Holiday beers. Christmas beers. Winter beers. Whatever name they’re given by their makers, these bigger-than-usual, once-a-year ales and lagers are tasty examples of the brewer’s high art. It’s an age-old tradition for European brewers to make big, bold, special beers at the end of the year, both for the holidays themselves and the cold winter months that follow them. With the coming of hundreds of new, small craft breweries in the US, this tradition has passed to the New World.
Holiday beers follow no set rule or pattern. They may be either top-fermenting ales or bottom-fermenting lagers. They may be normal in alcoholic strength, although the norm is for holiday beers to be audacious versions of the brewery’s flagship product. Such beers incorporate mountains of malt, which (of course) results in a comparably more alcoholic and fuller-bodied beer. Increased amounts of malt also create holiday beers that are on the sweet side, and many brewers of holiday beers carry the theme of oversized beers over into producing brews that are deeper in color and richer in aroma than their workaday companions. Holiday beers are the perfect item to warm one’s soul while sitting before a hot, toasty fire on a cold winter’s night. They are the host’s special gift to friends and guests in keeping with the magnanimity of the holiday season.