What Is “Winter” or “Christmas” Beer?
The holiday season is upon us. Many beer enthusiasts enjoy a holiday version of their usual beer of choice during this time. These seasonal beers are often known as “Christmas Beer” (German: “Weihnachtsbier”). However, these winter-themed beers are not limited to the Christmas celebration, and nowadays, they are frequently known as simply “Winter Beer” or “Winter Ale.”
The origins of Winter Beer
The sweet and spicy variations we have come to know as Christmas Beer or Winter Beer have their origin in the pre-Christian era. In ancient Scandinavia, Viking winter beers would be part of the winter solstice celebrations or “Jul:” This tradition was carried on after the 10th century when the introduction of Christianity in this part of Europe re-dedicated the traditional winter beer to the new religion. The Scandinavian expression of “Jul” or “Yule” even found its way into the Christmas vocabulary (i.e., “Yuletide.”)
From Scandinavia, the tradition spread over Europe, and later European immigrants brought it to the US.
What makes a beer a Winter beer?
One of the typical characteristics of Winter beer is a certain sweetness, much like it’s the case with many other holiday-themed beverages. (Think of mulled wine or hot apple cider, for example.)
Depending on the brand and the country of origin, you can find flavors like nutmeg and malt, berries, cloves, vanilla, cinnamon, and other spices, sometimes even chocolate and caramel, combined in a typically darker brew with a higher alcohol content than regular beer.
In Germany, the regulations of the "Reinheitsgebot" (Bavarian Purity Law) impose a certain limit on the variety of Christmas beers. Still, you can find various delicious holiday versions among the German/Bavarian beers, the ERDINGER Schneeweisse only being one of them. In other countries, the beer variations can get rather adventurous. If you feel like experimenting a bit for yourself, there are a lot of recipes for or with Christmas beer, too!
You can find more information and overviews of German and international Christmas/Winter beers in our link list below.
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The consumption of Christmas or Winter beer is limited to the winter season. However, if you are interested in German beer festivals (Oktoberfest-style) and beer house culture, maybe even interested in opening your own Bavarian Beerhouse, then you have come to the right place!
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In the meantime, let us wish you the very best for this holiday season and a happy and prosperous New Year 2022! Enjoy the celebrations, drink responsibly, and if you decide on Holiday beer this season, stay safe and don't drink and drive!
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