European Brewers Embrace Santa Claus

Everyone in North America knows who Saint Nicholas is, right? Obviously, he is the guy dressed in the red and white suit who gives away gifts every December 25th.

However, he is also the patron saint for a number of other things.

Saint Nicholas is the patron saint for bakers, boatmen, druggists, fishermen, judges, longshoremen, mariners, merchants, pawn brokers and watermen.

He is also the patron saint for brides, grooms, lawsuits lost unjustly, penitent murderers, old maids, poor people, prisoners and unmarried girls.

He is the patron saint for many small towns in Italy, Spain and Ireland, as well as the countries of Greece, Russia and Malta.

Definitely not a one-trick pony, ol’ Saint Nick.

He is also, by the way, the patron saint of brewers and barrel makers.

This is interesting, because brewers are prohibited from associating Santa with beer. We are not permitted to put Santa onto a beer label or packaging or advertising because, presumably, it will imply that beer is for kids.

It seems that this is a uniquely North American point of view as the same kinds of restrictions apply in the U.S. as in Canada, when it comes to images on beer labels.

However, we find some interesting examples once you cross the pond, in either direction. For example, if you head to Britain you will find Santa’s Butt, a winter porter offered up by Ridgeway Brewing. Of course, the label shows Santa, sitting on a wooden barrel with his back to you, smiling over his shoulder.

A butt, you see, is the name of a large wooden barrel that breweries used to store beer, back in the day.

Hopback Brewing, also in England, has a spiced winter ale called Pickled Santa. If you want to see what Santa might look like staring out of a mason jar, search this one out.

If you head to Austria, you can find Samichlaus beer. This beer is brewed once a year, on Dec. 6 (which is, in fact, the actual feast day for Saint Nicholas). It is a lager beer brewed to an astonishing 14 per cent alcohol by volume, then aged for 10 months before bottling. It is said to be the strongest lager beer in the world (at 14 per cent abv, we believe it) and is called by some “the rarest beer in the world”.

Across the other pond, we found a picture of a giant inflatable Santa Claus on what appears to be a cruise ship dock. Santa is leaning with one hand on an inflatable beer barrel and, in the other hand, is raising a huge foaming beer mug skyward.

The idea that Santa only appeals to children seems a bit unrealistic. His image can most certainly be found on other products and advertising that have a definite adult slant.

We are definitely not in the business of trying to market to underage drinkers. There are many, many places where consuming alcohol is totally inappropriate, and that is one of them.

But it does seem a shame that the patron saint of brewers cannot be shown with his product. Well, at least, it can’t be on this side of the ocean.

This column is courtesy of the Yukon Brewing Company, an organization that is quite European in its thinking of Christmas.

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