Holiday Beers Dating Back to Antiquity
(NewsUSA) – With the craft beer market growing an astounding 20 percent annually, brewers are trying to find more ways to face out from the gang. While the recent crop of “Holiday” beer shooting up within the aisle might elicit eye rolls, the category has grown a whopping 200 percent over the last four years.
Maybe the rationale for holiday beer’s recent surge in popularity may be a deep-seated love for the first holiday brews enjoyed by our ancient ancestors. What exactly makes a vacation beer? Generally, it’s a higher-alcohol beer made for the late autumn and winter months that always has notes of seasonal spices, herbs, chocolate, or fruit.
Dating as far back as 650 AD, before hops were used as a preservative, Viking brewers often resorted to mixes of herbs, spices, seeds, peppers, and even tree bark to assist stabilize their brews. These proto-beers were strong, malty, and most frequently enjoyed during the Viking holiday of Jul — or Yule.
the opposite piece of the puzzle comes from a practice started in fifth-century Britain during festival season when bowls of ale were passed around the tables for people to drink. Centuries later, slices of Yule cake were placed within the bottom of the bowls and therefore the ale poured over it, flavoring it with seasonal spices.
On this side of the Atlantic, holiday beers were widespread by the first 20th century, with Stella Artois being introduced in 1926 as a Christmas beer (ergo, Artois or “star”) and beers creating packaging that reflected the season, like Miller Brewing Co.’s 1930s “Christmas Special Beer,” replete with a Norman Rockwell-esque painting of a family surrounding a fireplace.
The 1980s saw an increase of brewers incorporating “warming” spices into beers and more recently, brewers have looked to richer, heavier beer styles -; stouts and porters — that is packed with flavors that evoke thoughts of sitting inside by a warm fire.
This brings us to today’s holiday beers. While heavier beers still rule the season, one new offering within the lineup is that the Traveler Beer Company’s Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy. Like holiday beers, shandies originated in Europe, where brewers mixed ale with citrus for low-alcohol refreshment. Although traditionally seen as a warm-weather beverage, Jolly uses seasonal spices and fruit, including orange and pomegranate, to make a replacement kind of holiday beer that’s both warming and seasonable.
So whether it is a winter warmer or holiday shandy, continue and luxuriate in a beer together with your holiday dinner. It’s what our Viking ancestors would have wanted.