British Brewer

Recreating the perfect British Pint

18 March

Christmas 2010 Kits Review

I know we are approaching the cusp of Spring but I have not been posting for a while and thought it was time to write-up my Christmas Kit reviews.  I actually still have some left in the cellar but most is gone and we have more than enough experience with them to provide the feedback.

As regular readers know I am a fan of Northern Brewer and the kits they regularly produce. They are continually innovating, I fully intend to order something from their new “Pro-Series” in the near future.

With my parents coming for Christmas and staying over 2 weeks I knew I would have to stock up on the ale and started planning back in October 2010, brewing every weekend for over a month.  Here was the final list of Christmas brews.

  1. #8: Belgian Strong Dark ale brewed with Wyeast Belgian Abbey Ale II. A fine example of a dark ale brewed in the Trappist fashion.  I still have half a case left as I wanted to experience first hand the effects of aging.  The brew came out of the fermenter very clear, a lush rich burnt brown colour.  After 1 month of aging the palate was a little sweet but after nearly 5 months aging tastes of dark chocolate and caramel are coming out offset with the spice of the Abbey Ale yeast.  Defintely not a session brew but a good drop nonetheless but drink sparingly the ABV is high, mine came in at over 9.5%.
  2. British Imperial Mild: Part of the Northern Brewer Limited Edition Series for Q4 2010 the Imperial Mild is a play on old British Mild recipes where a mild designation meant “not sour, stale or aged”.  The choice of Wyeast Ringwood Ale yeast delivered the fruity esters to an otherwise smooth classic pint.  It was probably my favorite of the list though did not age that well. The first month delivered a level of estery fruit tartness that recalled Apple Jolly Ranchers, which worked really well. 2 months was the peak for this beer, a well rounded malt/hop ale with the earthy fuggle hop balancing nicely with the Dark Crystal Malt.
  3. Dundalk Irish Heavy: A clone of a classic Irish Ale and another NB Q4 Limited Edition brew, no longer linked to on the NB site.  This kit was probably my least favorite. The Wyeast British Cask ale (a past limited edition yeast from Wyeast) provides a nice dry crisp flavour with the speciality grains giving the deep red brown colour and copper penny brown flavour. The ale was not overly hopped and appeared a little off balance.  The kit peaked at 2 months in the bottle.  Not a bad drop and we finished the whole batch but not something I will look to repeat.
  4. Brakspears Best Bitter: This was the Christmas keg session brew and a recipe we have made before. Originally a limited edition from NB based on the Wyeast limited edition Thames Valley II yeast sourced from the defunct Brakspears Brewery in Henley on Thames and now brewed under license by Marstons.  I took the recipe and made some changes to create the final recipe. I replaced the yeast with Wyeast Thames Valley and the result was a crystal clear accurate replica of the original Henley brew, my dads favorite beer.  It is hard to believe this ale is under 4.0% ABV. The recipe produces a clean, crisp with surprisingly complex malt and hop flavour for such a low ABV. Serves well from the keg and was finished during Christmas week 🙂

The Brakspears and Imperial Mild were the clear winners this Christmas. We are still enjoying the #8 especially as the flavour profile continues to develop.  We were all a little tired of the heavy ales by the end of the season which probably accounts for the IPAs and session keg brews I have done since.  I also worked on a lighter seasonal brew, the Samuel Smiths Winter Welcome which came out a winner and we will review in the next post.



  • Richard

    I believe Brakspear is brewed by Wychwood, not Marstons. Really exciting to see that you created a good clone of it – was the yeast the only change you made from the NB recipe?

  • Stephen C Jenvey

    I also treated the water with Burton Salts. Makes for a lighter mouthfeel. Really excited now Wyeast has re-released the Thames Valley II yeast strain. The company claims it comes from Brakspear.

    Thanks for the feedback on the brewery. I stand corrected.