Beers and spirits dominate new drinks for Christmas

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Deck the halls: offering a variety products could help retain customers into the new year
Deck the halls: offering a variety products could help retain customers into the new year

Related tags Beer Cask ale New Products Spirits

Hey, if you didn’t realise, Christmas is round the corner and now is an ideal time to launch some new drinks that could keep customers coming back until next Yuletide.

Here is a round-up of new drinks for the festive period, ranging from cask beers to spirits to low alcoholic drinks.

Rocking Rudolph returns

Brewer and pub operator Greene King has relaunched its favourite Christmas ale, Rocking Rudolph, with some of the funds going to Macmillan Cancer Support.  

Following on from last year, for each pint sold of the popular festive beer Greene King will give 5p (plus VAT) to Macmillan Cancer Support. The money raised will help the charity provide vital care and support for people living with cancer.

Greene King head brewer Jack Palmer said: “Rocking Rudolph is a firm favourite every year and it’s great to be able to use our beer to also raise awareness and funds for such an important cause with Macmillan Cancer Support.”

To read more about this, click here​.

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Rhum Barbancourt hits UK shores

Haitian rum Rhum Barbancourt has arrived in the UK in time for the festive period.

The rum has been a staple in its home country of Haiti for more than 160 years and was founded by Dupre Barbancourt in 1862, with the rum remaining in the Gardere family ever since.

Double distillation and refined ingredients are said to be key to its quality, having been crafted from homegrown Madame Mevs organic sugar cane juice, which is transported directly to the distillery to preserve its freshness and the rum is then matured in oak casks imported directly from the Limousin region of France.

Rhum Barbancourt CEO Delphine Gardere (pictured below) said: “It truly is an honour to bring our beloved Haitian rhum, ancestral craftsmanship and authentic culture to the UK. I look forward to this experience.

“Created via the double distillation technique of Cognac, Rhum Barbancourt is ideal for any bar looking for authentic flavours of Haiti. Bartenders can get as creative as they’d like with cocktails that will amaze, or with neat sipping and fun pairings. With a line of overproof white and dark rums with interesting notes of fresh sugar cane, vanilla and a spicy finish throughout, Rhum Barbancourt will elevate all holiday celebrations and help create memorable moments.”

The latest addition to the Spirit Cartel family, which is home to renowned brands such as 818 Tequila and Four Roses Bourbon, Rhum Barbancourt is distributed exclusively through the agency to consumer and trade outlets nationwide and is available via The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt and Vintage House for consumers and at Champers, Speciality and Drinks with Sasha for trade.

rhum barbancourt and Delphine Gardere

Shep’s Christmas Ale is back

Kent brewer Shepherd Neame’s Christmas Ale is back.

The ale, which has been produced for more than a decade, blends pale and crystal malts with Target, Challenger and Goldings hops to offer “warming notes of mulled fruits and spices, with a heady, sweet aroma”.

Brewer Scott Wilkins said: “We are excited to bring back this award-winning festive brew. It is a complex beer, perfect to be savoured on a long winter night, and we’re delighted that it will be on offer just in time for the Festive Market and Christmas Lights Switch-On in our home town of Faversham, Kent.”

Christmas Ale will be available on draught (5% ABV) until the end of November and throughout December in selected Shepherd Neame pubs across Kent, London and the south-east.

The festive ale is also available in 500ml bottles (7% ABV) from Shepherd Neame’s Brewery Shop in Faversham or online

It is the final beer in Shepherd Neame’s real ale initiative Cask Club for 2023.

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RTD Jamaican Rum Vibes launches

Jamaican Rum Vibes pre-mixed drinks will be available at selected pubs and bar chains across the UK.

The canned drinks are said to be made using natural ingredients and a blend of overproof Jamaican white rum.

They are available in two different flavours: Rum & Lime and Rum & Ginger – both at 4.5% ABV – and are free from artificial sweeteners, flavours, colours and added preservatives.

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Woodforde’s puts on its Tinsel Toes

Norfolk-based Woodforde’s Brewery has brought back its festive beer Tinsel Toes.

The 4.4% ABV Christmas ale has been a reoccurring seasonal for many years now with Woodforde’s saying the festive beer “boasts rich and spicy fruit flavours, derived from a selection of the some of the finest ingredients”.

