Christmas beer is a unique and seasonal drink that is specially brewed to enjoy during Christmas time. This beer is usually spicy with great alcohol content.
This beer includes a variety of ingredients such as vanilla, coffee beans, cocoa beans, cinnamon, orange peel, cloves, mint, caramel malt, and more.
There are no specific standards about making this seasonal drink. But it usually consists of high malt bases, high alcoholic content, and it also tends to be fuller-bodied.
This type of brewing makes the Christmas beer a festive, flavorful and very alcoholic beverage. It is trendy during winter or Christmas festivities.
The Tradition of the Christmas beer
The beer as a traditional Christmas beverage may go way back to the Vikings era. The Vikings drank to honor their Gods during the Scandinavian celebrations, called Jul. This tradition became so important in the Scandinavian culture that it remained with them even after Christianity took over.
In Norway, it was decreed by law that beer must be drunk during the celebrations. This law was created by king Haakon I. Long after; the Vikings invaded the British Isles, where they continued to celebrate this tradition.
Around the 17th century, Swedes were the first to bring this Christmas beer tradition to North America.
Even though they were the first Europeans to bring over this tradition to America, it was the British who popularized the spicy, malty and robust brews concept in this celebration.
Today, every brewing company produces and markets their own Christmas beers. They use different ingredients and spices. It delivers a whole new experience to users. These beers usually feature a robust, complex and sweet malty flavor; it makes a favorite beverage during the Christmas celebration.
Christmas beers are now just as crucial as jingles, decorations, and presents. Every year, customers enjoy this festive beverage during the holiday—each with outstanding spices of their preference.
The Best Types of Beers for Christmas
Seasonal or Christmas beer is well-known for its spice and high alcohol content. These are unique beverages used for cold seasons and winter days. These drinks are marketed and sold as a malty-rich with tons of mixtures. Here are the best types or styles of beer to create a perfect festive drink.
Even before Christmas season comes around, brewers start its production. They use different styles depending on the ingredients and flavors they want to market.
Ales —also known as winter warmers— are standard in the making of Christmas beer. This style provides an amber or dark brown color with an alcohol content of around 5-to-8%. The Old Ale has a potent flavor of caramel and toasty malt. It provides a remarkable taste with a sensation of sweetness and richness . It makes it a favorite among users.
On the other hand, there is the Old Ales are also called Stock Ales. These are the same style: malted and flavorful ale. The only difference between the regular ale and the Old Ale, it the ageing process. The Old Ale aged for an extended period. It makes it have a higher alcohol volume: around 8% and higher. Even though some brewers use Old Ale for some of the Christmas Beer, it is not common to see one in local groceries and liquor stores.
“Christmas Ales” appeared around the mid 90s and early 2000s. These Ales were attractive to lots of people. American brewers wanted to create and market a seasonal beer after other special events such as Oktoberfest and the famous Pumpkin beer season.
Christmas and winter beers were the best option for American Brewers. It is not marketed as a special Christmas drink, yet it is highly associated with the ingredients and spices used. This style of beer is typically used to create a spicy and flavorful beverage for a special occasion. It also allows using an extensive list of many different spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and more.
Belgian Ales are stronger and more vibrant Ales. Many of these festive beers are based in Belgian strong dark ale. These strong dark ales are a perfect combination of rich malt, caramel, fruity and bready flavors. These ales are a good option if you like richer and more complicated beverages—as well as a higher alcohol level in your festive beverage.
The Belgian Ales have higher alcohol content than the American ales, around 1 or 2% above the rate. Even though they are used to include spices for the cold season, they are a little more subtle than the American version of Christmas Ales.
The Stout is also used as a Christmas drink. It is a dark beer, with lots of variations. The most common and frequent iteration is Dry Stout. It has a high alcohol level of around 7-8%. Depending on the brewery company, it can be sweet and dry. It is elaborated with toasty malt, and it has a dark color close to black. Many brewers choose this style to make a highly concentrated Christmas beer.
Brewers use spices and other ingredients such as milk or lactose to make an Imperial milk Christmas Stout is another common sight .This style is perfect for cold temperature since it gives a warm taste when drinking.
The last popular beer is the Christmas IPA. This style is lighter than the ones discussed earlier. It has a high alcohol level around 7-8%, even though it is a pale ale. Brewers find it fun to create unique flavors by mixing this style with other spices. Spices that are commonly used for this style of beer are ginger, cinnamon, mint and others.
