The History of Christmas Beers


The long history of the unique and broad style of beer called Christmas Beer isn’t really a style of beer — it’s a tradition. Today, hundreds of breweries celebrate the season by brewing their special Christmas Beers. There are many types of Christmas Beers so they really don’t fit into a specific style. They are special beers brewed once a year and anything goes although most will be brewed with ‘Holiday” spices.

beer-column_webYou could loosely trace the history of Christmas Beers back to the early fifth century in which crowds of merry revelers went door to door singing joyful songs at Christmas time. They would carry their decorated cups filled with special ales spiced with nutmeg and sugar and these ales would be stronger than the usual ale they drank day to day. In early America, Christmas was banned by the strict Puritans of Massachusetts Bay but later most pre Prohibition Christmas beers were standard brands advertised as holiday beers with Santa as the theme. It wasn’t until 1975 when Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing re-introduced the tradition by brewing Anchor Our Special Ale, their Christmas Beer, which has been brewed each year since. This special beer had spices added

to it in 1987 and the recipe changes a little bit each year.

Today many breweries produce Christmas Beers with some containing spices

in the Old World tradition and many having no spices at all. Some American Christmas Beers are hoppy, while some contain everything from honey to spruce tips and cranberries. Enjoy the holiday season and share some special Christmas Beers with friends and family! Cheers!

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