Europe’s most popular Christmas ales

During the festive season, everyone wants to try as many Christmas-themed products as they can. From mulled wine to mince pies, there’s a product in every category that we only really enjoy during our winter breaks. So, which ales are the winners at Christmas in Europe? Let’s find out.

Affligem Noel

Translated as ‘Christmas Ale’, this beer is a seasonal strong ale from Belgium. It has 9% ABV and looks tawny when poured, with a light brown foamy head which lasts a while. It has a bready malt aroma and flavour, with notes of caramel and toasted grains to put you in mind of warming yourself by the fire with a festive treat.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

This is another Belgian ale which appears a deep mahogany colour when poured, and attracts a light brown head which also lasts. There’s a cookie, caramel, plum, baked apple, and brown sugar mixture in the flavour. Sounds like the perfect Christmas dessert, right? It has a creamy and fizzy texture, with a slight element of festive spice and a bitter finish. Definitely one to have a few hours after the Christmas feast has started to go down.

Gouden Carolus Noel

This is an interesting ale, as it was on hiatus for 35 years before being brought back in 2002. It is only brewed in August, and looks mahogany with a tan froth. The flavour combines roasted caramel and nuts with warmth and spice. You can also detect notes of maple, sugar, port, and even bubblegum, with medium bitterness.

Corsendonk Christmas Ale

Another ale with a rich history, this was originally brewed by monks at the Priory of Corsendonk. However, it was amongst the recipes resurrected by Du Bocq who then decided to launch the ale themselves. It has a slightly bitter citrus flavour with added smokiness, and also has fruity notes with a rich chocolate malt. This will definitely put you in mind of the traditional Christmas pudding. It’s a bit more of a mature and quiet choice than some of the louder ales.

Fantome Hiver

This is a bit of a wild card, as the brewer at Fantome actually changes the recipe of their winter offering very year. Some of the previous incarnations have been heaped with praise, and it’s always exciting to see how they will turn out this time. Usually you will see a clear orange colouring with an off-white head, and the notes can include pepper and pear. This one gets a lot of attention even if only for the novelty factor, and the fact it’s always a one-off for that season only.

There are plenty of ales which are only produced at Christmas, and lots of wintry flavours share similar characteristics. Whatever kind of flavour you prefer, there are bound to be plenty of other brands you can try throughout Europe which will give you the chance to compare and contrast. This makes for a fun exploration of each year’s offerings!




How can I get more customers to my venue?

If you aren’t seeing the footfall that you would like at your pub or bar, then you are probably missing a few tricks that would help to increase the number of customers you get in through the door. The key is not just to entice them in, but also to make the experience so good that they want to come back again. Here are some tips to get you started.

Offer more popular ales

This is a really key point, especially with the way that the market is going right now. Customers want craft ales and beers, as well as a few of the bigger brands who are still popular. If you don’t carry the drinks that they enjoy, or at least the ones they would like to try, then people won’t come back a second time. You can also use the popular ales you serve as a selling point when advertising your venue, so make sure you stay abreast of the latest trends and know what your customer wants.

Make the venue more visually appealing

When a pub looks dingy and old-fashioned inside, not many people will want to come in. At this stage, you’ll have regulars who keep coming back because they barely notice what it looks like anymore, and hardly anyone else.

Clean carpets with a fresh appearance are a good start, or you could go for a wooden or tiled floor. Hang new posters and artworks on the walls to freshen everything up, and make sure there is no peeling wallpaper or chipped paint. Make sure everything is clean, and install softer, bright but not too bright lights to make it look welcoming. Have bright and cheerful pump clips on display so customers can see what to order when they walk in, and ask your staff to wear a simple uniform – such as black trousers and white shirts – so that they look neat and professional.

Freshen your signs

What does the outside of your venue look like? Your business name should be clearly visible on the outside of the building, and you also need signs or menus which let potential customers know why they should come in. Mention the food and drink you serve, your ambiance, and any other selling points you may have, such as a pool table or darts area. Make sure that your signs are bright and cheerful, or at least that they hit key marketing points for the demographic you are targeting. For example, a venue that serves an alt crowd might use strong black, white, and red colours, gothic fonts, and even satanic symbols to draw attention. The important thing is that they look new, clean, and inviting to the right people.

Run some events

Whether you put on live music, invite the community in for a charity drive, or just partner with other pubs for a pub crawl event, it’s important to get some action going. Events like these are more likely to bring people in, and what’s more, they might be customers who have never visited before. This makes it your perfect chance to show them what you have to offer and make them want to come back another time.


