Holiday beers are by design no one style, but are a chance for individual breweries to let their talent and imagination run wild. At the holidays, when people stop their busy lives and share some precious time with family and friends, the beer they choose should be equally as special as the time they’re sharing. So a holiday beer should be made to impress, to wow its audience, to stand out. That’s the only criteria that should be met by one of these beers. Will it impress?
Sorry, but that's jumping the gun a bit. You can't suggest anything will impress without out considering whether it should. Being an every third or fourth week churchgoer raised in an expat Scots Presbyterian Minister's manse, I face a very mixed tradition of Christmas. My grandfather didn't even get the day off when my mother was a young woman. It wasn't the same sort of holiday in Scotland. More like Good Friday. Then, as first generation North Americans, I was raised in the 1960s and 70s in the Charlie Brown Christmas TV special universe with the Victorian German tradition of the tree. There was, however and unlike my friends, mashed turnip next to the lamb roast and sherry trifle for dessert. And glasses of sherry. And inky Australian red wine. And telephone calls from those back in the old country, the cards from cousins dispersed around the world and the Queen on TV. Now a long married man with my own teens, we have the annual tension of whether the Christmas stocking is by the bed (my rules) or under the tree (my wife's tradition). My parent in-laws do not drink. My great-grandmother-in-law did rather modestly merrily.
Notice something? Not a lot of room for beer in all this. It's never been a theme in amongst all the other things. Yet, I have explored a few things about beer at Yule over the years.
🎄 In 2014, I described the scene in an Inn in England as depicted in 1775: "the mistletoe hanging from the ceiling, the wreaths on the door and the evergreen cuttings in the windowpanes."
🎄 In 2011, I celebrated the fabulous wonders of Narragansett porter as a perfect holiday sip - as well as the greatest example of my sample begging skill: "could I get 12 samples please?" The cheek;
🎄 In 2009, I recommended heating your beer for Christmas and then made my own a few weeks later;
🎄 In 2005, I lined up five Yuletide beers that I would love to have my hands on now.
🎄 In 2004, I reviewed a mixed eight pack of beers sourced on a central New York state shopping spree.
I even have a tagged category for Winter and Christmas Ales which I have not added to for three years. So, its not like I have avoided the subject or anything. And, of course, the beery Christmas and Hogmanay photo contest - now with a writing prize - has been going along nicely for a decade, too. Yet, I do not think of Christmas as a time to guzzle beer... perhaps not in particular... perhaps just not as much anymore. Tomorrow is the children's play at church. Singing of carols. A kid of mine as one of the angels and maybe the other as the backside of a camel. We are having 20 over on Boxing Day, too, after all the gift are opened the day before. And there are work parties, and neighbours to have over and presents still to buy. And a tree to put up and decorate. I may have a few stout and ports over the next few weeks. And a St. Bernardus or two. But is this season about beer? Not really. But it'll play its part.