This holiday season, not all that sparkles is tinsel. Year-end presents brewers with a golden opportunity to craft limited releases that are not only lucrative, but also reflect Christmas spirit. The holidays are synonymous with celebration and indulgence, and the North Pole – perfect for introducing limited-edition Christmas beer styles with warm, inviting flavours. Seizing this opportunity can pave the way for increased sales extending into the new year. This may sound like a mere marketing exercise, but consumer appeal and beer quality during festive times can make or break the equation. Ultimately, breweries can lean into the appeal of Christmas to create a memorable product that stands out in a saturated market.

The Taste of Christmas

Christmas beers are as deliberate and intricate as any craft beer, relying on careful ingredient selection and recipe adjustments to feature decidedly festive elements. They feature the flavours of the season: warm puddings, sweet spices, and notes of rich or fruity desserts. Christmas beer styles can be infinitely more creative than good old-fashioned vanilla. Special malt varieties and distinctive hops provide a classic yet versatile canvas, and the addition of timeless ‘gingerbread’ staples like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger are guaranteed to strike a harmonious chord. Those inclined towards the avant-garde can lean deeper into flavours ranging from cranberry to toffee, and there is nothing wrong with a hint of orange peel.


Popular Beer Styles at Christmas

In wintertime, top fermented ales should dominate the market. Classic winter beer styles are strong, dark, and full-bodied, with sweeter ales being especially favoured during the colder months. This is why many winter beer styles have a slightly higher alcohol content than summery beers. The alcohol creates that fuzzy, warm feeling while also acting as a flavour carrier to ensure a pleasantly intense and flavourful drinking experience.

Higher abv Christmas stouts, winter warmers, and Belgian strong ales all rightfully earned their place in the Christmas beer category with deep, inviting Christmas flavours. Stouts are a good match for most gingerbread and pudding spices. Deep and dark, Christmas stouts can create a sense of comfort with notes of chocolate, cocoa, and coffee to complement the strong beer. Winter warmers are also malt-forward, and having originated during cold UK winters, their popularity over Christmas should come as no surprise. Not quite as dark as a stout, and heavier than a Christmas ale, the abv of a winter warmer can range between 6 and 10 % to faultlessly feature their caramelly, bready, and malty profile. Winter warmers with flavours of nutmeg, chocolate, or toffee are not unusual over Christmas time. At 8 – 10 % abv, Belgian strong ales are another good base for any Christmas style and the German Doppelbock lager similarly doesn’t need any help to present bready, caramelly, toffee notes in its strong, malty base.

Cask ageing can make a Christmas beer even more tantalising. The extended maturation period facilitates harmonious flavour development. When that much-anticipated brew is finally cracked open on Christmas day, it marks the thrilling climax to the season’s celebrations. Because of this maturation period, successful brewers strategically time the release of Christmas beers and can start preparing for Christmas in the fall. Here, good marketing and engagement can go a long way.

Christmas beer styles

Brewing Considerations

The interplay between hop varieties and malt profiles is as important as ever. Brewers are precise by nature, and product development can be a welcome challenge. Great care is taken to develop the recipe from adjusting the malt bill and hop schedule to fine-tuning spice additions to ensure that no single element dominates the overall flavour profile. Rich, malty flavours are popular over Christmas, so extended boil times (and thus increased caramelisation) are not atypical. Furthermore, yeast strain selections can be biased toward the contribution of unique esters and phenols for added taste- and aroma complexity. Maillard reactions are crucial to achieving the characteristic ‘toasty’ profile of a Christmas beer and enzymatic activity and protein content are central to fine-tuning flavour expression. Balancing this interplay is a science and an art, and late hop additions or dry hopping techniques can be the key to an aromatic beer that remains true to the style’s inherent character. Mastery in the brewing process could mean the distinction between a good Christmas brew and an exceptional one.
High-quality spices are critical, because beyond ensuring an authentic and inviting festive experience, the hype of the season can grant breweries with increased exposure. During this time, beer taste and aroma is more important than ever – this is an opportunity to win returning customers. Seasonal beers are, in fact, the perfect opportunity to trial a product like Brew Shield which will help keep the beer fresh and enjoyable for even longer without ever including the ‘experiment’ in the brewery’s year-round SKUs.

At Christmas, ‘tis the most wonderful time for fresh beer. This seasonal occasion can be an excellent and engaging marketing exercise for breweries, and since an unusual flavour profile is often the goal, it can be the perfect opportunity to stand out from the crowd with a truly memorable limited-edition product. To make this experience last even longer, contact us and enquire about Brew Shield. Brew Shield is a valuable addition to any beer, but when breweries truly want to make their mark it can help them leave a lasting impression with beers that maintain their Christmas charm to be enjoyed for even longer.

Season’s wishes from the entire Stoak Technologies team.