Christmas has always been a busy time for glam rockers The Darkness and the band now has another reason to celebrate the festive season. The band may have narrowly missed out on the Christmas number one in 2003, but 17 years on they have launched their very own festive ale.

The Darkness has teamed up with London-based brewers Signature Brew. The result is an extra seasonal bitter called Bells Ends, paying homage to their 2003 hit single Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) that reached number two in the charts.

The copper-coloured bitter has a pleasant sharpness to it. It goes down easily and is best described as being the type of quality pint of bitter you would get in a dimly lit ‘old man’ pub a few days before Christmas. It has been brewed with the intention of being a session ale that packs a punch, with a subtle fusion of toffee malt and seasonal spices. Made with English hops, the 5.2% ale has a medium-low level of carbonation and costs £3.25 for each stylised 330ml can. It advised to serve cold and fortunately does not have to be consumed while wearing a catsuit.

Tasting sessions

Bells End is the result of a series of some serious tasting sessions when Darkness guitarist Dan Hawkins and drummer Rufus Taylor visited Signature Brew’s facilities in Walthamstow, East London.

“The tasting session for Bells End went well, it was a big night and we tried every ale that we could think of. We wanted a beer that’s punchy and drinkable at the same time. Signature Brew really know their stuff and captured exactly what we were after. Bells End has got a bit of oomph to it but it’s something you can drink in the run up to Christmas and throughout the whole season. It’s a very wintery beer, it’s perfect and we can’t wait for everyone to try it,” says Dan Hawkins.

Release of the ale ensures that the year on a more positive note for the band. When the pandemic struck in March, The Darkness were well into their international tour and playing shows on the other side of the world. They had to cancel dates in Australia and New Zealand as a result. They were touring to promote their sixth album entitled Easter is Cancelled, which was released in October 2018 and by sheer coincidence ended up predicting the cancellation of events in 2020.

And on 18 December, the band had arranged to perform a show in front of 400 socially distanced fans at the Indigo at The O2 in London, which would also be streamed online. However, the introduction of tighter coronavirus restrictions just hours before show time meant that the fans were no longer allowed to attend. The show did go on, but was only filmed for an online audience.

Collaborations with musicians

Bells End is the latest ale in a series of collaborations between Signature Brew and established musicians. Previous craft beers have been released in partnership with the likes of Enter Shikari, Frank Turner, IDLES, Mogwai, and Mastodon. And for a Christmas ale collaboration with a rock band, it could only really have been with The Darkness.

“We were really excited to brew with The Darkness, we love their music, and the experience didn’t disappoint. The band visited the brewery several times and we collaborated closely with them to find the perfect beer style and the perfect name,” adds Signature Brew co-founder Sam McGregor.  “2020 has been a tough one for everyone. We’ve worked with musicians throughout the year, from our socially-distanced brewery shows to enlisting bands to help deliver our now legendary Pub In A Box. As we approach the end of the year everyone needs a laugh and a tasty beer – and Bells End will definitely satisfy both.”

Signature Brew is continuing a long tradition of the close relationship between rock n roll and alcohol. It was co-founded in 2011 by Sam McGregor and Tom Bott in response to what they considered to be often poor quality beers on sale at music venues and festivals. Their reputation is such that the Foo Fighters even requested Signature Brew ales were served at the pop-up pub the band was running to commemorate an album release in 2017.

Signature Brew has also hosted a number of live music gigs on site at its Walthamstow brewery, including events that were run with social distancing when Covid restrictions were lifted back in the summer. The brewery has big plans for 2021 to mark its tenth birthday, with more collaborations with musicians and a series of live events around the country that it is hoped should coincide with the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.