Christmas Pudding Dark Ale
It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a pub, especially for more than a meal. Over the winter season I used to enjoy trying out some of the Christmas beers that were on offer – so I decided to brew my own. What better thing to drink in the dark, cold evenings?
I did some research online and found these types of beers need a long time to condition (sometimes over a year!), so I got started early to ensure it was ready to drink when the Advent Calendars went up.
In a kitchen cupboard I found a bag of dried mixed fruit from last year’s Christmas Cake, which was the inspiration for the recipe below.
Brewing the Beer
The beer itself uses the Cooper’s Dark Ale as it’s base. This post describes how I brewed that beer.
In a pan I boiled the following ingredients for 10-15 minutes:
- 323g mixed dried fruit
- 81g dates (destoned and chopped)
- 1 cup fresh orange juice (no bits)
- 2 cups tap water
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 96g dark brown sugar
I let the contents of the pan cool slightly, then I added the fruit and juice to a sanitised fermentation bucket. I was meant to add it to a muslin bag first, but I forgot!
I then siphoned the remainder of my Dark Ale on top of the fruit mixture, trying to reduce splashing but also create a whirlpool to increase mixing, and took a gravity reading. The new gravity was 1006 (a 5 point increase) – but I am not convinced this will produce an accurate calculation of the final ABV. I wonder if the dried fruit (quite high in sugar) will increase the ABV?
The lid was put on the fermentation bucket, and I left it to ferment for 9 days until the gravity was stable over 48 hours.
I decided to batch prime by creating a sugar solution, rather than adding sugar or carbonation drops to each bottle. This also means my earlier mistake of not putting the fruit mixture in a muslin bag can be rectified by putting a muslin bag over the siphon when transferring the beer to the bottling bucket.
I dissolved 55g caster sugar in a small amount of water and brought to the boil. I put this in a second fermentation bucket and siphoned 10 litres of the beer on top. I didn’t take a gravity reading at this point, but using some online calculators reckons this will add about 0.3% ABV.
I managed to get 17x 500ml bottles which is about 8.5 litres of beer. There was a lot of trub at the bottom of the fermentation bucket, I think the dried fruit absorbed a lot of the beer!
I tasted some of the left-over dried fruit, but it had little-to-no flavour, so I presume all of the sugar was extracted successfully.
The original gravity of the wort was 1.040. It fermented down to 1.001. After adding the fruit mixture, the gravity was 1.006, and the secondary fermentation reached 1.001 again. The priming sugar should add 0.3%.
So the final ABV can be calculated as:
1.040 + (1.006 – 1.001) – 1.001 = 0.044 * 131.25 = 5.775% + 0.3% = ~ 6% ABV.
The bottled beer was left to carbonate in a warm place for 2 weeks, and then it will be placed in a cold garage until drinking time. I plan to open the first bottle at the start of Advent on December 1st. This will give it:
- 77 days since the Dark Ale was started,
- 62 days since the Christmas Pudding was added,
- and 52 days since bottling.
Update with tasting notes: very similar to the Dark Ale, I was not blown away by the initial tasting and there was a noticeable twang. However, after leaving until Christmas time, the beer has improved.
The beer is quite smooth (not as smooth as the plain Dark Ale) and sweeter than expected. I wonder if some additional hops early in the boil might have helped to add some bitterness? You can taste the Christmas pudding, but not overly so. I have a handful of bottles left, which I’ll keep until Christmas 2022 to see how aging for a full year changes the taste.
Would I brew this again? Not sure – I’m not convinced a “novelty” beer is as tasty as I imagined.