Tinsel Toes is brewed using a blend of roasted malts with hops including English Goldings, First Gold and Slovenian Savinjski Goldings.

Woodforde’s Brewery head of sales James Ramm (pictured below) said: “We love creating seasonal beers and Christmas is the perfect opportunity do that.

“We have produced a range of festive beers but Tinsel Toes has proved to be the favourite time and time again.

“This delicious ruby brew is perfect for people looking to spread some festive cheer – and a pint fresh from the cask only intensifies the experience.”

While Tinsel Toes is available seasonally in bottles and 5-litre mini kegs, pubs can stock casks on their bars throughout December.

tinsel toes and Ramm collage

Trio from Hogs Back Brewery

Tongham-based Hogs Back Brewery is brewing a trio of festive beers, available now from its taproom, local pubs and its shop.

Newly brewed for this Christmas is Fairy Tale of New Pork, a 4% ABV amber ale available on draught. Brewed with authentic beechwood smoked German malt, English pale and crystal malts, it is said to have flavours of cinder toffee, caramel, biscuit and warm smokiness.

Fairy Tale of New Pork joins two returning seasonal favourites: Mistletoe & Swine, a 4.2% ABV, “full-bodied cask ale with subtle hints of sultana, peppery ginger, warm cinnamon and orange zest” and Advent Ale, a 4.4% ABV “deep chestnut ale with notes of sweet liquorice and rich dark chocolate aftertaste”

Managing director Rupert Thompson said: "The run-up to Christmas is always a busy time for us: we’re brewing flat out to meet demand from pubs and customers in our shop and, at the same time, we’re hosting parties and other events in the Tap.

“There’s always a great atmosphere with many of our regular drinkers popping in to pick up supplies for their celebrations at home, or to meet friends for a drink.

“We’ll have to see what impact the cost-of-living crisis has on Christmas at Hogs Back, but we hope most people will feel that a pint or two of their favourite local beer is a festive treat they can still afford.”

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Attic feeling Merry & Bright

Attic Brew Co has launched a 5.8% ABV Christmas beer called Merry & Bright.

It is a festive red IPA “that looks like Santa and tastes like a summer holiday - the best of both worlds” said Attic.

Merry & Bright is available in 30-litre Sankey kegs and in 330ml cans from the Birmingham-based brewer that was set up five years ago.

Attic said its “IPAs, lagers and cask pales have excited locals for years and represent the vibrant and exciting, yet easy going and accessible nature of Birmingham”.

Attic collage

Salcombe comes with good Tide-ings

Devon-based Salcombe Brewery has launched Christmas Tide as a limited-edition yuletide ale.

The brewer said of the 4.8% ABV beer: “It is a well-structured, malt driven beer that will be available to be enjoyed in bottles and on draught throughout the festive season.

“The crystal, chocolate and wheat malts bring warmth and body to the beer, ideal for a winter’s day. The plethora of hops build on the chocolatey malt base and add a bitter-sweet finish to this Christmas ale.”

salcombe collage

VK Chocolate Orange revealed

RTD VK has introduced its a vodka-flavoured take on a classic stocking filler – the chocolate orange.

The festive flavour is available in mixed packs from Booker for the on-trade and contains a code with a chance of winning a limited-edition VK Christmas jumper – maybe a secret santa prize at your pub?

The on-trade can purchase the limited-edition flavour in 24 x 275ml bottles from HB Clark. while the festive VK Mixed Pack is available for the off-trade, which contains a variety of 10 x 275ml 3.4% ABV bottles. Alongside VK Chocolate Orange, are a selection of VK party favourites – Blue, Strawberry & Lime, Orange & Passion Fruit, Tropical Fruits, Apple & Mango, Watermelon, Black Cherry, and Raspberry & Peach.

Daniella Mulvey, brand manager at Global Brands said: “At VK we’re all about celebrations, bringing people together, and associating the brand with socialising and having a great time.

“We’re thrilled to continually drive engagement with fans and students through our Christmas activations and this VK twist on a classic stocking filler, and look forward to building on our position as the number one trade RTD choice for students as we head into 2024.”

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Black Sheep at the double

Yorkshire-based Black Sheep Brewery has relaunched two of its most popular seasonal beers.

Blitzen is a 4% ABV Festive Ruby Ale in which drinkers should “expect notes of burnt orange, dark fruits and a touch of chocolate”.

