Beer History: Christmas Beer

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“All the Brews that’s fit to


December 2015 Volume 30 Issue 12

Beer History: Christmas Beer


While the recent history of Christmas beers is rather marketing-driven, both in the US and around the world, the tradition of brewing special beers for this time of year draws on a number of deeper traditions.

The Scandinavian countries have, perhaps, the strongest claim in this re- gard. The Vikings enjoyed a strong, malty beer during their Jul—or Yule—

celebrations: their December 21st festivities involved them 'drinking Jul,' with drafts offered up to Odin, Frey and the other Norse gods.

In fact, even after Christianity became the official religion, brewing Christmas beer was enshrined in law: Norway's King Haakon I ('The Good', c. 920-961) decreed that each household must brew a measure of beer for Jul, now moved several days and rolled into Christmas. The tra- dition was further reinforced by the Gulathing Laws, written down in the 13th century (though probably established long before), which not only required each peasant household to brew a Christmas beer and hold something of a party, but it outlined specific penalties for failing to do so—fines and a loss of property were possibilities for those shirking their brewing responsibilities.

Sweden and Denmark, with their shared Viking beginnings, were equally enthusiastic about their holiday brewing and drinking, both from that early period until recent times—indeed, the Swedes were among the first Europeans to bring a Christmas beer tradition to North America in the 17th century.

Commercial production of Scandinavian Christmas beers only began in earnest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but the story continues today; modern Scandianvian brewers, even those that produce little be- yond fairly generic lagers the rest of the year, continue to brew Julebryg and Juleøl for Christmas—or for a Jul revival.

The Scandinavian Christmas brewing phenomenon did not go unnoticed

Table of Contents

President’s Letter—

page 3

HHHC—page 4

No Sparge Brewing—

page 5

Egg Nog Ale—page 7 November Minutes—

page 10


Dark Lagers, Spiced Beers, and Wildcard

4A - Dark American Lager 4B - Munich Dunkel 4C - Schwarzbier 21A - Spice/Herb/


21B - Christmas/Winter

Specialty Spiced Beer


elsewhere; in 1804, an anonymous British correspondent noted Scandinavian holiday brewing traditions as outside the wider European norm: the Christmas beer, which had been brewed in October, was 'pleasing to the palate, but heady.'

Of course, strong holiday beer was not actually new to Britain—it had been memorialized in song by 1681.

'The Merry Boys of Christmas; Or, The Milk-Maid's New Year's Gift' celebrated having a strong Christmas beer (or several)—and special Christmas beers were not unknown to 19th century commercial brewers in Britain.

Though there are many modern Belgian Christmas beers, one of the country's most famous exports, Stella Artois, has lost much of its original seasonal luster. While modern marketing positions the now-ubiquitous lager as coming from a brewery with medieval origins, Stella itself only appeared in 1926, launched as a Christmas beer and named as a nod to the storied Christmas star (the 'Artois' was courtesy of 18th century brewer Sebastianus Artois, who took over Den Horen Brewery in Leuven, Belgium, in 1708). Indeed, more recently that heritage is being played up again, with the release of a Christmas album tie-in, but the pale, golden lager does not, on the whole, match the current stereotype of a dark, malty Christmas beer.

Conversely, a British beer that has become a Christmas tradition began life as something altogether rather different: Young's Winter Warmer was originally a Burton ale, which was much stronger and sweeter than its modern counterpart. While the rise and disappearance of the Burton style is a much longer story, by more recent times, it was often more popular during the winter—not surprisingly, given its strength and 'warming'

abilities—so it is not so unusual that it has largely morphed into a Christmas beer—at least for the time being.

Perhaps the most famous modern Christmas beer is Samichlaus, which began life in Zurich in 1980.

Its birth is a reminder of how far beer has come in the past thirty-odd years, not just in terms of vari- ety, but from a scientific perspective.

The beer, named after the local version of Santa Claus, was once the strongest lager in the world;

it's 14(ish)% ABV was only possible because the Hürlimann brewery had developed yeasts capable of surviving at such high gravity—something that seems almost commonplace (although still technically difficult) in today's brewing scene. The beer disappeared after the 1996 vintage, but returned in 2000, with a move to the Eggenberg brewery in Austria. They continue to brew the beer once a year, on December 6th, and they maintain the original method of aging the beer for nearly a year before bottling for its Christmas release.

So when you enjoy a Christmas beer this year, think back to some of those that came before it —or go 'full

Viking' and make your own!


