Monday, December 5, 2011

Beer style of the week; German-style Christmas Biers

Week 42

The jolly Germans are a Christmas-respecting people. On Christmas Days past, they have taken time out from intense fighting during WWI and WWII to exchange gifts, food and drink with the enemy of the day only to resume battle on December 26th.

As the song, ‘O Tannenbaum’ rings out through the Rhineland, you are likely find mugs of dark beer (bier) swaying in rhythm and hoisted towards the glimmering star atop the Yule Tree. And this isn’t just any run-of-the-mill Euro-Lager. Nein, nein, nein!!! This is deep, rich, soul-warming German-style Christmas Bier! Bocks, Double Bocks und uber rich lagers…

Land of origin

Mahr’s Christmas Bock – Mahrs Brau – Bamberg, Germany – 6% ABV

This was my first Christmas Bock. What was it to be compared to?

It pours a deep amber with a thin off-white head and some trails of lace. An initial malty aroma fades rather quickly. A Euro-hop smell picks up where the malt fades. A distant, yet constant earthy smell remains throughout. At first swallow, the malt body seems a little thin for the winter-type style, but as it warms, more malty characteristics are revealed. A little sweet caramel and lots fresh baked bread favors begin to assert themselves. The hops possess a metallic bite and just a hint of limey bitterness. This brew sweetens and displays a lightly herbal character late in the glass. All in all a pretty good winter brew.

It can be compared to (distantly) Young's Winter Warmer.

Samichlaus (Santa Claus) – Brauerei Schoss Eggenberg – Vorchdorf, Austria – 14% ABV

The World’s Most Extraordinary Beer (says so on the label). Bottled 2002 – rated in 2004. This Rare Malt Liquor is dark maple in color with a fast fading beige head. The aroma is rummy and malty with a faint trace of hops sneaking through. The full sweet malt houses highly hopped citrus bitterness. Dark rum flavors mingle with strong honey and light lemony taste. Strongly Alcoholic at 14% abv. But, it slides easily and dangerously down.

One of my favorite ports or sherries.

New England

Samuel Adams Winter Lager – Boston Beer Company – Boston, Massachusetts – 5.5%

On draft. Served in a standard pint glass.

It pours a dark ruby-hued amber color with a solid 2" beige head and plenty of web and trailing lacing.

The first smell is sweet wet malt and nut bread. A light whiff of mixed fruit cup with a hint of nutmeg and peppery spice follows.

If there was a liquid bock honey granola bar, this would be the recipe, less a mild taste of white rum and raisins.

A bit of lime-like citrus taste pulls through in the aftertaste.

All in all, a solid Bock...not spectacular...but a solid brew.

Winter Works (Zoiglbier) – Hingham Beer Works – Hingham, MA – 5% ABV

On draft

Pours a rusty copper color with a thin, fast-fading off-white head and lots of lacing.

A smell of crushed rye crackers, toasted malt and resinous hops are distinct but equal until the sweetness of the malt inches forward and takes center stage. A wisp of a dark toast is in the background.

The flavors pretty much mirror the aromas, except you notice citrusier and tobacco notes.

This is a real easy drinker. How a Zoiglbier (originally a “community” beer) is perceived as a winter beer is unclear, but I’ll buy it anyway.

So in the spirit of the season, the charitable thing to do is to joyfully drink all Christmas or Holiday offerings without being overly critical of the naming of the beer style. If the brewer brews us style that makes us rejoice, let it be. Enjoy it and give thanks!

Prost and Cheers!


German - Am juengsten Tage wirds geschaut,

was jeder hier fuer Bier gebraut!

English - On judgment day it will be clear,

what everyone had brewed as beer.

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