Unearthing winter brews The history of Christmas and winter beers

Issue: 4/2015
Winter and Christmas beers are released every year, but do you know the story behind the tradition?

Hello Switzerland contacted Philippe Corbat, a beer hunter and beer lover from Bienne, Switzerland, to learn more about the yummy seasonal beers released around Christmas. Philippe, who is known as Bov by his friends, realized his passion for beer while visiting Belgium in 1987. Since then he has sampled more than 9,000 beers from around the world! As you can imagine, Bov has a wealth of knowledge about his favourite beverage. He filled Hello Switzerland in on the history of Christmas and winter beers.

What is Christmas beer?

Firstly, Bov emphasizes the fact that "Christmas beers" are not actually a style of beer. Rather, they are part of a seasonal tradition that has its roots in northern Europe, most notably Belgium. At the end of each year, breweries customarily needed to use up their remaining raw materials in order to make room in their stores for the next year's supply. The special "winter" or "Christmas" beers they made with these supplies were generally reserved for regular customers and employees. 

What do Christmas beers taste like?

Christmas beers are often dark, with strong flavour. They occasionally include clove, coriander, honey, bitter orange, cinnamon, or ginger. But these days, even Tripel, IPA (Indian Pale Ale) or Weissbier can be found among the winter and Christmas beers.

Learn more about Bov and read his reviews of beers from over 150 countries on his website



Bov's list of some of the best known European Christmas beers available in Switzerland:

Switzerland Belgium
Schweiz Feldschlösschen Winterbier Gouden Carolous Noël 
Cardinal Xmas Affligem de Noël 
Schützengarten Festbier Bush de Noël 
Ueli Festbier St-Feuillien
Falken Festbier Delirium de Noël 
Baarer Festbier N'Ice Chouffe
Unser Bier Weihnachtsbier Barbar Winterbock
Altes Tramdepot Weihnachtsbier Bon Secours Noël 
Sudwerk Santa's Reserve Bush Noël 
Seelandbräu Lago Mio De Koninck Winter
  Huyghe la Mère
  Noël Liefmans Glühkriek
Germany U.K.
Astra Arschkalt Brewdog Hoppy Christmas
Erdinger Schneeweisse Brewdog Santa Paws
Rothaus Eiszäpfle Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale
Störtebeker Glühbier Shepherd Neame Vintage Christmas
Tucher Christkindlmarkt St. Peter's Christmas Ale
Ch'ti Noel  
Pietra de Noel  


Where to find Christmas beers in Switzerland:

Drinks of the World www.drinksoftheworld.ch

Amstein www.amstein.ch

Large COOP locations

Au Grain d'Orge www.augraindorge.ch

Bier/Bienne biershop.bierbienne.ch

Bier-Laden Schwarzenburg www.bier-laden.ch

Wittich www.biershop-wittich.ch

Mise en Bière www.lamiseenbiere.ch




Photos: Emma Baumhofer




Author: Emma Baumhofer - Hello Switzerland

Emma Baumhofer is a Digital Consultant living in Switzerland.

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