Holiday Brew Ideas

As the holidays grow near, you may begin to recognize some familiar brews on the shelves. Everything from Fistmas to Dogfish Head’s Penn Tuxedo, this time of year allows brewers unleash their creativity and curiosity by experimenting with spices, fruit, and vegitative matter (like spruce tips). If you don’t know where to start, look no further as we have ideas aplenty.

Gingerbread Ale:

The base of this beer should be your favorite brown ale, what you are going for is a toastier beer to build off of. Hops should be fairly subdued as you want the spices and malt to take center stage. For yeast, go with a low ester yeast with a lower attenuation (I used OYL-016). Any esters will quickly overwhelm the spice flavor you are going for and the lower attenuation will allow for the sweetness you need. At the end of boil, throw in cinnamon (1 tsp.), ground ginger (.5 tsp), allspice (.25 tsp), and clove (.25 tsp.). Age this beer for 5-6 months, this allows the flavors to get to know each other.

Chestnut Ale:

What started as a weird experiment resulted in a yearly tradition. The base recipe is a lighter beer with a lot of malt variety (pale, vienna, and munich malt with light/medium caramel malt and biscuit malt). Hopping is light, with an ounce of Challenger at 1 hour and an ounce of Styrian Goldings at 15 minutes. Yeast is a low ester, low attenuation strain with high flocculation. For chestnuts, I use boiled chestnuts which can easily be found online with 9 ounces going in at flame-out and another 9 ounces in secondary fermentation for 2-4 weeks. Typically this beer should be aged 6-8 months as the chestnut can be overbearing in the first few months.

Pumpkin Ale:

One of the more divisive beers in the homebrewing community, pumpkin beers are either spice forward or pumpkin forward. I experimented earlier this year with a pumpkin forward ale and it did not disappoint. I roasted and peeled 4 lbs of pumpkin with a dusting of brown sugar a couple days in advance. For malt, I again went with a toasty presence (marris otter, munich, the works) along with half a pound of piloncillo. Hop presence was low, with a mild english ale yeast (WLP-002). Spices were vietnamese cinnamon (5 tsp.), ginger (1 tsp.), and nutmeg (1 tsp.) at the end of the boil. Age this beer for 1-3 months as the pumpkin flavor can dissipate over time.

-Rhys Goulbourn