FEB/MAR 2005 | REGIONAL | INTERNATIONAL
Ten Years Of Christmas Beers
By Chuck Cook
What is most likely the top Christmas beer festival in the
world was held in Essen, Belgium (north of Antwerp, near the
Dutch border), December 11–12. This was the 10th edition
of the fest, organized by the Objective Beer Tasters of the
Essen Region (O.B.E.R.), and it was very special. There were
108 bottled brews on offer, some of them quite rare. Bush
Prestige, Malheur Brut Noir, and De Dolle Oerbier Special
Reserva 2002 were among them. Of the 16 beers on tap (a very
high number for a Belgian beer fest) there were 10 beers with
over 10% abv!
Small paper tickets, each costing 1.25 euros, were used for
purchasing beers. Most of the beers cost one token, but some
of the rarer ones were two, three or four tokens. Special
festival glasses (15-cl pours) cost 3 euros and made great
Virtually every Christmas beer produced in Belgium was available,
as were a few from the Netherlands. Old standouts like De
Dolle Stille Nacht and Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux were there,
along with newcomers like Regenboog ’t Smisje Kerst
and De Glazen Toren Slagers Kerstbier from Flanders, as well
as Mortal’s Christmas and Gigi La 1900 Speciale Bonnes
Fetes from Wallonia.
New for this year, the main festival hall was nonsmoking
— a rarity in Belgium! While the venue was a little
too crowded on Saturday for a few hours, the gathering was
more comfortable towards evening and on Sunday. Food was available
in the form of soup, stoofvlees (Flemish beef tips in a gravy
sauce), grilled sandwiches, bread and cheese. There was also
a frituur close by.
The next edition will most likely be held December 17–18,
2005. The venue may move from the Essen Parochiecentrum to
a larger place next time.
This is truly one of the world’s great beer fests.
Don’t miss it!
Chuck Cook is a freelance writer living
in Richmond, VA. His passions are beer and travel, and he
has written for various beer publications. He traveled to
Belgium in December as a guest of the Belgian Tourist Office.
He can also be reached via