The advent of Christmas sees a seasonal change in the varieties of beer on offer, with some festive brews making a well-timed appearance
A highlight of Christmas for the discerning beer connoisseur is the range of bespoke seasonal beers on offer.
In the northern hemisphere, these can range from richly-flavoured winter warmers that fill you with a glowing satisfaction, to spicy brews packing a palate-tickling selection of tastes only seen at this time of year.
The tradition for a deep midwinter ale goes back thousands of years, with the Vikings being some of the first to celebrate with a good brew around 530AD during the reign of Beowulf. And in Norway during the 13th century, each peasant household was required to brew a festive ale and hold a party. Those who didn’t were fined, and occasionally lost property in the process.
While there is no set style, Christmas beers often feature a warming spice to add an extra note, including nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger. Spice combinations and mixing spices with fruit extracts such as cherry or orange are also popular. Try Jacobite Ale, a spiced beer brewed by Traquair House Brewery in Scotland to celebrate the anniversary of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion.
Christmas food can pair very well with the beers of the season. Traditional starter dishes, such as smoked salmon, preferably with a dash of cracked black pepper and a smidgen of lemon juice, or prawn cocktail lend themselves to a Belgian witbier or framboise. Try Boon Framboise, a lambic beer brewed by Brouwerij Boon in Belgium. While the traditional turkey or meat course is best paired with a more bitter beer to offset the richness of both the gravy and the meat, not to mention the sweetness of an apricot and walnut stuffing.
For two unusual beer infused Christmas recipes, check out our infographic below.