Blitzen has been brewed using Cascade and Goldings hops, which are said to provide a subtle bitterness and a light fruit character, while the addition of orange peel and muscovado sugar add further complexity, leaving notes of citrus and a touch of caramel.

The Yorkshire brewery has also relaunched Snowflake. This Winter Pale Ale has been brewed using American hops Willamette and Columbus. A pale malt base is “lifted with powerful citrus fruit flavours, backed by more subtle floral, pepper and spice notes”.

Black Sheep said Snowflake is the perfect brew for “hunkering down on these cold, dark nights” and described it as fruity, refreshing and easy drinking.

Black Sheep head brewer Dan Scott Paul said: “Nothing says Christmas like a festive pint and we’re thrilled to be relaunching both Blitzen and Snowflake, available to beer lovers across the UK no matter their location.

“As vital to Christmas as the reindeer, Blitzen is the best-seller in our seasonal range and has been described as ‘Christmas cake in a glass’. The perfect tipple for getting hoppy during the countdown to the big day.”

Both beers are available for a limited period only during the autumn and winter months. Snowflake is now available on tap, as well as in a 500ml bottle for the first time ever. Blitzen is also available online in bottle, with both brews set to be served in over 93 pubs and bars across the country in the coming weeks.

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Score all four with Meikle Toir

Peated single malt whisky brand Meikle Tòir (which means ‘big pursuit’) has launched four variants in time for Christmas.

Speyside-based The GlenAllachie Distillery said ‘The Original’ is its classic single malt version. It is made with mainland peat from St Fergus and is said to boast a flavour-rich, complex character. It is 50% ABV.

‘The Sherry One’ is matured in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso Sherry puncheons, which impart “rich, fruity notes that mingle harmoniously with warming wisps of peat smoke”. It is bottled at 48% ABV.

‘The Chinquapin One’ is aged in Chinquapin virgin oak barrels sourced and is said to deliver “robust notes of sweet spices and toasted nuts which join the peat smoke”. It is bottled at 48% ABV.

‘The Turbo’ takes “the heart of the heart” of its distillate, which is the spirit cut that contains the highest phenol content. It “entails an amplified smoky identity” and the 2023 release is a combination of three American virgin oak casks and five Oloroso hogsheads. It is bottled at 50% ABV.

Each expression is a boutique, small-batch whisky with a punchy flavour profile, ideal for festive sipping at your local and are available at Master of Malt.

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Dewar’s goes double-aged for festive release

Dewar’s Blended Scotch Whisky has unveiled the new Dewar’s 12-Year-Old in the UK.

The drink has been double-aged in hand-selected, first-fill American oak Bourbon casks for the first time to create “a greater breadth and depth of flavour, and a radically richer mouthfeel”.

It has been created by a team led by Dewar’s master blender Stephanie Macleod.

Macleod said: “A sense of curiosity has carried through to how my teams and I develop our whiskies today. It was only natural to experiment and craft a new element to the maturation process, which has resulted in a distinctly different tasting experience. 

Macleod and her team have created a “more complex whisky: an aroma of apple, ripe peaches and hints of lemon zest; followed by floral, spice and rich fruit notes; with a robust finish of vanilla, butterscotch and a wisp of a smoke”.

Dewar’s 12-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky is available in 700ml bottles to pubs and bars via Master of Malt.

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Shanky’s Whip in 1.75-litre bottles

Shanky’s Whip Irish Whiskey Liqueur has launched a 1.75-litre bottle specifically for the pub and bar sector.

The larger format launches as part of a wider global expansion strategy to drive Shanky’s Whip in key sectors around the world. The format is available globally but destined for the UK and US primarily. It has been created to suit fast paced or larger venues where there is established consumer appetite for quality dark spirits in cocktails and on paddle boards.

The new offering, available to UK operators via Craftwork, is one part of a wave of new SKUs rolling out to reflect recognised and established sizes in key markets. The range for the UK now compromises 50ml, 350ml, 700ml, 1-litre and 1.75-litre bottles.

The spirit is distilled in County Cavan and blended and bottled by Shanky and Shireman under bond in Ireland.

Shanky’s Whip 33% ABV uses the “natural flavours of vanilla infused with caramel to create a dark and distinctive spirit that is creamy and smooth with buttery, vanilla notes and a sweet spice and butterscotch finish with long Irish whiskey notes”. 

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