Craft Beer: Galway Bay's Diving Bell is something to wax lyrical about at Christmas
YOU should really never start any piece of writing with the words ‘it's that time of year again', but when you see bottles tops dipped in wax and abv percentages rocket up, you know that strong and comforting beers are on the way.
I'll still go with my mantra that good beer is good beer at any time of the year, but I really do love a dark, strong ale that's been holed up in a barrel since the spring.
Last year, one of my favourite beers came towards the end of the year when Galway Bay and Boundary got together to brew a barley wine called Harmonic Convergence. I got a couple of bottles, rang in the new year with one and have been aging the other ever since with the intention of cracking it open over the festive season.
Galway Bay have been at it again this year and recently released a limited-edition (that means race out and get it now as there aren't too many of them about) beer called Diving Bell. You know it's special when there's wax on top of the 500ml bottle.
It pours a deep dark, brown colour with a slightly off-white head which, as the 9.5 per abv dictates, doesn't hang about. There's loads of sweet, caramel and toffee aromas with a fair bit of dry fruit.
The beer itself is boiled with brown sugar and salt to give it the advertised salted caramel taste. There's more besides that, though, on the palate. Dark fruit, molasses – it's got very much of a Christmas cake feel to it all, although there's a bit of an earthy undertone with the salt and a slight peatiness to it as well.
It comes in a big bottle, so it's a great one for sharing or swirling around in your own glass for the best part of an evening.
It's available from your usual Galway Bay stockist, although this is a limited run so grab it while you can. If you can't, though, the west of Ireland brewing stars have unleashed their annual version of 200 Fathoms.
This is another big hitter, an imperial stout which has been aged away in Teeling Whiskey barrels to give it a robust, yet smooth taste. Oh, and yes, they've whacked a bout of seasonal wax on to this one as well.