Christmas beer has been with us for a long time -- before the Christian era and hence before Christmas was established. Farmers have long celebrated the beginning of the winter season with strong beer. Europeans, especially Belgians and Germans, have a tradition of holiday beers. However, in United States it wasn't until San Francisco's Anchor Beer began producing their annual Our Special Ale (5.5%) in the 1970s that craft brewers there began to create a holiday offering.
Christmas beers almost always come with big flavors and big alcohol, and they are usually spiced with varying combinations of cinnamon, coriander, cloves, ginger, and honey. A few years ago, Minoh Beer in Japan created a wonderful holiday ale by spicing up their strong Imperial Stout with sansho (a peppery spice normally used on grilled eel).
I'm looking forward to a Christmas party at my friend's house, high in the hills above Kyoto. He's collected 15 big bombers of Christmas beers, and I and other friends will bring even more.
Here are a few classic Christmas beers. See if you can find them in time for the holidays.
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (10%)
Scaldis Noel (12%)
N'Ice Chouffe (10%)
Delirium Noël (10%)
La Mère Noël (8.4%)
Dupont Avec Les Bon Voeux (9.5%)
De Struise Tsjeeses (10%)
Hurlimann Samichlaus (14%)
Great Divide Hibernation Ale Colorado (8.7%)
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (6.8%)
Deschutes Jubelale (6.7%)
JapanHitachino Nest New Year Celebration Ale (8%)