Christmas time brings with it special memories, or for some, the lack of memory after too many beers with the family. Maybe for you, it reminds you of unwrapping pressies under the tree, the tastes of brandy-soaked fruit cake or the scents of cinnamon. Now imagine, opening up your own homemade Christmas beer, and being greeted by the crisp scent of pine, or the aromas of cinnamon or orange peel. With just over 6 weeks to Christmas, what are you waiting for? Get brewing!!
If you are brewing a Christmas beer, then there are a few things you’ll need to think about before you get boiling. It’s a good idea to first have an idea of what you’re brewing, and how you want it to turn out, so start by deciding what style of beer you want to go for.
What is a Christmas Beer?
Christmas beers are traditionally stronger, darker beers – winter warmers – but of course, this is probably because many Christmas beers come from the Northern Hemisphere, when it’s winter at Christmas time. So you could go for a lighter, more summer-time lager or ale, or a hoppier IPA. It’s also seen as perfectly acceptable to up the alcohol content – but this may mean you’ll need to give it a bit more time to age.
Once you know what style you’re brewing, you can figure out what flavours you want to add. Choose flavours that will complement the style, like a ginger and honey ale, a vanilla stout or a chocolate and berry porter. Whatever you do, keep the flavour combinations simple – too many and your beer will be overwhelmed and underwhelming.
Christmas Flavour Ideas
Here are some Christmas flavours you can work with, to create your very own festive drink:
Spices – think cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Ginger and allspice would also work. While not technically a spice, vanilla would be a great addition to a Christmas beer.
Fruity flavours – berries are as much a part of Christmas as Santa – try a cherry beer, or a blackberry stout. A spiced apple flavour could complement an ale. Citrus hops, like Cascade for a grapefruit aroma, or Amarilo for orange, can also work. Orange peel will also give you a lovely citrus flavour. One alternative is to use brandy-soaked fruit to flavour your beer – much like the Sled Wrecker, Nodding Head Brewery’s Christmas beer, which uses molasses and rum-soaked fruit.
Sweet aromas – using the right malts can help you add flavour profiles to your beer. A Chocolate malt will give you chocolatey aromas, while you can get a caramel flavour from Crystal malts (also known as caramel). A honey-flavoured beer would also work like a treat.
Go a little nutty – get a slight nut taste to your beer by using Maris Otter as your base malt and add some Munich or Biscuit malt. Toasted malts and lightly roasted oat malt can also add to the nutty flavours.
Have a hoppy Christmas – don’t forget to use hops to add IBU’s as well as aroma to your silly season beverage. Chinook can add a piney, citrus flavour, Citra has loads of fruity tones while Northern Brewer can give evergreen overtones
So if Christmas for you is all about traditional fruit cake, go ahead and make a dark, fruity beer. Or try a spiced apple lager. Or think of Santa, who’s sure to love a milk stout, with the slight aroma of cookies.