However, Belgian brewers have been producing excellent sweet, spicy, sour and downright strange festive beers for many years. Now, a number of UK craft breweries are also making seasonal beers good enough that we ought to be able to consign monstrosities such as ‘Santa’s Sac’, and ‘A Good Stuffing’ (These are actual names of Christmas beers in years gone by) to the history books.
Here are 12 – one for each day of Christmas – of the best brews to crack by an open fire this year.
Note: These beers are not all explicitly labelled as ‘Christmas beers’ but share common qualities that make them suitable for consumption over the festive period.
Thornbridge Cocoa Wonderland 6.8% ABV
The perfect beer to enjoy as an after-dinner treat, Cocoa Wonderland is a full-bodied and robust porter with natural mocha malt flavours and cocoa beans added during the maturation process. The result is a smooth and complex drinking dessert beer that will top off any meal.
Wiper & True Plum Pudding Porter 5.9% ABV
This delicious plum pudding porter has a rich malt base and the festive addition of mixed fruit, lemon zest and cinnamon. It pours a deep ruby colour and has aromas of dried fruit and toffee. It is appropriately seasonal, but superbly sessionable.
St Bernardus Christmas Ale 10% ABV
The first Belgian beer on this list is a corker. St Bernardus Christmas Ale is a dark seasonal brew in the classic 'quadrupel' style of Belgium's best abbey ales. The beer exudes flavours of molasses, apricots, licorice and marzipan, rounded out by a suitably boozy kick. The perfect Christmas evening nightcap.
Wild Beer Co Ninkasi 9% ABV
Forget Prosecco and Bucks Fizz, this is the beer you want to be drinking on Christmas morning. Brewed with apple juice, Champagne fermentation techniques and wild yeast strains, Ninkasi is effortlessly crisp and delightfully aromatic. A Champagne-like spritziness on the tongue makes this the perfect beer for a celebratory occasion.
Anspach & Hobday Pfeffernusse Saison 7.5% ABV
A seasonal amber ale brewed with saison yeast, the Pfeffernüsse Saison is Bermondsey brewery Anspach & Hobday’s showstopper. Spicy, with notes of pepper, cloves, toffee and caramel, the beer has hidden layers of complexity that unveil themselves as it warms up in the glass. Great in front of an open fire.
Mikkeller Red/White Christmas 8% ABV
A combination of a red ale and a Belgian style wit beer, this festive offering from Danish brewers Mikkeller is a marriage of styles and a Christmas beer of real distinction. The refreshing, citrus edge of the wit is balanced out by a steady malt backbone, creating a beer that is both expertly balanced and dangerously drinkable.
Fuller’s Vintage Ale 8.5% ABV
Not strictly a Christmas beer, but included on this list due to the time of its release each year, Fuller’s vintage ale always feels synonymous with the festive season. Each yearly variant has a different recipe, but all mature slowly over the years like a fine wine or whisky, making them perfect to crack on a special occasion like Christmas.
Saison Dupont 6.5% ABV
Perhaps the least festive beer on this list, but included by virtue of being pretty much the perfect beer to drink with a turkey dinner, Saison Dupont is a Belgian farmhouse style beer from Brasserie Dupont, a brewery in Tourpes-Leuze. Crisp, dry and slightly funky, the beer will cut through your Christmas roast with ease, while complementing rather than drowning out the flavours of the dish.
Delirium Noel 10% ABV
Perhaps the one beer with an overtly festive label that doesn’t offend us, Delirium Noel is a gorgeous Belgian quadrupel with aromas of candied orange, caramel, fruit, spices and a wonderfully sweet alcohol burn. Another great option to finish Christmas day off in style.
Magic Rock Bearded Lady Dessert Edition 10.5%
An extremely rare and limited release from Huddersfield’s Magic Rock Brewery, Bearded Lady Dessert Edition is a Bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout that has been allowed to mature for six months in Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrels. The beer is then further aged with with additions of Venezuelan Cacao Nibs, Madagascan Vanilla and Indian Cinnamon. A truly decadent brew.
To Øl Santa Gose F&%# It All 4% ABV
If you’re after a beer to banish the winter blues and bring back memories of summer, this salty gose from Danish brewers To Øl might be just the ticket. Loaded with passion fruit, mango and guava, Santa Gose F&%# It All will leave you feeling refreshed and raring to go after one too many mince pies.
Rodenbach Grand Cru 6% ABV
A truly exceptional Flemish red ale, Rodenbach Grand Cru owes its delightfully sour taste and complex fruit flavours due to a lengthy partial maturation in wooden oak casks. Aromas of balsamic vinegar and sharp-yet-sweet flavours of fruit, oak and Madeira wine make this beer a fine choice for any time over the festive period.