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11:01am Saturday 8th December 2012 in Pints of View
GAVIN AITCHISON gets a taste of Christmas on a pub crawl in York
CHRISTMAS came early for me last year, when I received the best advent calendar imaginable. My Christmas-loving other half, determined to imbue me with festive enthusiasm, gave me the bulk of my present on December 1: a beer advent calendar consisting of 25 individually-wrapped and numbered bottles. Suffice to say it did the trick!
She's reverted to convention this year, saving the pressies until the 25th (unless she's just not bothered at all) so my beer quest this week has taken me back into the streets of York city centre, to fight my way through the hoards of shoppers to the sanctuary of the pub.
First up on this un-arduous trek was the Mucky Duck, the Old White Swan in Goodramgate, where I chanced upon Moorhouse's Elves Bells.
I hope I won't be booted out of Yorkshire for saying this but I always enjoy Moorhouse's beers, despite them being from the wrong side of the Pennines. This one is an easy-drinking 4.0 per cent ABV bitter, with a nut brown colour and a malty, biscuity body. It's one of seven Christmas ales to look out this year at the Nicholson's pubs, of which there are four in York: Harkers in St Helen's Square, The Punch Bowl in Stonegate and The Cross Keys and Old White Swan, both in Goodramgate.
From there, I took the short walk to the Golden Lion in Church Street, and a return to Yorkshire beer. Ale Mary (4.5 per cent ABV) is Leeds Brewery's annual December special and is a beautiful rich, dark brown, spicy winter ale. It has flavours of cloves and cinnamon and such like, and is perfect for this time of year.
I rounded off my midweek wander in Stonegate and the Yorkshire Terrier, for what I thought was an excellent Christmas ale. Burton Bridge Brewery's Stairway To Heaven (5 per cent ABV) was a pale but strong hop-heavy pint, dangerously moreish. The halo and angel-wings on the pump-clip tricked me into thinking it was a festive special, but the brewery website suggests it is available all year round. Either way, it's a great beer and worth seeking out!
• If you fancy a wider festive range, without the hassle of having to actually move between pubs, then head to The Phoenix in George Street next weekend, for their Christmas beer festival, which runs from Friday night to Sunday. The equivalent event last year was fantastic. One of the highlights could well be Christmas Kitty, a collaboration between Pocklington's Brass Castle and Scarborough's North Riding breweries. The Phoenix has one of four casks in York, with the others going to The Maltings, The Waggon and Horses and Brigantes.
• York Tap, which celebrated its first birthday a few weeks ago, and its sister pub Pivni have both had a few beers in recently from Cromarty Brewery, a young and very impressive brewery from the north of Scotland. They're not to be missed.
Good news too at the Tap for anyone who enjoys sampling the stronger keg beers: Anything over 7 per cent ABV will soon be available in two-thirds of a pint glasses.
• Congratulations to the fantastic Goodmanham Arms near Market Weighton, which was this week named Hull Camra's village pub of the year.
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