Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
December is the month we tap into Christmas
beers and winter warmers.
The idea of Jul beers originated more than a
thousand years ago with the Vikings. Their tradition persisted as
Christmas replaced Jul and the Vikings settled in Norway, Sweden,
While Christmas brewing takes different
forms in many countries, my understanding of Christmas beers and
winter warmers comes primarily from England. Old ale is a term which
commonly refers to dark, malty English beers which are generally
above 5% ABV, or alcohol by volume. Old ale can also be associated
with the terms stock ale or keeping ale because beer is often held
at the brewery.
Traditionally, old ales complemented mild
ales. Pubs would serve a blend of a sharper stock ale with a
fruitier, sweeter mild ale. Eventually brewers began to keep some
ales at the brewery, age them into old ale, and sell them to pubs.
Winter warmers are traditional malty-sweet
strong ale which is brewed during winter months. They are usually
dark, but not as dark as a stout, and have a big malt presence. Some
winter warmers have a few spices, especially in the United States,
though spices are not required. The primary quality of a winter
warmer is strength. Winter warmers generally average from 6.0% to
8.0% ABV, and some reach 10.0% ABV or higher.
Christmas beer is a type of winter warmer,
strong in alcohol content and often spiced. Traditional Christmas
beers are strong and spiced with a variety of ingredients like
cinnamon, orange peel, cloves, and vanilla.
The term winter warmer is most often
associated with the United Kingdom while Christmas beer or Holiday
beer is more typical of the United States.
Anchor Brewing Company release of Our
Special Ale in 1975 sparked the renewal of commercial holiday beers
in the United States.
December begins in a liturgical season
called Advent. Advent is a season of anticipation and preparation
for Christmas on the Christian calendar.
Advent is taking time to prepare and
anticipate. It is not the anticipation of eagerly reaching forward,
trying to hasten the arrival of the present, the gift, the payoff.
It is the savoring of the anticipation, recognizing it and letting
each day teach us its lessons. Advent is rooted in mindfulness of
the present moment, not our desire for the future or regret about
Advent teaches us to anticipate without
Above all, Advent is about combining the
challenges and joy that come from waiting and preparing in
anticipation. We are quiet enough to listen, yet expectant enough to
Advent gives us ways to prepare and get
ready for what we anticipate.
Some of us tend to see anticipation as a
competitive advantage. We try to anticipate our competition's next
move or what obstacles we might face next.
Anticipation is a strategic strength which
takes us closer to achieving our goals.
The anticipation in Advent is different.
People who practice Advent anticipate and
prepare for receiving great joy.
Individuals and groups who value Advent are
looking forward to receiving a great gift. Their gifts are not
presents under a tree. The shopping and buying of The Holiday Season
tend to distract us from Advent.
Advent is about the spiritual life and
meaning which underlies the economic activity. We practice savoring
deep, sacred truths in the midst of all the distractions. It can be
easy for us to get lost, frustrated, and frazzled until we miss what
is most important.
Advent is about finding ways to remind
ourselves of the deeper reasons underneath everyday life.
Advent's anticipation is not about
overcoming a competitor or an obstacle. The anticipation in Advent
has more to do with moving us into the blessings waiting for us. We
spend time each day practicing being open to receive.
We learn to anticipate and prepare for the
celebration of Christmas the way we anticipate tasting winter
For me, the anticipation of Advent is more
about giving than receiving. Each year I practice Advent as a way to
pay attention to the wonder of the season, not merely how many days
I have to shop.
I appreciate Advent because it is the
liturgical season, just as December is the month, during which I was
born. This year I am celebrating my birthday by raising money for
the Mitzvah Circle Foundation. You can learn all about Mitzvah
Circle and my friend Fran Held, and how you can help them raise
money on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/donate/1049811335411102/.
Thank you for your help.
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life
mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft
brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg is a
recovering attorney. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk.
You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com,
and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel