Tis’ the Season for Christmas Beers 2017 What to Drink This Holiday Season

We’ve spent some much needed time getting ready for the holidays, which luckily for us, means sampling Czech Christmas beers.

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We found the variety in aroma and taste between beers to be quite stunning, and there were some surprises. The sensory palate includes everything from banana to bourbon to pumpkin pie and cherry cough syrup. We’ve arranged this list to start with the beers we enjoyed drinking the most, to those which well, didn’t leave us feeling so very merry. The variety was plentiful, and this is sadly by no means a complete list of all the Christmas beers currently out there.

1. Vánoční Special 14 (from Pivovar U Vacků)

Creamy and spiced like a good pumpkin pie, this is one of the more dessert-like Christmas beers. The texture is just wonderful; it’s got a soft, luxurious creaminess. U Vacků’s ale begins with a strong aroma of gingerbread, allspice and nutmeg (really think pumpkin pie!). The spices of nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice are nicely enhanced by a caramel malt body and balanced with hops. A lovely and superbly made beer. Not something you’d drink everyday, but for the holidays it seems just right. Despite the silliness of the bottle, (there’s a woman in a Santa hat holding a box of Christmas cookies, but at least she has her clothes on), this was the best surprise of the Christmas beer season.  

2. Únětický 13° Special Amber Lager

Another excellent seasonal speciality from Únětický, their Christmas amber lager has that remarkable drinkability that all Únětický lagers do. The aroma is malty with subtle ginger spiciness. The head is a dessert-like whipped creamy tan, and the color a light golden amber. A complex lager, the main flavors are rich caramel roasted malt, with a touch of ginger, and biscuit. One of the most well balanced Czech Christmas beers, it combines what Czechs do best (laying back a few) with the Christmas spirit.

3. Vánoční Amber Special from Mazák

A 13° amber special lager, this Christmas beer from Pivovar Mazák has an aroma and taste profile that’s very similar to Únětický’s. It has that lager drinkability which is especially refreshing for this time of year in comparison to the heavy alcohol Christmas brews. The color is a bright reddish amber, and it has a thick bubbly head which dissipates fast. It’s got a malty body, with rich caramel roasty tones, followed by a nice crips hoppy bitterness. The body of the beer isn’t as full and complex as Únětický’s, but still a very nice amber seasonal lager.

4. Clock Zlatý Prasátko

Clock’s 2017 edition of Zlatý Prasátko, a Belgian style IPA (because it uses Belgian ale yeast) begins with an extremely floral, sweet aroma….think of that generic sugary candy smell, plus banana. It has a persistent creamy head. Bubble gum and banana dominate the flavor, and this beer has a thick mouthfeel. It has a bitter, hoppy finish from the Amarillo and Idaho 7 hops, which in our opinion, doesn’t marry well with the extreme sweetness of the banana in both aroma and taste. It doesn’t quite seem like an authentic example of a Belgian stye IPA. Regardless, we still found it enjoyable enough to be #4.  

5. Vánoční 14° from Pivovar Mordýř

This is a 14° lager that begins with the sweet aroma of bourbon, honey, and some malty breadiness. A dark, honey colored gold, this lager has a crisp body and the dominant taste is of sweet bourbon, which we actually find to be a nicely done, unique taste for a Czech Christmas beer. There’s a smooth bready, malty, cereal taste to the body, with hints of wood and oak. It’s also well hopped and the bitterness nicely balances the sweet bread bourbon. A definite try if you’re not keen on the gingerbread and spice kind of Christmas beer. It’s also got the drinkability of a lager too.

6. Matuška Vánoční Ale

This 7.8% special amber ale (yet also called an Extra India Pale Ale) from Matuška begins with a tropical fruit aroma, specifically of mango and pineapple. With good head retention, this dark gold beer is very similar to many of Matuška’s other beers; it has a full, sweeter body and the hops are the main sensory event. There’s a slight alcoholic taste, and combined with the warming feeling that you have as you drink, it’s obvious this is the beer of choice for not-so-fun Christmas parties and family ‘unfunctionalities’. Give your boss a big glass of this. However, it doesn’t offer the drinker much in the way of uniqueness.

7. Permon XMas Ale

Permon’s 13° APA is a pretty aromatic Christmas beer, with more in common with the APA style than what you’d typically think of for a Christmas beer. The aroma is hoppy, with a sweet grassiness and a touch of pine. There’s a very vague hint of ginger. It’s a dark gold, and has a taste of citrus, pine, lemon peel, and has a long bitter finish. This beer uses 3 different kinds of hops, and as far as we can taste….seems to be a pretty normal (but quite good APA). One wonders about the label of Christmas beer here.

8. Clock 13° American Amber Lager

Clock’s 13° Special American Amber lager starts with an extremely light and sweet malty aroma of caramel and bread. This lager has a very light amber color with a milky head. There’s a strong malty bready flavour, ending with sharp, slightly muddy/earthy finish. Not one of Clock’s best beers. This is a single hop beer, featuring American Chinook hops.

99. Krušnohor 13° Vánoční Lager

With the first whiff, you immediately recognize gingerbread cookies, liquorice, and there’s a hint of cherry coffee syrup. It has a warm, rich amber red colour, and is quite cloudy. As for the flavor, the pleasant gingerbread cookie is overwhelmed by a medicinal, cough syrup taste that ends in a sharp but brief bitterness. Not our cup of tea…far too medicinal and reminiscent of Becherovka. By far, the worst beer we tried.

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