All these beer styles are frequent in the use, creation and production of seasonal Christmas beers. Thanks to the intense and complex flavors these beer styles feature, It’s common to mix them with rare spices; the idea is to deliver and market an exclusive beer for the cold season.
Every year, many brewers come up with various Christmas beers with different tastes, flavors and textures. Some are unique holiday brews related to Christmas sweets and change year after year. This brew also creates a confident expectation for users about what seasonal mixture and ingredients they will taste next time.
Best Brands of Christmas beer
This list includes a diverse range of homemade and imported beers. The menu consists of the best and most purchased brand from customers.
Great Lakes Christmas Ale: this brand is a six-time gold and silver medal winner since 1999. Great Lakes Brewing Company creates its brew in Cleveland. This beer is an ale with ingredients including honey, ginger and cinnamon. This drink is on the market in November and December exclusively. Its alcohol level is 7.5%, which makes it a strong ale. This beer is a favorite among many users.
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale: this brand provides a dark seasonal beer with an alcoholic content of 10%. The brand offers the drinker an exclusive aroma of this brand’s yeast strain. This beer has a spicy, minty flavor and a warming alcohol texture. This brand is known for having an outstanding balance between the sugars, fermented molasses, apricots and liquorices. This festive beverage is highly purchased during winter and cold temperatures.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: this festive beer brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is a top favorite. It offers generous amounts of barley malts. This amber shade beer has floral, pine and resin aromas which remind drinkers of Christmas time. It also provides a high malty presence. Its taste is bitter with a small amount of fruity sense. It allows a dry and bitter finish, which makes it a top choice for Christmas season.
Karl Strauss Two Tortugas Holiday Quadruple Ale: 2011 saw the birth of this beer by Karl Strauss Brewing Company. It was just a one-time release, but customer demands and various winning medals and achievements made this brew a regular for Christmas. It provides a dark fruit and caramel aroma, with a slight hint of bubblegum. It has a rich malty flavor mixed with plums, dates and toffee. It also has an alcohol level of 11.1%.
Anchor Christmas Ale: this festive beverage is an annual product. Each year, it comes with a new recipe, ready to surprise customers. This Christmas Ale was first released back in 1975 in America. Anchor Brewing creates an original secret recipe and a new hand-drawn label per year to celebrate the newness of life. This anticipated and festive delight is complex and full of cocoa, malt and pine flavors. Its alcohol content is around 6.9%. This brew is available once a year, starting in November and ending around mid-January.
Bell’s Christmas Ale: this type of beverage is vibrant and malty. It provides notes of caramel and a warm sensation when drunk. It is released by Bell’s Brewery INC every year around November. Its alcoholic levels are around 7.50%. Most drinkers find this holiday beverage a perfect way to celebrate with family and friends.
Delirium Noel: this is a seasonal beer released by Delirium Brewery. It is a Belgian Strong Ale beer with a 10% alcohol level. This beer has an amber color shade, and it provides a creamy foam. Its flavor reminds drinkers of festive sweet bread, malt and caramel.
Samuel Adams Holiday Porter: this is an American Porter beer. Boston Beer Company brews this beer in Massachusetts. It is brewed with generous amounts of caramel and chocolate malt. It is sold in bottles and specifically in winter seasons. It counts with 5.8% of alcohol level.
Goose Islands Christmas Ale: this is an American brown ale brewed by Goose Island Beer Co. It was only available during the winter season with an alcoholic content of 7.3%. This beer counts with chocolate, coconut and fruity flavors. Although it is no longer brewed, it marketed during the Christmas holidays.
Drinkers highly recommend all these top-rated Christmas beverages. It is also purchased at a high rate during the winter season and holidays. We could notice that there are some repeated ingredients, but with other mixtures, different alcohol levels, the style of the beer changes completely. There is an extended range of Christmas beers, but those mentioned before are the best kind with no doubt.
Craft or industrial for Christmas?
Which beer should you use for seasonal brew is a question that everyone is asking. Craft and industrial beer have many benefits and issues; comparing them, we’ll reach a straightforward answer.
Craft beer is a beer made with non-industrialized mechanisms. It is usually created and produced by a small brewery. These brewery companies focus on the importance of the technique used to make craft beer, its taste and the quality of the product. It is usually considered art between brewers.
