Home' Hospitality Business : HB DEC 2016 - JAN 2017 Contents T
he tradition of brewing special beers for the holiday season
dates back more than 1,000 years when the Vikings were first
noted to have brewed a strong, malty ale for their Jul (or Yule)
celebrations as a winter offer ing to Odin, Frey and the other
Many other nations around the world also have long standing
traditions of brewing up special seasonal beers to celebrate the
Christmas holiday, such as the UK, the US, and much of Scandinavia.
These beers are typically higher in alcohol, are often spiced, and
sometimes use an ar ray of ingredients common to the fall harvest, such
as pumpkin and cranber r y.
However, we here in the Souther n Hemisphere – where we are
more likely to celebrate Christmas with a backyard barbecue than
we are to spend it clustered by the fireplace – do not have quite
the same established relationship with Christmas beer. A 10% ABV
spiced Barleywine does not quite go down as well on a hot summer
after noon, as it does on a cold winter’s eve.
That said, much in the same way that many New Zealanders
embrace the wintery Christmas traditions of Europe and North
Amer ica, despite the arguably inappropriate weather, there are a few
New Zealand brewers that produce special seasonal brews for Kiwi
beer drinkers who are in the mood for traditional holiday cheer.
One such Brewer y is Blenheim’s award-winning Renaissance
Brewing Company, whose Abundance Cher ry Porter is one of the few
locally-brewed Christmas beers available in New Zealand. I spoke to
their co-founder and Director of Brewing Andy Deuchars to get his
take on the unique considerations associated with brewing holiday
beers for the New Zealand market.
“A Christmas beer – kind of like the rest of the Christmas fare – is
your holiday treat. [It’s] the beer world’s equivalent of the turkey with
all the trimmings,” says Deuchars. “Traditionally they are a little bit
bigger, a bit richer, and a bit darker. Sometimes there will be some fruit
or vegetable added - pumpkin comes to mind for North Amer ica.”
I asked Andy about the challenges and considerations associated
with making a Christmas seasonal beer for the Souther n Hemisphere.
“Christmas beers are kind of geared towards colder weather, at least for
our cultural ways of looking at beer,” he says. “But when it comes to
holiday food, New Zealanders have a ‘we’ll just make [traditional food]
anyway’ kind of attitude. So we’ll have these hot Christmas dinners
where you’ve got turkey, ham, roast, the holiday pudding... with
traditions of North Amer ica and Britain in there.
“On the other hand, it is swelter ing hot and culturally [our summer
traditions] call for lighter beers, both in colour, body, and alcohol.
It’s probably not the smartest thing to drink, giant, potent alcoholic
beverages in the hot summer sun,” says Deuchars. “Although in saying
that, when people say ‘oh it’s summer here, time for lite beers’, my
response is often, what about] Niger ia?’. It’s the biggest Guinness
drinking country there is and it’s literally ‘Africa hot’. That’s why I’m
being clear to say that culture plays a part - probably a bigger part than
In light of the war m weather Kiwis enjoy in December, and given
the cultural biases that Andy pointed out, I wondered about the thought
process that goes into crafting a beer for this somewhat unique market.
“There’s the two-pronged thing. If you’re making a lighter style
you’ll have to ask yourself what is a lighter style that still goes with the
holiday?” says Deuchars. “In that case you might opt for something
with fruit to give it a bit of exoticness, or to bring some r ichness to it;
a strawber ry wheat beer for example. Something with the seasonality
of the fruit, and also something that’s light and easy to drink.There’s
definitely that way to go.”
Deuchars explained that when it comes to brewing more traditional
Christmas beers, it’s a bit easier. “I just ask myself what is a big, r ich
beer that I would like to have on my holiday table. And then I do that.
Just pretend you’re in the Norther n Hemisphere and go for broke,”
he says. “There can be some small technical challenges, like how and
when to add the [fruit] to the beer. If you’re going to bar rel age it,
It’s that time of year again. The decorations are out, the shopping
malls are packed, and our stomachs are already rumbling at the
thought of the holiday feasts that lie ahead. But just as Christmas
has its traditional fare, so too does the season offer up a tantalising
array of Christmas beers. Beer writer John Oszajca tell us more.
56 | December 2016 - Januar y 2017 | Hospitality BUSINESS
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