by Jan Machiel van Bragt Beer connoisseur 03 December 2019
Is the Christmas tree up? The house decorated with sparkling ornaments? The Christmas lights shining bright and a wreath hanging on the door? Then it's time for beer. Christmas beer!
Pils as a Christmas beer
In the 1920s, the now-known Stella Artois lager was presented as a Christmas beer (Stella meaning Star). Because of the enormous success, it has been brewed all year round and has become the most popular Belgian lager. The "Paters Trappists of Chimay" developed a Christmas beer in 1948 which at first was only available in winter and later became a classic called Chimay Blauw.
Extra heavy beer as a Christmas gift
In the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, it was only possible to brew during winter because of the lack of cooling techniques in the countryside. This also worked out well for the farm labourers, who then found work in brewerirs in the winter. The leftovers of the granary were used in winter to make a heavier winter brew. This way an existing beer was brewed heavier and was gifted to staff and loyal customers.
A nice example of this is the Avec les Bons Voeux (Best Wishes in English), a Tripel Saison from Dupont Brewery and a quite heavier version of the Saison Dupont. Nowadays almost every Belgian brewery creates such a winter creation.
A Christmas beer festival sold out in August
In the beginning of the nineties a number of OBERs (Objective Beer Tasters Essen Region) from Essen took the initiative to bring all Belgian Christmas and winter beers together. What once started as a local festival with 40 beers, the Christmas beer festival has now become a true phenomenon. The festival is included in the list of 10 best beer festivals in Belgium and is always sold out. The Saturday of the festival sold out within 2 days (and the pre-sale started in August). An international audience tastes Christmas and winter beers for 2 days. The selection ranges from a warm Liefmans Gluhkriek to a lot of barrel aged beers. The visitors also vote for their favourite Christmas beer. A legendary beer festival for sure.
Beers for Christmas!
Despite Christmas beers being a specific sub style, there are still lots of flavours that evoke that Christmassy taste and feeling. When the cold air of the winter season rattles at your window and pumpkin beers of autumn give way to holiday offerings, beers with a spiced warmth and high alcohol content help you ignore the chill outside. Beers with chocolate, vanilla and sweet fruits also create a particular richness and feeling of luxury that is so often synonymous with Christmas time.