This is the most exciting time for beer lovers, as we have a mixture of the Fall & Christmas beers on the market. Local breweries, and brew pubs are all putting out seasonal offerings such that are stronger lagers, ales and ‘barley wines’.
I always tell people to never be scared to pick up a bottle of special Christmas beer, as sometimes these beers are more akin to pumpkin pie, than they are to beers.
It was Don Russell a Philly News writer put out a great Christmas Beer book that displays his favorite beers, along with great stories on the history of Christmas beers. It was this book that helped me understand more about the category that is best part of this holiday season for some people like myself. Though some of the stories are kind of folklore as nobody knows where or how it started, but countries like Norway, Sweden and Austria all put out seasonal offerings of beers that are fun, exciting names and unique. Sami Claus is the rare Austrian beer that you should grab if you see in a bottle or on tap.
There are Festivals surrounding holiday beer, such as the Holiday Ale Festival in Portland, Winter Beer Festival in Seattle and even in my Vancouver there was a Cask Festival. Beer lovers abound in glorious dark winter beers that are somewhat stronger than other beers. These can be Imperial Stouts, to Barley Wines, to Imperial Pumpkin Ales. Yes PUMPKIN. Although I was quite skeptical at first about a beer from Pumpkin mash, it actually works and more breweries than ever put out their wares.
Living in Canada afford longer and darker winters, so there needs to be joy found in booze in someway. When not ‘smuggling’ booze across continents, or trying to get beers well hidden in the middle part of ones luggage, I scout around the different liquor stores for seasonal Offerings.
This is not going to review seasonals as much as say they are the best part of the holiday season for some people, and help introduce people to new varieties of beer, of which they are not used to. Beer should taste stronger, should be served in smaller glasses, or even wine glasses. The Christmas beer range in Alcohol content from 7-13% and thus are stronger than the typical 4.5-5% beers that are the most common macro styles.
Being the Internet I have no idea where you live, but there are not limits as to where these styles of beers are found, only in terms of availability of certain brands. These beers can also be aged, depending on the style, variety and alcohol content, as that saying that beer should be fresh is complete bullshit, yes certain styles should be fresh, but beer does age, and taste differently overtime.
Advice here is to search your library or Book Store for Don Russell and his insights on beer are great, and passionate. Ask your local liquor store about ‘Seasonal’ ‘Christmas’ Beer, and try out a few bottles. The Vintage Ales are also included in this genre, as these are limited releases that are stronger in style for winters, especially in the northern hemisphere. They make a great gift for a Beer People.. whether for Xmas or NEW YEARS..
My personal Favorites
BC – Swans Barley Wine, R&B Auld Nick
WA – Eleysian Pumpkin, Boundary Bay Cabin Fever,
OR- Where do I start? okay Deschutes, Rogue Imperial Series
Cali – Again so many, but Lagunitas, Stone, Green Flash
NY- Brooklyn Chocolate Stout
UK – Fullers Vintage Ale, Thomas Hardy (Must be Cellared)