Recipe of the month – Christmas Beer
Throughout history, beers that have higher alcohol content and richness has been enjoyed during the winter holidays. Many breweries produce unique seasonal drinks – they may be darker, stronger, spiced and more complex than their normal beers. Spiced versions came from America and Belgium, as English or German breweries traditionally do not use any spices in their recipes.
Winter Seasonal Beers assume cold weather and the Christmas holiday time. What makes them special? They usually include seasonal spices, special sugars and any other ingredient that reminds you of holiday confections. From brewing aspect these kind of beers are generally stronger and darker, they also have a rich body and warming finish to heat you up in the cold winter season. For appearance, taste and aroma many interpretations are possible, therefore the style has no certain specifications. But one for sure, Christmas beers are clear, sweet and complex, and coming from the darker side.
Grain bill: The majority of your grist should be an Ale style malt, with a possilbe addition of a darker base, e.g. Munich malt for some extra body. In this style I like to have the sweetness of our Melany malt, complemented by a darker crystal malt, but feel free to use a mid-dark crystal malt instead of them. For the color and roasty taste I usually add some roasted barley. A single step mash at the higher end (70⁰C / 178⁰F) what I recommend in order to have some residual sugars. Many brewers add flavorful sugars as well – you have various choices, like honey, molasses, candy sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup…
Hops and spices: Hops are primarily for bittering, you can skip aroma addition. I would use traditional English varieties or noble ones. There is no Christmas beer without seasonal spices, most often allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger or orange peels, but any mixture is possible. Feel free to experiment as per your taste. Addition is recommended before 5-10 minutes of flame out.
Yeast: Although some dark strong lagers exist in this style, the fruity, sweet aromas and spices are much stronger enhanced by an ale yeast. We would recommend to use a Belgian style yeast, but you can take your base recipe as a guideline, when choosing the proper strain. In order to increase estery fruitiness, keep temperature above 22°C / 72°F. Stronger beers may need to be aged for months or even years.
Batch size: 19 l (5 gallon)
Bitterness: 26 IBU
Colour: 26 SRM
Appearance: Deep brown colour, creamy foam
Taste: Sweet maltiness, seasonal spices
Food pairing: desserts or spicy meals