[Photograph: Hyougushi on Flickr]


Presidential Ponderings

Another HHHC is upon us. The 25th annual to be exact. The schedule for the week looks like this. Sorting will take place Sunday, Dec. 6 at Modern Brewery. The more help the sooner we get done. Preliminary judging will be Tuesday, Dec. 8 and Thursday, Dec. 10 at Modern Brew- ery located at 5231 Manchester Rd. Tuesday and Thursday sessions will start at 6 PM. The main judging will be held on Saturday, December 12, and will be held at Shrewsbury City Cen- ter, located at 5200 Shrewsbury Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63119. Judging sessions will begin at 9:00 and 1:00. Following the conclusion of the HHHC is our annual banquet.

We are very thankful for all the help provided by the judges and stewards for our competi- tion. To show our appreciation, the club is sponsoring a happy hour for judges and stewards at Urban Chestnut - Grove, on Friday, December 11, from 6:30 to 8:30. We will meet in the front "game room", which is just to the left of the front door. Featured at the event will be famed author and judge, Randy Mosher. You may know Randy from such classic books as Radical Brewing and Tasting Beer. Randy will be on hand to discuss beer, judging, and will give a short talk. If you have one of his book and bring it to the event I am sure he will sign it. In addition to the great UCBC beers, participants may also bring homebrew to share. However, UCBC has requested no coolers.

For those that have not attended the banquet it is for members and family. The club pro- vides the main dish, and each member brings a side dish to share for 8-10 people. In order to get a better count for the main course we ask you RSVP at Santa will pay a visit for the kids. Children 12 and under will receive a gift from Santa. If you have not registered for a gift you can do so here, Please give the child's name, age and gift suggestion ($20 or under).

Apart from the HHHC, we will also take nominations for officers. Besides being the "Lord of the Brews" for the last two years. I was secretary from 2011-2012. The reason I wanted to be an officer was to give back to the club for all it taught me about becoming a better brewer.

Please consider giving back to the club and be an officer for the club.


Lord of the Brews


Don’t Forget

The HHHC is coming in December

December 6th—Unpacking and sorting

December 8, 10, 12—Judging (2 sessions on 12th) Randy Mosher— December 11—Urban Chestnut—

Grove location

Banquet on the evening of the 12th

See the President’s letter on page 3 for more infor-



BeerSmith Home Brewing News

No Sparge Beer Brewing for All Grain Brewers

No sparge brewing offers an attractive alternative for those who don't want to deal with the hassle of fly sparging or batch sparging by using a full volume mash in an single step - just mash and drain.

All grain beer brewers are always looking for shortcuts when brewing beer. Its not that we're lazy, it is just that we want to make the most of our limited brewing time. No sparge saves time by includ- ing the full boil volume in the mash and skipping the extra steps of having to heat sparge water, and sparging. It also has the advantage of creating a pH stable mash with no risk of oversparging the grains.

What is No Sparge?

Before we jump into the no-sparge method, we need to briefly review fly sparging. A traditional fly sparge requires you to heat sparge water in a separate vessel to around 168F (75.6 C). Then this sparge water is sprinkled over the grain bed in the mash tun, often by a "fly arm" which distrubutes the water evenly. Simultaneously wort is drawn from the bottom of the grain bed through a screen of some kind and into the boiler. The flow of water must be managed to keep the grain bed flowing, and also the brewer must be careful not to "oversparge" by running too much water through the grain bed, which can lower the pH of the wort unacceptably and add an astringent tannin flavor to the finished beer.

In the no sparge, we skip adding sparge water entirely. Instead the total volume of water needed for mashing and boiling is added to the mash tun at the start of the mash, and simply drained from the mash tun into your boil pot once the mash is complete. It does require a larger mash tun (about double the size), since you need to be able to hold all of the grains, the water they absorb, plus the full volume needed for boiling. However you entirely eliminate the need for a hot liquor tun to heat sparge water. You simply mash with a lot more water, and then drain the wort out.

The Advantages of No Sparge Methods

No sparge has some advantages over a traditional fly sparge. First, you avoid having to separately heat sparge water up and also the need for a fly arm, since all of the water is already in the

mash. Second, mashing at a high water to grain ratio can result in a more complete conversion and good attenuation - which is desirable for many beer styles. Third, since all of the water is in the mash tun already at a stable pH level due to buffering from the grains, you don't run the risk of

"oversparging" your mash and extracting excessive tannins. Finally, no sparge is simple - you just drain the wort into your boiler, taking care to do the usual "vourlof" step of recirculating the first few quarts of runoff.

