Your Own Beer Advent Calendar

For Christmas beer fans, what could be better than a Christmas beer Advent calendar? Here’s how you can have your own Christmas beer Advent calendar.

In the UK and Canada, specially decorated cases of beer are available each November. In the United States, shipping beer is difficult, due to archaic and jumbled alcohol laws.

2019 Belgian Christmas Beer Festival Top 10

The 25th year of the Kerstbierfestival in Essen, Belgium was held December 14 & 15, 2019. This is the premier Christmas beer festival featuring an amazing 230 Christmas beers. You can see the full list here.

The festival attracts Christmas beer fan from around the world. This year there were 27 nationalities including from 19 different US States and 2 Canadian provinces. Those attending voted on their favorites and here’s the list.

2019 Kerstbierfestival Top 10

The 10 favorite Christmas beers from the 2019 Belgian Christmas beer festival contain both favorites and new entries. The list begins with the beer name, the brewery, their location, and the movement on the list relative to the 2018 Top 10 list. Click the links to read out review.

  1. Schuppenboer Winter 2019 (Het Nest, Oud-Turnhout) same
  2. Black Pudding (Vleesmeester Brewery, Edegem) +1
  3. Stille Nacht (De Dolle Brouwers, Esen) -1
  4. Samhain (CyDraLe, Zandvliet) new
  5. Stille Nacht Reserva 2015 (De Dolle Brouwers, Esen) new
  6. Gouden Carolus Christmas (Het Anker, Mechelen) new
  7. Sint Bernardus Christmas Ale (Sint Bernardus, Watou) same
  8. Zilverkerst (HillDevils, Wouwse Plantage, NL) new 
  9. Let the stars begin to fall (White Pony, Padua, IT) new
  10. My Honningkage is Bigger Than Yours Bourbon Ed. (To Øl, Kopenhagen, DK) new

The festival will be back in 2020 on December 12 & 13. Be sure to buy your tickets ahead of time in August or you won’t get into this popular event.

De Dolle Brouwers Stille Nacht Reserva 2015 Review

My favorite Christmas beer is Stille Nacht by De Dolle Brouwers. It’s not the normal malty style Belgium Christmas beer, which are wonderful, instead Stille Nacht is a golden, sweet, complex beer with fruit notes that ages beautifully.

Every 5 years, Kris Herteleer releases a barrel-aged version that he calls Reserva. The Stille Nacht Reserva 2015 is out and here’s the story.

The First Brew of Stille Nacht

I spoke with Kris Herteleer the brewer at De Dolle Brouwers about the history Stille Nacht beer. He told me the story of the first brew back in 1981.

In 1980, De Dolle Brouwers (meaning: the mad brewers) brought back to life a 150 year-old brewery, closed since World War I. The first batch of what was to become Stille Nacht was brewed the following year.

I’ll let Kris tell the story:

“The first time it was like a stronger version of ould beer. It was dark, and the people they complained, they wanted the good Stille Nacht, and they got ould beer.” (Ould beer, means “old beer” a malty style.)

“And I said, is ould beer not good enough? I said, I will change the recipe, and put our pale malt instead of the complex malt situation of ould beer. But the first was not called Stille Nacht. We had not yet a name. It was called Special Brouwsel. With white labels.”

“It was a very dark beer, and was very strong, boiled for a lot of hours. In fact it was too strong. So the fermentation did not work as it should go, and after one year of lagering, we finally bottled it, but we didn’t know much how to bottle.”

“Even though we would have problems to let it re-ferment because the density is too strong, maybe with champagne yeast, which we are using now for the Reservas. It’s not always certain to have a refermentation with such kind of beers. So we had the beer, and it was flat. We say beer in Belgium must foam, otherwise we cannot serve it.”

“We were a bit ashamed with our microbrewers and homebrewers.”

After that first brew. Kris changed the recipe and the name, producing Stille Nacht to this day, one of the best Christmas beers in the world.

To Øl 1 Ton of… Christmas Review

To Øl 1 is a recent brewery with a lot of success and a huge following. The commercial brewing began in 2010. In 2014 ranked them as the 9th best brewery in the world. They currently export to 40 countries. On to the beer…

Ton of… Christmas pours a opaque hazy blush pink, with a huge head of blush tinged foam. It has a vivid tart taste. It’s brewed as a Berliner Weisse along with cherries, redcurrant, and prunes. The fruit provides a kaleidoscope of flavors resulting in a complex, interesting beer. The tart fruit taste is a refreshing change from the syrupy malt bombs that are passed off as Christmas beers these days.

Ton of… Christmas weights in at 8.1% ABV. Look for the cute Elves on the label.

To Øl brews a number of Christmas-themed beers. And even sells a beer Advent calendar. Take a look at them here. I’d love to try the rest of their Christmas beers, especially the barrel-aged versions.

Abita Brewing Christmas Ale 2019 Review

We’re heading to the deep South for Abita Brewing’s Christmas Ale, just outside New Orleans, to be specific. Abita is a privately owned brewery with wide distribution. They make excellent Root Beer. The recipe for their Christmas Ale changes each year.

The 2019 Christmas Ale is a Brown Ale that pours with a long-lasting foam head. It’s brewed with six types of malted barley, pale malt as well as a combination of Caramel, Biscuit, Munich, and chocolate malts. This malty base gives the beer good body and nice mouthfeel. The Columbus, Cascade, Centennial, and Amarillo hops produce a piney and floral flavor. Overall, it’s an refreshing, interesting Christmas beer. It’s 5.8% ABV.

The label features a present-toting Papa Noel flying through the night sky in a swap boat pulled by a team on alligators.

Breckenridge Brewery Christmas Ale Review

Next up, a widely distributed Christmas Ale from Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado. Distribution is wide because the brewery was bought by Anheuser-Busch in 2016. But let’s not hold that against them. 

I have to tell you that I’m predisposed to like Christmas Ale because I also bought a 5 litre mini keg. It’s a screaming deal at around $18.99. I plan to serve it at my annual Christmas party. 

Let’s dive into the Christmas Ale. This beer pours a chestnut color with a auburn head of foam. It’s bright and clear. On first taste, there’s a zingy spice on the tongue. Unlike many Christmas beer’s, it’s not a spiced ale, however, the brewery says Chinook and Mt. Hood hops contribute the spiciness. Next comes a bit of caramel and slight cocoa flavors. It finishes very clean and crisp, which adds to the spice impression. It’s 7.1% ABV.

This is a good Winter Warmer that will be enjoyed by a cross-section of people. People who enjoy lighter beers such as lagers and pilsners won’t be overwhelmed by this beer as they would with a spiced beer or something darker such as a stout. Craft beer lovers will be wanting a few more distinct flavor notes.