7 of the world’s most popular ales

Almost everyone likes a good ale. But which ones do we like the most? These are seven of the most popular ales, according to statistics from a recent poll.

Sharp’s Doom Bar

Doom Bar is, understandably, the flagship ale for Sharp’s Brewery, based in Cornwall. It’s named after a sandbank in north Cornwall which is known for being very dangerous. It is brewed at Rock, then bottled in Burton Upon Trent. It has won many awards within the industry.  

Old Speckled Hen

When Morland Brewery launched this ale in 1979, it was named after a battered old MG which drove around the factory with lots of paint chips missing. It was made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the MG factory in Abingdon, right next to the brewery. They have since been bought out by Greene King, and it is now made in Bury St Edmunds – and sold in more than 20 different countries around the world.


This characterful brand comes from the Wychwood Brewery in Witney, Oxfordshire. It was the first beer in the UK to have an illustrated label on the bottle, rather than just text. David Cameron met Barrack Obama in 2010, when both were still in their respective positions of leadership, and presented him with 12 bottles of Hobgoblin as a gift, since it is brewed in his constituency.

Newcastle Brown Ale

Launched in Newcastle in 1927, Newcastle Brown is sadly now produced in the Netherlands instead after being purchased by Heineken. In the late 1990s, it was the most widely distributed alcohol in the UK, but is now sold more in the US. Trends have changed and other brands have overtaken it in the UK.

Fullers’ London Pride

In 1959, this ale was first produced by Fuller’s Brewery beside the River Thames. It is still sold worldwide from that same site, in both bottle and cask form. It takes its name from a flower which was seen to bloom on sites that were damaged during the Blitz.


Shepherd Neame is the brewery that launched Spitfire in 1990, from Faversham in Kent. It was created to commemorate the Battle of Britain’s 50th anniversary, and is named after the British aircraft that took part in this battle. It has Protected Geographical Indication status.

Old Crafty Hen

The only brewery to appear twice in the list, Greene King made a good decision to launch this ale in 2008. It was made as a combination of Old Speckled Hen with Old 5X, a now defunct ale from Greene King. It is much stronger than Old Speckled Hen with a flavour that can vary from batch to batch, and is considered the super premium version of the two.


It appears that British ales are a real treat for many people around the world, as they are enjoyed in such large measures and exported in huge numbers. Is your favourite ale on this list, or do you like something less well-known?

Brewery industry trends to look for in 2018

The brewery industry is subject to trends, just like any other industry, and keeping up with them is important if you want to stay relevant. These are the trends which industry experts have predicted for 2018 – and beyond.

The rise of choice

Choice is going to be the keyword for 2018. Consumers want to try a lot of different options, so flagship brands will continue to decline in favour of independent labels. In order to keep up, small breweries need to bring out new flavours at least a few times a year and consider doing special limited edition flavours. They should also invest in marketing to ensure that they are stocked in bars, restaurants, pubs, and stores.

High-quality fruit brewing

exotic fruit brewing

Using fruit in barrel-aged and funky beers has been a trend that we saw rising in 2017. Throughout 2018, it will take shape all the more. High-quality fruit and exotic or unusual flavours are going to be key to help brewers to stand out. There is a lot of diversity on offer here, so independents should be creative and really go all-out on their own answers to this trend.

Creation of milkshake IPAs

Adding lactose sugars to already-creamy IPAs is going to create a range of thick and creamy IPAs that are more like milkshakes. This is a real taste sensation and a huge trend that breweries should not ignore. Customers will be looking for oats, vanilla, and high-pectin varieties of fruit along with fruity hops. The jury is out on how long this trend will last, but initial forays suggest that consumers will be going wild for these new blends.

Visual identities

Brands are also expected to focus more strongly on their visual identities this year. This means strong and bold designs which will tell consumers everything they need to know about the brand from looking at labels and marketing. Beer selections are constantly rotating, so breweries need to stand out. They can’t simply allow a plain design to advertise the beer and let the taste speak for itself. If the branding isn’t strong, consumers won’t choose the beer – and they will never experience the taste. Breweries are expected to lean more heavily on artwork, and bring in artists to the creative design process much more than previously.

Retro callbacks

With all of these new beer types on the market, some breweries are also leading a trend that takes us back to retro basics. Creating a strong, simple beer that harks back to early days work in a brewery’s favour. Having new styles as an adaptation of an “original” flavour will give consumers a reference point that they understand, as well as creating a strong foundation for brand identity.

