With the holidays approaching, it’s a great opportunity to experiment with a festive beer. Spices, fruits and hop additions can all be combined to brew the perfect holiday ale or lager. It’s important to choose your base beer before moving forward. For a spiced beer, it is often moderately dark and is well hopped to provide warmth and some complex flavoring. In contrast, fruit based winter beers often use a light wheat base and low hop rates so the flavor of the fruit comes through to be properly accented. You really want to choose a beer that complements the other ingredients.
Have a goal in mind in terms of what flavoring you are trying to achieve. For example, if you want to brew a beer reflecting flavors of a sugar cookie, you might start with a robust body ale and then add sugar or even a small amount of lactic acid or maple sugar to provide warmth and sweetness. Adding a bit of nutmeg would also help in highlighting the flavor of a cookie.
It’s also important to keep things simple and moderate when using adjuncts. Some first-time homebrewers tend to go overboard on the spices and that makes for an overwhelming outcome of taste. You want to accent your beer with these festive flavors without bogging it down.
One of the holiday recipes we enjoy comes from the American Homebrewers Association and we’ve included it below. Happy Brewing this holiday season and stay tuned for more seasonal recipes!
Christmas Cinderella Double Brown Ale:
Not quite your classic English brown ale, this Christmas Cinderella double comes in at about 6.2% ABV. It has the smooth, sweet caramel malt character of an English-style brown that is perfectly balanced with the flavor and aromatic character of chocolate malt. Wheat, special roast, and Belgian aromatic malts combine to contribute a rich, toasty, biscuit-like aroma and flavor, while the small addition of black malt adds color and assertiveness to balance the higher profile of alcohol.
- For 6 gallons (23 L)
- 3 lb. (3 kg) cans EDME Maris Otter malt extract
- 5 lb. (1.13 kg) Maris Otter pale malt
- 1 lb. (0.45 kg) 75° L English crystal malt
- 75 lb. (340 g) wheat malt
- 5 lb. (225 g) special roast malt
- 33 lb. (150 g) black patent malt
- 33 lb. (150 g) Belgian aromatic malt
- 5 oz. (14 g) English Kent Golding whole hops, 2.5 HBU (60 min.)
- 1 oz. American Willamette hop pellets, 5 HBU (60 min.)
- 6 oz. (17 g) American Cascade whole hops, 3 HBU (20 min.)
- 25 tsp. (1.2 mL) powdered Irish moss (10 min.)
- 1 oz. (28 g) American Cascade whole hops, 5 HBU (steep after boiling for 3 min.)
- Wyeast 1275 Thames Valley ale yeast
- 1 cup (237 mL) corn sugar/glucose (to prime)
- Original Gravity:060–1.064
- Final Gravity:013–1.017
- Boil Time:75 minutes
Use a single-step infusion mash for the 3 3/4 lb. (2.6 kg) of grain. Add 6 quarts (5.7 L) of 172° F (78° C) water to the crushed grain, stir, stabilize, and hold the temperature at 156° F (69° C) for 60 minutes.
After conversion, raise temperature to 167° F (75° C) and sparge with 2.5 gallons (9.5 L) of 170° F (77°C) water. You should have about 3.5 gallons (13.3 L) of sweet wort. Add malt extract, English Kent Golding and Willamette hops, then bring to a full and vigorous boil. Boil for 75 minutes. Ferment between 63 and 65° F (17 to 18° C) for 10 to 14 days. For best results, cellar at 50° F (10° C) for 2 to 5 weeks.