Christmas beer… The name alone reminds one of warming, herbal flavours. Yet Christmas beer is far from a defined style. The recipes are simply too diverse. And there is a reason for that!
The spirit of Christmas Past
At the end of the nineteenth century, Christmas beer didn’t exist. At that time – believe it or not – Belgian beer was not as popular as today. They even imported a lot of beer themselves. One of the more beloved styles was Scotch Ale. During the winter season they simply relabeled them with a nice Christmas label, and a “new” drink was born.
Soon, local breweries tried to jump on the bandwagon, and they presented their own variants. While some Belgian breweries have stayed true to the English ideas, there was no official definition. That is why your Christmas beer could just as well be a lighter Tripel.
In Scandinavia the tradition goes back even further. In the tenth century they celebrated their winter solstice Jul with a strong beer-like beverage, also called Jul. As they were known to roam around the world, these rituals found their way into England and many other countries.
The spirit of Christmas Present
Most agree that a Christmas beer should be a strong dark beer, with some seasonal spices. Typically, this means a Strong Dark or Scotch Ale that is flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, or clove. In recent years, pine needles are also a popular ingredient.
In recent years Stouts and Porters have also moved into Christmas property. The heavy, but often sweet drinks fit the feeling of winter days and they pair wonderfully with herbs and spices. Or even Christmas cookies, for that matter, if you look at Pastry Stouts.
The spirit of Christmas Yet to Come
But as we said earlier, there is no such thing as a standard Christmas beer. In recent years there were even Christmas IPA’s, Wits and Sours, beer styles that are often linked to hot summer days.
And what to think of a Gluhbeer? This beverage is heated before consumption and is based on the popular German Gluhwein. Although mainly a gimmick, this totally changes the perception of drinking beer.
Therefore, Christmas beer should be seen as marketing tool first and foremost.
24 Days of Christmas beer
Quite new is the Beer Advent Calendar, a craft beer answer to the commercial phenomenon once reserved for children. It is a big box with 24 beers, that are hidden behind a closed door. From December 1st until Christmas Eve, you can discover – and drink – one beer every day. Isn’t that a nice Christmas experience?
Have yourself a malty Christmas!
Team The Swaen