How about a nice ale with your Christmas meal this year? When it comes to local brews we're spoilt for choice in East Anglia and there are so many different styles there's one for every occasion. In the season of goodwill, we invited Bruce Ash, brewing manager at Woodforde’s Brewery, across the border in Norfolk, a sponsor of the 2024 Suffolk Food and Drink Awards, to tell us about his favourite beers to enjoy at Christmas.

Woodforde's is a relative newcomer, which has been brewing since 1981 since home-brewers and good friends Ray Ashworth and Dr David Crease founded the brewery in Drayton. Its a familiar sight in quite a few Suffolk pubs and restaurants.

'One thing I find gets overlooked at Christmas – as a result of the food on offer – is a good drink to pair it with. Often Christmas is partnered with a breakfast buck fizz or two, wine with dinner and cracking open the spirits from under the tree. However, for me, the drink of choice at Christmas is a great beer.' First on Bruce's list is a well-crafted amber ale.

'Rich flavours derived from sweet malts clashing with citrusy hops and floral aromas is exactly what you need to experience a sensory strike – the perfect complement to festive food. So, whether it's the traditional Christmas dinner or the late-night cheese board, an amber ale should definitely be on your list.

'In the UK we can never guarantee a white Christmas, but one thing we can guarantee are dark and cold winter nights. And in my opinion, a ruby ale which boasts rich and spicy fruit flavours with roasted malts and hops is the perfect partner for those chilly evenings. If you have left over mince pies or Christmas pudding, be sure to enjoy it with a ruby ale.'

Great British Life: Wishing you a Wherry Christmas...Photo: Woodforde's BreweryWishing you a Wherry Christmas...Photo: Woodforde's Brewery

For those who prefer creamier drinks, there are plenty of options. 'Sipping a glass of Irish cream liqueur is a common go-to for people at Christmas, but don’t forget about the cream stouts. Enjoying a well-crafted stout, laced with chocolatey and rich fruit flavours, is a fantastic way to relax after – or during – the busy festivities at Christmas.'

Last, but certainly not least, on Bruce's list is a delicious dark ale. 'For me, it's the perfect way to end Christmas Day. In fact, I often enjoy finishing off the chocolate variety boxes with a quality glass of dark ale in hand.'

As a brewer, Bruce says there's nothing he appreciates more than a quality beer. 'It's a form of art if you ask me. There are some brilliant varieties of beers out there, especially across the East of England. While I may be biased, Woodforde’s certainly has some perfect options to make Christmas that extra bit special.

'From our multi-award-winning Wherry amber ale to our annual Christmas ruby, Tinsel Toes, our beers are so much more than just a winter warmer. And don't forget our deliciously smooth cream stout, Albion or our moreish dark ale, Nog.

Not only do our beers provide a delicious flavour and drinking experience, all our cans, bottles and kegs, including our full range online, are vegan.

Great British Life: Fishers original gin is still its best-seller. Photo: Fishers GinFishers original gin is still its best-seller. Photo: Fishers Gin

9 festive drinks

Shotley Vineyard 2022 Pinot Noir – light bodied with aromas of ripe cherries and blackcurrant; pair with cured meats, cheese and game.

Flint Bacchus Fume 2022 – fermented and aged in oak barrels for six months.

Adnams Spirit of Broadside eau-de-vie-de-bier – born of beer and aged in oak, a rare, moreish, after-dinner digestif for whisky lovers.

Heart of Suffolk Distillery Betty's Gin – styled on a London Dry Gin, refreshing with a slight orange undertone, best served with a slice of orange.

Mauldons Black Adder Stout – a former Champion Beer of Britain, roast and nut aromas with a fruity balance of hops and dark malt.

Nethergate Stour Valley Gold – the brewers' best-selling beer, refreshing, full of flavour, easy to drink and good with food.

Giffords Hall Brut Reserve NV – gently refreshing with a soft fruit character, excellent as an aperitif.

Suffolk Distillery Mandarin and Cranberry Suffolk Dry Gin, limited edition – Christmas in a bottle; Juniper, sweet mandarin and tart cranberry, plus cinnamon for some sweet spicy notes.

Fishers Original Gin – their first and best-selling gin, made with foraged wild herbs and local coastal botanicals, savoury, aromatic and herbaceous.