The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Beer

There's a season for saisons and a season for pumpkin ales. But I think my favorite season of all is Christmas beer season! If you have an affinity for Belgian-style beers, how could you not love Christmas beer season? They are darker, more flavorful, more alcoholic, and typically have festive flavors added to the mix, such as dark fruit flavors, caramel, cinnamon, cranberry, bitter orange peel, cardamom, honey, cherries, juniper... The list goes on and on. I'm definitely partial to the traditional belgian christmas beers, but American breweries do great work as well. Some of my favorites include Corsendonk Christmas, Avec les bons Vœux de la Brasserie Dupont, St. Bernardus Christmas, Delirium Noël, and Tröeg's Mad Elf. 

One of the elements of brewing a Christmas beer that I have yet to master is timing. Ideally, you need to start months and months before the Christmas season so the dark, strong belgian ale you brew can age properly and take on the more complex flavors that age imparts. But I never remember how much I love this season until late November/early December when the Christmas beers start to appear in stores. Then it hits me that the season is upon us! And it is only then that I begin to think about brewing a Christmas beer. My resolution for 2016 is to lock my Christmas beer timing down. The holiday season 2016 will be particularly special, because Evan and I will be getting married in Hawaii. It is going to be a very Mele Kalikimaka for us next year. 

Two years ago, I brewed a special Christmas belgian ale that I called Bizarre Celebrations. The Bizarre Celebrations recipe is loosely based after Corsendonk Christmas.  I brewed it in December, so it wasn't ready until summertime. It aged very well and was delicious the next Christmas season. We got fancy and created a label for it, as well as dipping the tops in wax. 


Bizarre Celebrations

10 lbs belgian pils

1.32 lbs caramunich

about a quarter pound special b

1 oz hallertauer hersbrucker at 60m

.5 oz styrian goldings at 30

.5 oz hallertauer hersbrucker at 10

and an ounce each of crushed coriander and bitter orange in the last 5 minutes

1.6 lbs candi sugar (added in the last 5 minutes)

about 1 lb corn sugar (added in the last 5 minutes)

Yeast: Wyeast Belgian high gravity 3787

90 min mash

90 min boil

IBU: 19

ABV: 9.2%

This recipe turned out well, but it didn't completely capture the depth of flavor and deliciousness of Corsendonk Christmas Ale. For next year, I want to modify a dark Belgian Christmas ale recipe to include some island flavors in addition to the dark, caramel-y, festive notes I love about the style. A very "Belgian Christmas goes on vacation to Hawaii" beer. I'm not quite sure what flavors I will incorporate yet, but it'll be another fun experiment in brewing!