Top local tipples: Say cheers!
Say pfft to Dry January and fill 'yer boots with these locally produced boozy bevs.
We’ve rounded up the best tipples to stock up on for Christmas and beyond. Plus in the name of shopping local, they’re all produced in Herts & Beds. So jump on board our #InLoveWithLocal campaign and do your bit to support our lovely local boozy businesses.
Tring Brewery rekindled the Herts town’s brewing tradition when it opened its doors in 1992 and now you can spot their beers at loads of local pubs and restaurants. They produce the beer on site with different varieties of hops and chalk-filtered Chiltern Hills water and have won bags of awards for their fab and quirkily named brews (Side Pocket for a Toad, anyone?). Visit the brewery shop and mix and match from the selection of core, seasonal and small batch beers. This month’s festive pick is Little Donkey – a low alcohol but full flavoured ale which pairs perfectly with a cheese board! From £4.25 per litre.
The Mad Squirrel brewery is based in Potten End Herts and only came about in 2010. It’s since become the cool craft beer brand to be seen drinking in and around Herts with taprooms in Berkhamsted, St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Harpenden, as well as around Bucks. Play it safe with the more tame pale ales and Pilsners or go for one of the whacky flavour combos like salted caramel milk stout, orange brut and bramble sour. Try Hoodwink with your Chrimbo pud – a white stout that looks like a pale ale (curious!), made with lactose, vanilla and white chocolate (sold!). £3.60 per can.
Farr Brew‘s mantra is ‘creating great tasting real ales brewed with craft and a commitment to quality’ and the magic happens at their 10-barrel brewery, taproom and bottleshop in Wheathampstead, Herts. Since their humble microbrewery start, the team have now opened three pubs across the county and produce a range of ales, porters and bitters. We’re loving the sound of Brewdolph (the red-nosed rein-beer) for Christmas! The bottle is super cute too. £3.50 per bottle.
Once a monastry, Warden Abbey is now a community-run vineyard in Bedfordshire. Four white grape varieties are grown there – Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Regner, and Muller Thurgau – and around 4000-6000 bottles produced per yield. As well as being made from locally grown grapes, they are also ethical, vegan and win awards year after year. Check out the Warden Abbey Sparkling Brut for those festive cork popping moments, £24 per bottle. Buy direct from the vineyard or a number of local stockists. And don’t miss the Christmas wine sale on 8 December where you can try before you buy!
Rather disappointingly, Puddingstone distillery in Tring, Herts has nothing to do with dessert, but named after a rare naturally occurring rock formation. Ah but wait – they make some cracking gins, including a limited edition one that is actually made with (wait for it…) pudding! Hertfordshire Christmas puddings, (made by another local producer Victoria Bakery), to be precise. Distilled in small batches, the ever popular PUD PUD Gin (£36 per bottle) is out just in time for Christmas, and there’s a cask aged version too, for those who like a bourbon-esque flavour.
Black Bridge Distillery
The jewel in the crown of St Albans-based Black Bridge Distillery is their Blue Admiral Gin (£39 per bottle), which actually changes colour when you mix it with tonic. Great party trick for Christmas cocktail making! They also do a Classic Dry and a fruity Lime and Rhubarb if you like a bit of zing to your gin, as well as a Green Russian Vodka (£33 per bottle), made from 100% molasses and infused with green tea – intriguing!
Copper in the Clouds
Based on Dowsetts Farm in Ware, Copper in the Clouds use locally produced wheat, and botanicals foraged on the farm (where possible), to produce small batch and slightly bonkers spirits. Each tells its own story, through the production, ingredients, flavour and bottle designs. Their Red Leaf Gin, (£39.50 for 70cl) is infused with seasonal botanicals including roasted hazelnuts, blackberry leaves and Seville orange peel. And we’ve got our eye on the Mulled Blackberry Gin Liqueur (£24.50 for 50cl) for our Christmas Champagne cocktails.
Distilled right here in Hertfordshire – Stevenage to be precise – Old Vodka is a premium spirit made using a 200-year-old Georgian family recipe which has been handed down through three generations. Still a family fun business it’s made with all the original passion and it’s won a Great Taste award to prove it. Now there are 14 different flavours to choose from, including sloe and caramel if you’re after something festive. £29.99 for 70cl.
Willow Tree Gin
Willow Tree Gin is hand-crafted, by founder, Mary, on her family farm in Bedfordshire. It’s made with a blend of blend of 12 botanicals, including fresh lemon thyme and Thai basil and the herbs are all grown there on the farm – you don’t get much more home-grown than that! It’s local but with a hint of the exotic, inspired by Mary’s love of travel. £38 for 50cl.