What Constitutes a Christmas Beer in the Southern Hemisphere?

With Christmas just around the corner, a certain quiet panic sits just on the fringes of the usually zen like consciousness of the home brewer. Of course, that highly organised and mildly irritating home brewer friend of yours sleeps peacefully at night to the happy gurgling of a fermenting christmas brew. However, the other 99% of us are still quietly contemplating recipe permutations with a growing sense of unease and urgency. It’s pretty close to that now or never stage…unless of course you are planning a partially fermented Heavy Fusol Christmas Ale, cleverly speed fermented at 35 degrees 2 days before Christmas, served warm and force carbonated on christmas day.

Part of the angst involves the tricky business of conceptualising a Christmas Beer. Christmas beers are traditionally spiced up, full bodied, high alcohol affairs, fantastic for sipping in front of the fire while you watch the snow flakes fall on your dreamy white Christmas. However, for us down South, this is a most unlikely scenario. Despite the concerning effects of global warming, a traditional Christmas beer is just not the sort of beer Im likely to be hankering after come December 25. So what might constitute a Christmas beer in the South African context? What elements of Christmassy charm are going to combine with the sort of beer I want to be drinking in the middle of a hot African summer?  Before you go ahead and butcher your favourite session beer recipe, by pouring (in the name of Christmas) all your half empty spice bottles into the boil, consider the following suggestions.

The most obvious thought that comes to mind is Weiss beer. The spicy, pepper, clove phenolics present in a good Weiss certainly have a Christmassy feel and there is nothing more refreshing then a well made Weiss on a hot day. In fact, in terms of food pairings, I rather like the idea of washing back my clove glazed ham and cauliflower in cheese sauce with a chilled Christmas Weiss.

Linguistically speaking I am drawn to the Wit Christmas. But there is more to a Wit and Christmas then just witty semantics. Obviously, Wits are clinically thirst quenching summer beers, but they also have some very Chritmassy nuances; light honey notes, spicy wheat aromatics, and then this zesty orange, citrus, fruitiness that just screams of festivity. Begin your Christmas celebration  with your Wit Christmas, paired with some mild cheese and crackers.

Finally, and this one is a little more obscure, but stick with me. Christmas is just not Christmas without a Christmas tree. And Christmas trees are conifers that exude lovely resinous, piney aromas. From here to Simcoe… and from Simcoe to an IPA that hits you in the face like a Christmas tree full of Mangoes. The logic is impeccable…a perfectly brewed IPA made with hops, specially selected for their piney resinous qualities, is surely a worthy candidate for a Southern Hemisphere Christmas beer. Create a robust toffee-malt backbone and pair your Christmas IPA with your christmas pudding…Damn, I can’t wait for Christmas!