Today, industrial beer is produced by larger companies, with high technology and a massive amount of ingredients to provide as much as possible.
Now, let’s talk about their differences.
Appearance: industrial or mass-produced beer is usually pale, watery and yellow. The head of the beer does not last long when poured on a beer glass. Instead, craft beers come in a wide variety of colors and textures depending on the brew.
Taste: industrial beer often focuses on a particular or specific flavor, not more than one. These beers are served cold. Craft beers brewers are concentrated on a specific characteristic or many types of feelings and served at a perfect temperature for drinkers to taste and notice the flavors even better.
Production: to produce industrial beer, it is necessary for these companies to purchase cheaper ingredients to reduce the price of the product. Craft beer, on the other hand, is made with specific and well-selected ingredients to create a high-quality beer. It is also produced by brewmasters in smaller batches, making craft beer an excellent experience for the customer.
More alcohol: craft beers may come in different sizes and shapes, but they all contain a high amount of alcohol. Some of them may range between 5-10% or from 40% and higher. If we compare craft beers with the industrial beer, we will notice that industrial beers don’t have extremely high alcohol content.
Less cost: the cost of a drinking session can be lower if you drink craft beer. Industrial beer lasts a shorter time when opened, so drinkers usually have to drink it faster to enjoy the flavors. Now, with craft beers, you would be able to slowly enjoy your beer, with no risk of losing its taste.
You can also meet the people who craft the beer. You can visit a local craft brewery where your favorite beer is made. You are allowed to meet the people that are part of the process of making your beer and ask questions, comments and even make new friends. Craft breweries offer tours where you can get free samples of all the beers available.
Craft beer and food go together perfectly. Just like wine, you can pair craft beer with many different foods. There are a lot of lists with food options paired up with different brewed beers. There are also lots of beer and food pairing events you could attend. These events are becoming very popular for craft beer lovers and enthusiast.
Therefore, to choose a beer for the Christmas beverages, craft beer has lots of benefits and features which will make the festive drink, even better. As said before, craft beer offers a variety of tastes and flavors. Craft beer is also perfect for seasonal beverages because it is limited, and it allows a variety of ingredients and spices. Brewmasters always choose the best ingredients, especially for season beers such as pumpkin spice beer.
Although some industrial beers create a seasonal beer, drinkers are most attracted to the craft beer. The main reason is that it delivers warmth and a unique taste that industrial beers do not provide in their products.
Industrial beer often flattens when it is served in beer glasses much quicker. To produce a seasonal beverage successfully, it should last in the glassware for some time without flattening or without it losing its taste. For this and much more reason, craft beer is the best option for Christmas beers.
Today, the American craft beer market is valued for 23.5 billion US dollars. Craft beer has become popularized because it has a diverse variety; it’s local and goes well with appetizers.
Christmas Beer or Winter Seasonal Beers?
Winter beers are a comforting light during these dark days. The seasonal beers that hit the shelves are exactly what I’m in the mood for when the weather sucks. They are dark, malty, and boozy.
Winter beers are traditional beer styles that happen to fit well with the season. That is, beers that are good during winter. Malt is the showcase while the hops hibernate until spring. A winter beer is rich and complex. It should be sipped by a fireplace or a 47″ flat screen with the game on. Typical winter style beers are old ales, stouts, barley wines, scotch ales, and smoke beers.
Now here’s the thing – many breweries take these traditional styles and brand them as Christmas/Holiday beers. They could take the label off and it would still fit into a traditional style category.
Take Bell’s Christmas Ale for example which is labeled as a Scottish Ale on Beer Advocate. I’ve had it and think it tastes more like an amber, but in no way is it different for Christmas.
I hate to sound too cynical because I really do enjoy the festive branding. It’s a fun time of year and I’m glad beer joins in the party. Just know that just because it’s a winter or Christmas beer doesn’t mean that the beer itself is any different than usual. Brewers need to market like everyone else.
Even though winter has just begun you’ve probably seen these beers on the shelf already. I know I’ve been drinking Hibernation for a few months. Overall though, I try to drink the seasonal beers when the season actually arrives.
Call me crazy but seeing people drink pumpkin beer in July really pisses me off.
So now that the real winter season is finally here, let’s celebrate with these great brews and worry about our waistlines when beach season arrives.