If you were following the advent calendar last year you might remember us talking about Ridgeway Reindeer's Revolt. Well, head brewer Peter Scholey must love the festive season because Ridgeway's portfolio includes at least 11 seasonal Christmas beers, and today we're going to look at Lump of Coal - an odd-sounding name for a beer, but there is a story behind it.
Firstly, it's a stout, so in purely descriptive terms the name is apt, both coal and stout being the same colour. Going deeper though, the beer's name could be a reference to a tradition known as first footing. In Scotland, and in some parts of northern England, the first person to enter a home on New Year's Day has a heavy burden on their shoulders because they determine the good luck (or bad) of the household for the coming year. First footing is often done immediately after the stroke of midnight and is part of the Scottish new year celebration called Hogmanay.
Not everyone can be a first footer if it's good luck that's going to rule for the coming year. Ideally he should be male, tall and dark. He should also bring gifts: a coin, representing prosperity, bread, to ensure the family will have plenty of food in the coming twelve months, coal for warmth and whisky for good cheer and happiness.
Ridgeway Lump of Coal is described as an export stout. That puts it in a category not quite as big as a Russian imperial stout but heftier than your average everyday stout. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is probably one of the best known export stouts. Alcohol content, body and overall flavour will be more intense than an ordinary stout.
I wonder which of Ridgeway's Christmas beers we'll be featuring next year.