It is getting to be the time of year when the seasons are changing (at least for those of you not in Las Vegas where it is 95° F here today). That means it is time to think of brewing your Christmas beer. You can call it holiday beer if you like. I am using the traditional English name since people recognize that.
I have brewed many a Christmas style beer and some have been unbeleiveable and others not quite so stellar. When I owned my homebrew store, I also tasted many beers and most had the same issues.
3 tips for brewing better Christmas beers
Without further ado, I give you my list of things to improve your Christmas beers.
1. Less is more.
What makes a Christmas beer unique in my mind is the Christmas spices. There are many beers, especially Belgian beers with spices and herbs added, but Christmas beers need Christmas spices. When you add spices to the beer don't over do it. Many of the beers I have tasted had too much spice and not enough beer in the flavor profile. Remember it is Christmas beer, not Christmas spice water.
2. Time is your friend
Another hallmark of Christmas beer is the higher alcohol content of most of them. More alcohol means more time to age is needed. Don't be afraid to make next years batch a year out. Big beers (I call that any beer with over 6% alcohol), are like a good casserole or stew. They need time to melt together and not be harsh. Most big beers will be over the top in either alcohol or spices if they are too young. Let them age.
3. Use a secondary
One of the other problems I find in Christmas beer is that there is a ton of flavor and no aroma of certain ingredients. A rule of thumb you can use it that if you want the flavor of the ingredient, put it in your initial fermentation. If you want aroma, make sure you rack your beer and add the ingredients.
The reason for this is simple. During the initial fermentation, you have a lot of activity and carbon dioxide "scrubs" the aroma out of the ingredients. Depending on what that ingredient is, you may lose all the aroma. When you rack the beer after the initial fermentation is almost complete, you will retain the aroma, and depending on the ingredient, some of the flavor.
Follow the instructions until you really understand the additions of adjuncts to your beer.
Christmas beer recipe
Here is a great Christmas beer recipe you can make.
You can also make a Pumpkin beer if you want for the fall season. While not technically a Christmas beer, they share many similarities.