No Sparge Water Volumes

No sparge temperature calculations can be done with any standard infusion calculator (software or online) - the only question being how much water you need to add up front? You should start with your required pre-boil volume which is how much water you need before boiling your wort. Then you need to add more water to compensate for grain absorption. Grain absorbs about 1 liter/kg (or 0.12 gallons/lb) of grain, so if you take your total grain bill in pounds or kg you can quickly estimate the extra water needed. Finally you need to account for any losses in the mash tun, such as wort trapped below the drain for your mash tun. Putting it all together in gallons we have:

Grain_absorption_gals = Total_Grain_Lbs * 0.12

Mash_water_needed_gals = Pre_boil_volume_gals + Grain_absorption_gals + Mash_tun_deadspace_gals

For metric, just substitute 1 liter/kg for the 0.12 value, and do the math in kilograms and liters.


Once we know the total mash water needed, we can use any infusion calculator (Tools->Infusion in BeerSmith) to get the strike water temperature needed.

No Sparge in BeerSmith

You can use any of the BIAB (Brew in a bag) mash profiles on a recipe to force BeerSmith into a full boil mash volume. Just select any BIAB mash profile as your all grain mash profile in BeerSmith 2. The only other caution is that you might want to go to Options->Advanced and change the BIAB Grain Absorption to be the same as the normal grain absorption (0.96). Normal BIAB brewing re- tains a bit less water in the grain, and making this adjustment will make the BIAB mash profiles match the no sparge method exactly.

Cheers, Brad Smith

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Eggnog Ale

All Grain Recipe

Submitted By: corrosivehp (Shared) Members can download and share recipes

Brewer: Homebrew Hero

Batch Size: 5.00 gal Style: Winter Seasonal Beer (30C)

Boil Size: 6.52 gal Style Guide: BJCP 2015

Color: 5.7 SRM Equipment: Pot and Cooler ( 5 Gal/19 L) - All Grain

Bitterness: 28.4 IBUs Boil Time: 60 min

Est OG: 1.063 (15.5° P) Mash Profile: Single Infusion, Full Body

Est FG: 1.017 SG (4.2° P) Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage

ABV: 6.2% Taste Rating: 30.0

From BeerSmith


Friends of the Brews


Next meeting: December 3, 2015 7:00 PM

Please note location for this month:

Moolah Shrine Temple

It is located at 12545 Fee Fee Road, St. Louis, MO 63146


Meeting minutes from November:

Thanks to all the volunteers who worked at Soulard Oktoberfest. The club did quite well and has decided to host a happy hour at Modern Brewing for the volunteers - details TBA.

Jason Mueller, Dennis Caplinger, and Gregg Gourde participated at Fest Of Ale. Unfortunately some attendees were confused about the difference between "wort" and "dump bucket" but otherwise it was a fun time.

Brew in the Lou was October 17th and had record crowds. The homebrew tent was quite popular.

Thanks to Al and Mike for working hard on the fall picnic. Friendship Brew winners were recognized and have been mentioned elsewhere on this forum.

Nominations for officer elections will be held next month. President, treasurer, and secretary are ineligible for re-election due to term limits.

Learn to homebrew day events are Nov 7 at STL Wine and Beer and Schlafly Bottleworks.

Jeff Michulski's ESB will be released at Ballpark VIllage on Dec 1. Next year's AB event is Aug 20. the AB con- test is Marzen and the VIP contest is stout.

BJCP refresher is Nov 16 at Urban Chestnut on Manchester. The tasting exam is Dec 5 at Urban Chestnut on Washington. Seats are available.

HHHC is coming up quickly. Registration is from Nov 9 to Dec 4. There is a 650 entry cap. Sorting is at Modern on Dec 6 at 1:00 PM. Early judging is at Modern on Dec 8 and 10, starting at 6:30. Main judging and the ban- quet is at Shrewsbury on Dec 12.

The December tech topic is on brewing with spices, presented by Steve Doelger. Styles are dark lager, spice beers, and wildcard.

November's tech topic was by special guest Sara Hagerty of White Labs. She left everyone with plenty of food for thought about managing pitching rates, and was easily the best speaker in recent memory.

Beers brought:

Tad Dageford - smoked wheat RIS - John Garrett

American Barleywine - Dan Stauder American Barleywine - Ryan Crump Barrel Aged RIS - Chris Rahn

Best Beer - John Garrett Beer in a box - Brad Mock

O'Fallon Growlers - David Fondren, Peter McKercher

Mo Malt Gift Cert - Tad Dageford


Fresh ingredients

• Great selection • Low prices

231 Lamp and Lantern Village, Chesterfield, MO 63017

(636) 230-8277

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Volume 30 Issue 12

526 Larkhill Ct.

St. Louis, MO 63119




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