale. Reddish-orange in presentation, the malted grain base marries well with the lemon, grapefruit and piney flavours. Dry, hoppy finish. A tasty, zestful thirst quencher.

The beer tour terminates at the Bowland Brewery in Clitheroe. Their festive beer, Mullered Monk (4.7%), is an amber coloured ale, infused with the French liqueur, Benedictine. This winter warmer has a flavoursome blend of dried fruits, herbs and aromatic spices.

The beer was produced in collaboration with Benedictine. production manager at Bowland Brewery, Craig Hall, said: “They sent me 10 bottles of the popular liqueur to add to the mixture of herbs/spices and dried fruit, to make it slightly more aromatic. The infused mixture was then added to the beer at the end of fermentation, and left to condition for a few days.” Wow! Enough said.

So, there are some of the Christmas beers to hopefully jingle your bells. All the beers highlighted, I am sure, will be enjoyed by discerning ale drinkers across the local area and beyond. Oh, to be joyous and merry. A very hoppy Christmas to you all.