Three Nicholson’s teams bear Kingly Gifts of Exclusive Ales this Christmas

The Christmas Ales challenge is on at Nicholson’s Pubs!   To celebrate the arrival of the new Winter ales selection, three exclusive beers have been created by the Nicholson’s team, in conjunction with three of the UK’s leading breweries and renowned beer writers.  More than 70 of the pubs’ Cask Masters took part to create the beers available from now until Christmas, across 77 locations nationwide.

Leading the efforts for the north of England and Scotland, Edinburgh beer blogger Richard Taylor (known as The Beer Cast) and his team worked with Harviestoun Brewery to create Sleigh Driver (4.1% ABV).  Made entirely of British hops this beer is warm and velvety with hints of spiced chocolate and orange.

For me, the most exciting aspect of the beer is that it features only British hops” says Richard Taylor.  “For years, breweries here have been experimenting with hops imported from around the world; but British hops impart some truly unique flavours and it is great that they have been championed in this way”.

Toby Flint, Senior Cask Master and manager of the Scarbrough Hotel added “We wanted an ale perfect for the winter – slightly darker and not too strong so it would be easy to drink.  We wanted a decent mix of hops for a good balance of flavour, bitterness and of course, a lovely distinguishable creamy ‘Northern’ head!”

Championing London and surrounding cities, award winning beer writer and sommALEier, Melissa Cole and her team visited Brains Brewery and brewed I Sea Santa (4.9% ABV) .  “Working with Bill Dobson, the Head Brewer at Brains was great fun.  He likes to indulge the slightly crazy aspect of my approach to brewing.  I’m particularly excited that we’ve used local laver bread, which is seaweed, in the brew as that particular ingredient is packed with umami and should make the beer deliciously drinkable.”

The dark chestnut coloured ale was created using a combination of six malts and Fuggles and Mosaic hops with a blend of spices, treacle and a hint of laver bread from the South Wales Coast.  Offering aromas of mulled spice, orange and mango, the sweetness from the treacle complements the warmth of the cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and chilli.

The final London team was led by Ben McFarland, three time winner of Beer Writer of the Year and author of “Boutique Beer”, who visited Adnams Brewery to create Adnams Rudolph Nose Best (4.5% ABV).  The oaked red ale is made with Fuggles, First Gold, Summer and Galaxy hops with pale ale, chocolate and Cara malts and Crystal rye.  The beer carries aromas of vanilla, floral orange and cinnamon and has a touch of cherry and dried orange flavours with Cassia bark spice and toasted oak chips for a very tasty pint.

Designing ‘Rudolph Nose Best’ was great fun and despite the array of ingredients and ideas on offer, the consensus among the Cask Masters was clear – they wanted a Christmas beer that was seasonal, subtly spiced and session friendly using esoteric ingredients that made it intriguing without being over-the-top” said McFarland.

If Nicholson’s pub-going legion of cask ale connoisseurs don’t make this awesome oak-aged, cockle-warming ruby ale the best Christmas beer in the competition then Father Christmas won’t bring them any decent presents.”

Nicholson’s Pubs Cask Masters are dedicated in serving the best quality ale to guests, from managing its careful storage to pulling the best possible pint.  Through this initiative, they receive a behind the scenes look to the brewing process, increasing their knowledge further to help provide a helpful reference to guests wanting to know more about the seasonal ales available.

Jamie McCarthy, Senior Cask Master of the Year from the Pump House, Brighton said “This really is what I believe makes us stand out in our market, we take ale so seriously and this is gives us pride, ownership and impacts the knowledge shared in the teams.  It’s our chance to tell the guest we had a hand in brewing the beer they’re drinking!”

Let them know which of the three beers is your favourite on Facebook (Nicholson’s Pubs) or Twitter (@nicholsonspubs).  For further information please visit and sign up to the Nicholson’s Cask Ale clubs for seasonal news and offers.