As the nights start to draw in and we begin to feel the chill, talking about putting the heating on is not the only thing you’ll start to notice more – you’ll also begin to see a wider variety of stronger and/or darker beers appear on the bar in your local. But why is that?

Well, it’s partly down to tastes and the seasons, and it’s partly down to industry, technology and that human trait of ours to have habits that never die!

From a taste perspective, there’s no question that there is something very comforting about sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold, black night with a pint of dark, rich stout. Or how about reading the paper with a glorious pint of old ale in a traditional tankard? On the flip side, when you think about it, warmer weather does have a way of making us reach for the lighter, more refreshing flavours of pale ales or lagers.

Is it just the psychology of feeling cosy, or is there more to it?

See, we haven’t always had commercial refrigeration, and in the past beers were brewed as and when the time of year was best. It was nearly impossible to ‘lager’ beers (German: ‘lagern’, ‘to store’) in the summer months, as they would turn or go off. Lighter beers which took less time to ferment were brewed in the warmer months, with the barley that had survived the winter.

As darker, stronger ABV beers kept for longer and autumn was barley harvest time, this lead to a rise in popularity of brewing dark beers and storing them during the cold months. So naturally this was what was available. Then, the longer a beer is aged, the stronger it is and the more complex the flavours are and the story returns to comfort in something warming. It seems it’s a bit of both.

Our Woodforde’s dark beauty, Norfolk Nog, is a deep ruby ale packed with a rich chocolatey taste, with hints of liquorice and treacle. It makes for a velvety blanket, with a smooth and unmistakeable texture and finish. What more could you want on a cold autumn night? With its coveted Champion Beer of Britain award from CAMRA it’s one of our finest moments.

This quarter’s seasonal beers are Tundra and (dare we say it) Christmas special, Tinsel Toes. Tundra is an innovation we’re thrilled with – a 4.6% White IPA giving a crisp, tantalising zing with strong citrus flavours and aromas, borrowing subtle spice components from the ‘Belgian White’ wheat beer style. Then we have a ruby temptress in Tinsel Toes! It’s a 4.4% rich and spicy brew, dark red in colour with roasted malts and hops that give it a perfectly balanced finish.

Excitingly, we’re currently planning our beer calendar for the next 15 months and it’s going to be very diverse, seeing us introduce a varied range of new, fantastic beers to complement our award winning line up of your traditional favourites.

We’re also moving our ever popular brewery shop across to sit inside the Fur & Feather Brewery Tap, as well as launching a new menu and other on-site improvements.

Come and visit us and see the exciting changes – you’re always very welcome to pay us a visit in Woodbastwick. Why not grab some family and friends and come and enjoy a good pint, a tour of the brewery and a lovely dinner?

First published in Feast Magazine during November 2018.

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