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A Beer-y Merry Christmas

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Santa’s guide to the perfect Christmas party beer

By Kris Kringle

Ho ho ho! Beer-y Christmas, boys and girls (of legal drinking age)! It’s me, Santa Claus, here to give you advice about my favourite drink. Milk? Ho ho no! That’s just what we tell the kids. It’s BEER. Trust me, after a long, freezing night in the workshop, nothing is better than throwing back a few with the elves. Let’s just say there’s a reason Rudolph’s nose glows.

As the song goes, I see you when you’re sleeping, know when you’re awake and know when you brought that horrible beer to your office Christmas party last year. But don’t worry, Santa’s handy “naughty or nice” guide to select the perfect party beer.

But first, a little Beer 101

All beers are made with essentially the same ingredients – I should know, I’ve been brewing it for 800 years! We’re talking water, grain, hops and yeast. The living yeast turns the grain into alcohol, and hops (the small, green buds of the hop plant) give beer that bitter flavour.

The basic flavour and other characteristics of beer depend on the amount of hops, the type of grain (wheat, barley, rye, etc.) and the way the beer is brewed. All beers fall into two broad categories:

  • Ales, which represent the most common beer varieties. These tend to be sweeter, richer and heavier. Ales are brewed at higher temperatures, causing the yeast to float to the top of the mix.
  • Lagers: Lighter, crisper and more “drinkable” than many ales, which is why most cheap, mass-market beers are lagers. Lagers are brewed at cooler temperatures, causing the yeast to sink to the bottom.

Got it? Jolly good! Now let’s find the perfect beer for that holiday party.

Porter: Nice

Porters are the perfect beer to keep out the winter chill and leave you feeling full and jolly. They are heavy, dark-coloured ales that are usually sweeter, and less hoppy and bitter than other ales. They tend to be thick, creamy and earthy with notes of chocolate.

Pilsner: Naughty

Pilsners, especially European pilsners, are light, crisp golden lagers known for being drinkable and refreshing. American-style pilsners tend to be fuller-bodied with a higher alcohol content, which makes them great for hot summer days but not necessarily crisp, holly-decked evenings.

Stout: Nice

Stouts, originally called “stout porters”, are a darker, dryer member of the porter family. They tend to be smoky and earthy with notes of coffee (the popular Irish beer Guinness is a stout). Both traditionally hail from Ireland and England. I should know, I invented it! Ho ho ho!

Wheat Beer: Naughty

As the name suggests, wheat beers are made with wheat – typically around 50 per cent mixed with barley or other grains. Wheat-based beers are light, mild and refreshing, but I suppose you can still get away with bringing a wheat beer to a winter party if you know what to pick.

Pale Ale: Nice

Pale ales (they literally have a paler colour most other ales) are lighter, crisper ales with a sweeter, fruitier taste. “Blonde” pale ales are common, but for a holiday party, look for “amber” and “English” on the label.

India Pale Ale: Naughty

India pale ales (or IPAs) tend to be more bitter than ordinary pale ales with higher alcohol levels, a sharp, hoppy taste, and fruity notes – especially citrus. There are many varieties of IPA in a range of flavours and strengths. IPAs would be on my nice list, except insufferable beer snobs adore IPAs and one will probably already bring an IPA to the party. Don’t worry: insufferable beer snobs always get coal in their stockings. (For adults, “coal” means things like root canals and late-night texts from your ex.)

Bock: Nice

As the name suggests, bocks come from Germany. Bocks are lagers, but on the dark end, with a full, rich flavour. Great for people who like lagers and old fashioned Rhineland holiday mirth.

Ho ho ho, this should be all you need to choose a nice Yuletide beverage! Honestly, you would be surprised how many people ask me, an omnipotent, semi-divine being, about beer and not, say, the location of Cleopatra’s Tomb or the identity of Jack the Ripper.

What? You want to know who really killed John F. Kennedy?

Umm… On, Dasher! On, Dancer! Tap the keg!

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