Well ladies and gentlemen, Christmas is almost here and I decided to look back into the archives and repost one of my previously posted articles. This one was written a couple of years ago, but didn't make it into any publications. It's ok, nothing award winning. Unless you want to give me a trophy.
By: Jeremy Myers
This time last year, I was reading an article in a magazine about Christmas ales. The story told of a man named Fernando in a far away country that did not have the luxuries of buying beer at a store. At the beginning of December, he and his friends would brew their own beers using recipes their fathers taught them. Only using ingredients found locally, they would each brew their special recipe and bottle them in old soft drink bottles.
Christmas Ales are nothing new and have been on the market for several decades. Whether you are into locally brewed beer or exotic imported beer, there is a Christmas Ale for you. Some breweries that are known for their hoppy beer typically will carry the hoppy flavors into their Christmas Ale. But most Christmas Ales have a malty character and have some spice added to the mix.
Spices have been a part of brewing for centuries and still have a great impact on brewing today. Usually, spices that are used in Christmas Ales are cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, coriander or a combination of them all. Many breweries use spices to show they have distinct flavor that cannot be duplicated and to show that they use ingredients indigenous to their area. There is nothing wrong with that, I actually support these breweries for using locally grown ingredients and I wish more breweries would follow this practice.
One of the most famous beers known for their Christmas Ales is Anchor Brewing Company. This year marks the 35th anniversary of their Christmas beer. While the recipe differs every year, it has become one of the beers everyone looks forward to tasting. This year, their beer has the same dark malt character, but with a sweet licorice taste. It is actually very interesting. Another famous ale on the market is Sierra Nevada’s ‘Celebration Ale’. This is one of those breweries that is known for creating hoppy beers and carries this into their seasonal beer. This beer pours relatively light but will have a very strong overwhelming hop aroma that will immediately tell you there are a ton of hops in it. I like this beer, but some will argue it is more of an acquired taste.
Besides American Craft beer, there are a few other countries that make festive ales. If you search around town you will find a couple of Belgian selections on the shelves. One in particular is Scaldis Noel. This beer is new to me, but has climbed into the top ten of all time. It has a very well rounded malt character and you will taste hints of caramel and vanilla. Another great Christmas Belgian beer is St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. This is a classic Abbey Style Ale spiced with some of the traditional Christmas spices.
This time of year is a great time to venture out of the normal routines that bind us all year. Whether you are celebrating with some friends or relaxing after a long hard day of shopping, a Christmas Ale is available at your local store. Sometimes we take for granted that beer is full of history and culture and dates back thousands of years. History that surrounds us every day and cultures that teach us who we are.
As for Fernando and his friends, they gather every Christmas night with their homemade ales to celebrate another year of friendship. They share memories, sing songs and enjoy the season that is meant for fellowship.
That sounds like Christmas to me.