One thing I won't miss about not attending the Pig's Ear festival this year is execrable Christmas beer nomenclature: Rudolph's This, Santa's That -- it's stultifyingly dull. Mind you, the beers are often quite good, at least when they have a bit of oomph to them. I've found in the past that low-ABV Christmas ales are very rarely drinkable.
So it was with trepidation that I approached Shepherd Neame's seasonal offering (sigh) Rudolph's Reward. I was quite fond of their, more soberly-titled, Christmas Ale: a bitter and spicy 7% ABV thumper. But the new kid is only 4%, so how much yuletide cheer is there likely to be inside?
(Can we pause for a second and look at that label? Smirking Rudolph appears to be wearing Santa's clothing, implying some kind of gruesome Animal Farm-style takeover of the North Pole workshop or mid-air sleigh mutiny. Whatever Rudolph is hoisting to celebrate his seizure of the means of production, it is a blonde beer and plainly not Rudolph's Reward.)
The beer looks, in fairness, lovely: dark red-amber, with a long lasting fine-bubbled head. Nothing offensive about the nose: hints of caramel and chocolate. It's the latter which leads the flavour. I say "leads", but there's not really a whole lot else. Just on the finish you get a whiff of Shepherd Neame's signature lightstruck hops, but not enough to contribute much (good or bad) to it. It's mercifully less fizzy than a lot of the brewery's bottled offerings, but the texture is very watery. Stronger it would just be sweet and cloying, however. It needs more complexity before I'd recommend it, even at €1.49 a pop in Lidl.