REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

Colourful beer cans and craftily strong spirits to keep yours up through the festive season.

New ‘craft’ beers from young entrepreneurs offer new flavours and styles from the USA and Europe. The favoured packaging seems to be cans branded with bold and colourful Banksy-style artworks or stark industrial minimalist graphics.

Collectively in-store they create a cheerful burst of colour which you can recreate at home.

Individually the new beers tend to be sharply hopped with a stronger alcohol percentage, good to accompany festive fare. Some we have favourably reviewed in AAS include TOAST made with surplus bread, the can décor quite artistic, the IPA beer quite sharp. Plus there is the quirkily named AND UNION, starkly functional and Bavarian, and finally Sierra Nevada in a bright green labelled bottle, an excellent example of US style IPAs.

Buy a selection and celebrate with your own psychedelic beer tasting session. Prices are typically around £2 a 350ml can.

STORY TO TELL

All craft gins have exotic or unusual ingredients beyond the essential juniper, usually drawn from their backstory rationale, and a high strength of 43 per cent or more versus the UK standard 37.5 per cent.

It is important to carry the exotic flavours through to the taste experience, although the strength adds extra duty tax to the shelf price; typically £35 plus for a 75cl bottle.

If you do not already have a favourite, choose a gin produced locally to you to stimulate discussion. For instance, Silent Pool from Surrey Hills Distilling, near Guildford, was highly recommended by a member of my local Weybridge sailing Club both for the gin and the visitor experience the distillery offers.

Or go as far away as possible to find something unusual. One I tasted at the Southampton Boat Show is Kirkjuvagr (pronounced kirk-u-vaar) from the Orkney Islands, 43 per cent. Its distinctive taste is drawn from its Viking backstory, far away from London gin style, and the abstract label graphics are in the genre of the craft beers. Even better for taste and texture is their 57 per cent Arkh-Angell, billed as a tribute to the island seafarers.

Alternatively go to the other side of the world and the ancient spice routes of the Orient with Opihr. A London gin lightly spiced, at 40 per cent and about £23 a bottle (find out more on our Photo of the Month page).

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Pedro Ximénez PX Sherry. Try it as a sweet wine to go with pudding or pavlovas, a new role for sherry. You will be surprised! At 17 per cent (typical fortified wine strength like port) I found it at £9 for a 37.5cl bottle at M&S.

SCOTTISH FUDGE

No, not a Brexit plan gone wrong but a nice whisky-flavoured fudge by Old Pulteney Scotch Whisky, the UK’s most northern distillery in Wick – next stop northwards the Orkneys. A 300gr tin costs £9.99 at Nauticalia. To go with it, the 12-year-old 40 per cent Old Pulteney whisky, self-declared as the Maritime Malt, is £31.95 plus delivery from The Whisky Exchange.