Colin Campbell wishes you a very hoppy Christmas.

Santa, as every elf knows, is a big fan of good beer. This Christmas, he's got more reason than ever to be cheerful, thanks to a sackful of seasonal beers from Scotland's thriving independent breweries.

Variety is greater than ever before. Look out for spiced porters, mighty imperial stouts, rich barley wines, hoppy golden ales and hearty Scottish ales and ruby reds.

These potent and rich festive beers provide the original Christmas cheer; and bottles of them make perfect stocking fillers, if you can bear to part with them. 

But it wasn't always so. As Derek Hoy, of Glasgow craft beer specialist Hippo Beers, says: "We're seeing an improvement in Christmas beers now. It used to be that you'd get a few dull beers with tacky names and the 'Christmas' element would be enough to sell it. There's still an element of that but the rise of craft beer in general has improved the quality of beer now available and that seems to be carrying over into the Christmas beers."

With many of these seasonal specials subject to small, one-off brews, availability is often limited, particularly if word gets around that a certain bottle is exceptional.

Derek adds: "We've already raced through a few cases of some Christmas ales, like BrewDog's Hoppy Christmas and Santa Paws, Fyne Ales Holly Daze and Williams Bros Nollaig. We've got some cracking foreign Christmas beers as well. Americans like Anchor, Brooklyn and Flying Dog, the Danes Mikkeller and To Ol and of course plenty of Germans and Belgians."

With so much to choose from, here's HeraldScotland's ultimate guide to Scotland's Christmas Beers:

Smoked Porter - Black Isle - 5.5%

Bottled as a limited release for the winter months, Black Isle Brewery describes this porter as dark, smooth, rich and dusky. A smokier and slightly stronger variant of the Highland brewery's porter, it's made with German roasted malts and their own smoked barley.

Big Butt Barley Wine - Black Isle - 8.5%

This strong, deep peat-coloured beer opens up warm aromas of malt loaf, spice, vanilla and alcohol. Aged in oak sherry butts for four months prior to bottling, it's a nourishing winter beer perfect for getting the frost out of your fingers.

Santa's Swallie - Inveralmond - 4.5%

One of the most popular Christmas beers around, and not without good reason. It's a scrumptious, friendly festive beer, dark copper coloured and well balanced. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and a whole load of hops give it a warm, sweet, seasonal spiciness.

Nollaig - Williams Bros - 7.0%

The Williams Bros stomp into the Christmas market with this mighty newcomer, which takes its name from the Gaelic for Christmas. Packed with flavour, this is an exceptional golden ale with plenty of potency and fragrance. The pleasant, lingering bittering comes from the spruce, and Amarillo and Centennial hops. Available in the stocking filler 330ml size, but also comes in 1 litre growlers. Magic.

Holly Daze - Fyne Ales - 5.5%

A winter perennial from Fyne Ales, this is a clear amber ale with a caramel malt and fruity flavour, and a good dose of bittering.  It's a solid beer, and perfect for clearing the palette after a hearty meal.

Tiny Angels - Skye Brewing - 4%

A homage to yeast, the other miracle of Christmas. Made mainly with lager malt but with some pale ale, amber and caramalt too. Lightly hopped with a soft lingering aftertaste.

Nollaig - Skye Brewing - 4.6%

Skye Brewing's been putting this out for the past eight years, and demand hasn't let up for the original Nollaig beer. It's a dark, heavy winter-warmer with a fruity flavour and caramel and butterscotch aroma.

Kildalton Ale - Islay Ales Company - 5.2%

Plenty of flavour in this brew, which is made with pale, crystal, cara and chocolate malts and Fuggles hops for the bittering. Further flavour comes from the ginger and cinnamon, added at the same time as the Bramling Cross aroma hops.

Mocha Porter - St Andrews Brewing Co - 6.6%

A dark beer with coffee and chocolate flavours courtesy of St Andrews Coffee House and The Pittenweem Chocolate Company.

Neuk Special - St Andrews Brewing Co - 7.8% 

This festive beer is a stronger variant of Fife brewery's staple Neuk Ale. It's a typical winter warmer ale - rich, dark and bitter.

Advent - Stewart Brewing - 4.5%

This beer is a balanced combination of pale, crystal and wheat malts infused with seasonal fruits and a hint of cinnamon. A very drinkable beer full of festive cheer.

Hogmanay - Stewart Brewing - 4.1%

A full and rounded premium red beer with a slightly spicy flavor and American hop aroma.

Cone Head - Cromarty and Tempest - 7.4%

A collaboration between two innovative breweries, this is a dark, complex Scottish Ale, flavoured with freshly roasted Pine cones and nutmeg with a Belgium twist.

Santa's Sack - Harvieston - 4.6%

A malty, copper ale with a hoppy crispness from the Styrian goldings and challenger hops. Taste is biscuit and bitter, with seasonal spice and fruits. Selling fast!

Sleigh Driver - Harvieston - 4.1%

A velvety-smooth brew made with British hops giving it gentle tones of spiced, chocolate orange.

Santapaws Beers - Brewdog - 4.5%

Described as a decadent Scotch ale brewed with heather honey. Strong and malty and packed with flavour, those wisemen at BrewDog proclaim it's a beer you can drink all day long.

Hoppy Christmas - Brewdog - 7.2%

A sweet winter warming IPA with hoppy and floral aroma, and a hint of liquorice, red berries and pine resin on the finish.

Clootie Dumpling - Orkney - 4.3%

A light tawny beer with a soft rounded palate, and flavours of dried fruits, citrus and seasonal spices, thanks to the Bramling Gold, First Gold and Fuggles hops.

Blizzard - Orkney - 4.7%

A rich ruby winter warmer with hints of spices and orange zest.

Pennvael Clootie - Kinneil Brew Hoose - 5.3%

A lovely seasonal beer with a hint of clootie dumpling, spices and fruit added to their staple ale Pennvael Amber.

2013 Weihnachtsbier - West - 5.2%

A bit of a branch out for West, this Christmas ale is a solid Scotch ale, with sweet malty chocolate flavours and a spiced hop finish.  Comes in at a very reasonable and seasonal 5.2%. Only available on draught at West brewery on Glasgow Green though.

Gift Wrapped - Caledonian - 4.4%

An amber brown bitter, with a spicy fruit aroma, and tastes of molasses, spice, berry fruits and a velvet chocolate on the finish.

Bitter Winter - Caledonian - 4.8%

An extra strong bitter, pale amber in colour,with a light caramel malt aroma and subtle fruits, bittersweet with malt character flavours. Medium bodied with more bitterness than malt in the finish.

Younger's XXXXP Porter - Luckie Ales - 11.2%

Neither last nor least, this hefty ale is a potent porter that's been conditioning since the start of the year. The recipe comes from the 19th century, and was last brewed in 1841, says brewer Stuart McLuckie. Expect large amounts of brown malt and huge hop quantities blended into an amazingly complex concoction.

Christmas Paradox (2012) - BrewDog - 15%

Last but certainly not least. The Ellon brewery's signature imperial stout has spent the past year maturing in rum casks. A dark beer with roasted chocolate and caramel notes infused with cinnamon and vanilla.


Available online or in good beer shops and pubs.