6 tips for establishing yourself in the brewery industry

The brewery industry is a tough one, with a lot of players currently jumping into the market. It seems to be a golden age for craft beer, but that means everyone wants to get in on the action. If you want to survive and establish yourself well, you will need these six tips to get you through.

1. Industry experience

You need to know the science of making beer, the exact processes required, how to market yourself, what local, national, and international regulations you need to follow, and how much it will cost to establish yourself. You also need to have that capital, which may mean raising investments – and no one is going to invest in you if you don’t know what you are doing.

2. Be an entrepreneur

Although breweries may be a specific category of business, they are still a business like any other. That means you need to go into this with the attitude of being an entrepreneur. You have to have a professional approach, confidence in your own abilities as a leader, and the strength of mind to know your weaknesses. You have to run your brewery like any professional business – with accounting, marketing, employees, partnerships, and so on.

3. Have goals

You are much more likely to succeed if you have specific goals for your business. Set milestones and goals that you need to reach by certain dates, and then work out a plan for how you can get there. Work backwards to set out when you need to achieve each part of your plan. In order to reach the goal of getting your beer into a local pub, there are many steps required – like meeting the pub owner, creating samples, perfecting your process, right the way back to coming up with your concept.

4. Build a concept

Ah, yes – the concept. This is so important if you are going to stand out. Come up with a concept that will define your brand and the beers that you make. For example, certain craft breweries have a quirky image that allows them to name their beers with spectacular and weird phrases. Some breweries are based around an animal theme, or a mystical creature, or so on. This concept will be a strong part of your identity and it should tie in to your flavours. Imagine you are creating Mexican-inspired beer: your concept might be linked to Dia De Los Muertos celebrations or other Mexican cultural touchstones.

5. Adapt quickly

Make sure you are able to adapt to the market as it grows and changes rapidly. You can’t learn marketing techniques and then keep using them for three years without any changes or updates. The market changes, the techniques change, and you have to keep up. It’s even better if you can get ahead of the crowd.

6. Be visible

Make sure that your products are as visible as possible. Invest in pump clips, have an Instagram account, give out t-shirts and enamel pin badges, put up banners in pubs if they allow you, and so on. Make sure that as many people as possible can discover your products right from the start. This will build an audience and create fans who want to buy your beers.

How can pump clips help market your beverage?

Click here to order pump clips with your design

Click here to order pump clips with your design

Pump clips printed with your beverage name and logo are an essential for all brands, whether fully established or indie. Even if you only have one establishment serving your beverage, you need a pump clip – and here’s why they are so important for marketing.

Increase sales

The first point you need to be aware of is that a pump clip will directly increase sales at the pump. Customers like to look at the pump clips to get an idea of what is on offer, and they may not know what they want to drink before they take a look. They will then choose from the brand names they can see, allowing them to pick something that sounds good to them.

Sometimes, a customer may even stand at the bar with an idea of what they want, see your pump clip, and change your mind. So long as you have carefully considered your brand name and beverage name, the pump clip will do the job of converting customers who would be in your ideal target group. This will directly increase sales at the bar, even without staff explaining your brand or what your beverage tastes like.

Of course, they can also help to increase your sales – but we’ll talk about that later!

Increase brand recognition

Especially for an indie or up-and-coming brewery, it is very important to get some brand recognition going. This is all about increasing your exposure to customers and getting them to recognise your logo and beverage name from pump clips.

The more they see your pump clips, the more they might be tempted to give your drink a try. After all, not everyone is brave enough to try something new the first time they see it. It might take a few tries for them to be convinced. What’s more, just having that recognition in the first place might convince them that you are worth a try. They know your name, have seen you around, and know that you are a popular option – so they decide to order a drink.

Brand recognition can be an important factor in conversion, particularly for consumers who are a little more nervous about trying something new. Having that name printed in front of them, rather than simply said out loud, also means they have the chance to look you up on social media or on your brand website to follow you and find out more for the future.

Start conversations

A pump clip is also a conversation starter between customers and staff. Having seen the clip, a customer might be interested to know more, and they will ask staff behind the bar about the origin of your beverage or what they think about it.

Opening up a conversation allows staff to then go ahead and sell your drink. They will almost always talk about it in positive terms no matter what their personal preference – their job, after all, is to ensure that their establishment does a good turnover and sells as many drinks as possible. A recommendation as well as full details about the drink is sure to follow when a customer asks a question.

There are lots of ways to market your beverages, but when customers are standing at the bar, a pump clip is one of the best options. It helps to convert customers, increases your brand recognition, and allows bar staff to offer recommendations about your brand. All of that adds up to more sales, more customers, and more people interested in finding out more about you as a brewer or brewery.