The Badass Beer Advent Calendar: December 20th

Reindeer’s Revolt is today Badass Beer, and with it comes the story of a brewery standing up to the Man and fighting to get Santa Claus put on their beer bottle. Seriously.

Once upon a time there was an English brewery called Brakspear. The company brewed its beers with enough success to stay in business for almost 300 years, but in 2002 the brewery was shut down. The Brakspear name didn’t disappear though - they retained their chain of tied pubs and became a pub management company. If you’re not already familiar with the tied house system here’s a brief explanation.

Rather than being individually owned businesses, as is the case with American bars, most British pubs are owned and run by a brewery. You will only find that brewery’s beers on sale at the pubs it owns, plus Guinness and maybe a beer style that the brewery doesn’t produce, such as a lager or two. However, a very small number of pubs are free houses, owned and run by the licensee, and these pubs can buy beer from whichever brewery they want to, which makes free houses a bit more interesting if you’ve an inquisitive palate and want to try more than just one brewery’s beers (free houses will often rotate a few of their taps so that there’s almost always something new to try).

So, to get back to Brakspear, the brewery was shut down but the pubs it owned remained branded as Brakspear, and the nearby Wychwood Brewery (keep that name in mind for tomorrow) bought most of the equipment and continued brewing beers with the Brakspear label.

Brakspear’s former head brewer, Peter Scholey, decided to strike out on his own and started a new brewerycalled Ridgeway, and it’s Ridgeway’s Reindeer’s Revolt

that’s today’s advent beer.

Ridgeway seem to have specialised in Christmas beers. They have several in their catalogue and it seems that most of them have gotten the brewery into trouble with a few US states. Connecticut banned their Belgian style Tripel, Seriously Bad Elf, and the following year Connecticut, Maine and New York banned Santa’s Butt Porter (NY banned four others too plus one more from a second brewery), the reasoning being that a representation of you-know-who (ho ho ho) on a beer label might encourage underage drinking.

I’d probably best keep my thoughts about that to myself.

The American importer of Ridgeway beers retained a lawyer and got the bans in Maine and New York overturned. For a longer dissertation about the hypocrisy of the situation read this from the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

The only Ridgeway beer I’ve seen in Texas so far is Bad King John (an English stout) and it’s not bad. I’d really like to try some of their other beers.

Jim Hughes, Head Beer Nerd, Alamo South Lamar
“If I had all the money I’ve spent on drink… I’d spend it on drink.” ~ Sir Henry Rawlinson