The Tale of Christmas Beer: A History

History of Christmas Beer


’Tis the season for holiday beer! Gather around with your favorite Flagstaff brew as we tell you the tale of Christmas beer, how the history of Christmas beer has evolved into our own holiday traditions this season.

Our story begins many centuries ago in the Scandinavian countries. Vikings merrily drank strong, malty beer during their Jul (or Yule) celebrations. Their holiday, held on December 21, included “drinking Jul” while offering drafts up to their Norse gods.

Even after Norse gods were replaced by Christianity, Christmas beer continued to be brewed—but not by choice. In the 10th century, Jul was moved several days in order to be incorporated into the new Christmas festivities. Norway’s King Haakon I decreed that every household must brew beer for Jul. This legal tradition, backed by the Gulathing Laws during the 13th century, required each household to brew Christmas beer and host a party—or punished. Not abiding by this law meant fines or a loss of property.

That’s a hard fact to swallow.

Our story doesn’t end there. These harsh laws are now erased from the books, but the traditional enjoyment of Christmas beer never faded. In fact, Christmas beer spread to England and across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States. Now, with the talents of craft brewers in Flagstaff as well as across the country and the world, the tradition of Christmas beer is another reason to be merry this Yuletide.