I really shouldn't have poured it into a glass with a head-keeper, what with it being one of the fizzier bottle-conditioned English ales I've met. It was also a lot paler than I was expecting this spiced winter warmer from RCH to be. Pale Christmas beers are never any good in my experience, and Ale Mary -- a donation from Thom's CAMRA beer club delivery -- is unfortunately no exception.
The nose is very promising: packed with zingy ginger and oily cloves. But on tasting it all falls away, leaving a thin body with a kind of yeasty tang plus overtones of disinfectant. The sweet mince-pie spices reassert themselves on the lips at the end, but they fight against a horrible dry-throat sensation that just spoils the whole thing for me.
Ale Mary is remarkably similar to Franciscan Well's excellent Phúca, and is made from more-or-less the same stuff, but it just doesn't hit the same spot. I think it may be the lack of maple syrup, for that rounded and heavy base sweetness. And this is despite being a whole percentage point stronger than Phúca too. It's a shame: I'm a huge fan of spiced beers, and all this one will do is give them a bad reputation among the sceptics.