The Most Wonderful Time for a Beer: Rediscovering Bier de Noel

by Ryan Pachmayer & Sachin “Chino” Darji

November typically heralds the arrival of Biere de Noel, or Christmas beer, on store shelves. Charlie Gottenkieny, co-founder of Bruz Beers in Denver and two-time AHA Homebrewer of the Year, explains that the modern style harks back to a special beer that brewers offered to their patrons each holiday season, usually with a stronger-than-typical punch. Christmas beers are not always high ABV beers bombs however, and its not uncommon for a brewery to make their holiday offering special by bumping up the flavor and alcohol on their flagship beer. “On the continent they started spicing them,” explains Gottenkieny, but “less so in England,” where holiday beers tend to be maltier and stronger than their everyday pints, old ales and British strong ales that are often called winter warmers. Consistent with their brewing culture, American brewers tend to spice their Noel beers with a heavier hand and bolder flavors than the Belgians do, setting up a trichotomy in world culture of holiday beers.

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