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Christmas beer

The unknown dangers of Christmas beer

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The end of the year celebrations mean culinary traditions, but not only! The traditional drinks of the end of the year will also take place on our tables during these festive days.

Among them, we find this delicious and traditional "Christmas Beer". With its fruity and spicy flavors, it is friendly and comforting, perfect in this winter period.


1. All about Christmas beer

Christmas beer

It is said that Christmas beer was invented in Norway, by the Vikings. This beverage would have been brought by their God, to celebrate the arrival of winter. The tradition wanted the Vikings to be in a state of total inebriation, in order to honor their Gods, by drinking this drink, considered as a gift of the Gods.

But in reality, its origin goes back to the 18th century. At that time, the brewers did not have the possibility of preserving the beer for a long time. As winter approached, brewers took the opportunity to sell off their remaining autumn beer stock. This way, they could make room for the next grain harvest at the beginning of the year. It is thus by "recycling" the remainders of beers, that was born the famous beer of Christmas. It is also necessary to know that spices and other various ingredients were added to it in order to attenuate its taste, pronounced and strong in alcohol.

But now, the means of preservation have evolved. It is not necessary any more to re-use the beer which has not been used up. Nevertheless, the making of Christmas beer continues and is now part of our Christmas traditions.

Nowadays, this traditional end-of-year drink is a real commercial asset for breweries who do not fail to put it forward every year-end.

Apart from its spicier and sweeter taste, what really makes it different from the traditional craft beer?

1.1 What is the difference between Christmas beer and traditional beer?

Christmas beer VS traditional beer



Christmas beer has a different composition than classic beer. To begin with, its malt level is higher, its color is darker (sometimes bordering on black) and it has a higher alcohol content: between 6 and 12° for Christmas beer as opposed to 2 to 5° for a traditional beer.

The secret of its particular characteristics lies in the making of the beer, and more particularly in the fermentation time.

1.2. The stages of Christmas beer production

Schematic diagram of Christmas beer making

1 - THE MALTAGE ➡ This process consists of germinating the cereal grains (usually barley) in order to develop the enzymes, which are essential for the conversion of starch into glucose.

2 - THE CONCASSAGE ➡ The obtained grains are then crushed and mixed with water, forming a paste called the "cornche" which will serve to release the sugar from the starch

3 - THE BRASSAGE ➡ The cornche is then heated and sterilized until a sweet juice called the "wort" is obtained. At this stage, hop flowers are added in generous amounts, to bring flavor and bitterness to the beer. We also add what characterizes the Christmas beer, spices and aromatics of your choice: honey, maple syrup, orange peel, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, pepper or licorice. The mixture is then brought to a boil for 2 hours.

4 - THE FERMENTATION ➡ The wort is left to cool to 20° and the brewer's yeast is then added. The fermenting sugars are then transformed into alcohol and carbon dioxide, thanks to the high consumption of air contained in the yeast, which will make the beer fizzy!

5 - MATURATION ➡ The beer is placed in a storage tank for several weeks until it is clarified.

6 - THE FILTRATION ➡ After maturation, the resulting beer must be filtered, so as to eliminate the remaining residues before the last step.

7 - THE PACKAGING ➡ The final step is to pack the beer, that is, to bottle it. But beware, this process must be obligatorily carried out cold (0°), so that the beer is properly carbonized.

1.3. Fermentation of Christmas beer

3 types of beer fermentation


One of the particularities of beer is fermentation:

There are 3 kinds of fermentation in beer making. There are bottom fermentation, top fermentation and spontaneous fermentation. Their differences lie in the temperature of fermentation and in the type of yeast used.

For Christmas beer, the fermentation is top fermentation. This means that the beer must ferment at about 20° (compared to an average of 10° for bottom fermentation). It ferments then more quickly.

For the beers with high fermentation, it will be necessary to use a yeast "Ale", whereas for that with low fermentation, a yeast "Lager". However, beers with spontaneous fermentation do not require any yeast.

That's why Christmas beer is stronger in alcohol: the higher the fermentation of the beer, the higher the alcohol and sugar content and the stronger the taste.

1.4. The chemical reaction of beer fermentation

Chemical reaction beer fermentation



As you will have understood, the creation of bubbles occurs at the time of the fermentation of the beer. Indeed, the micro-organism that is the yeast, is added to the glucose coming from the wort, during the fermentation stage of the beer.

The combination of these two ingredients causes a biochemical reaction, releasing carbon dioxide and ethanol (ethyl alcohol).

Are there any risks involved in this chemical reaction?

2. Christmas Beer: Dangers, Risks, Prevention

2.1. Hazards in beer production related to carbon dioxide

Tanks brewery beer


Carbon dioxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is also a component of air. This carbon dioxide, mostly produced by human activity, is harmless in small quantities.

In the air, the level of CO₂ present is about 300 to 400 ppm. But above a certain threshold, this carbon dioxide can become very dangerous and cause asphyxiation, sometimes even death.

Beer production takes place in breweries, which very often are confined rooms. In confined spaces, Oxygen is then lower than outside. CO₂ on the other hand, has the particularity of reducing the amount of Oxygen in the air.

It should also be noted that gas hazards are not the only hazards that can exist in breweries. Risks related to combustible dust also exist.

2.2. Hazards in beer production related to combustible dusts

Pentagon of combustible dust explosion


Combustible dust comes mainly from grain. The dust accumulates during storage, during movement in the brewery or during the crushing of the grain. Too high a concentration of dust can lead to fire or even explosion risks.

In contact with high heat, combustible dust can catch fire and cause explosions. In breweries, there are many sources of heat. For example, the temperature of the liquid in the brewing tanks can exceed 100°C. A deposit of dust on the surface of the vats would then present a danger of ignition.

Explosions can lead to serious material damage as well as serious personal injury.

It is therefore important to monitor the explosive threshold, especially in a confined space.

2.3 How to protect yourself against risks in breweries?

Brewery technician


Brewers have every interest in applying safety rules to avoid accidents.

To protect themselves from gas risks but also from risks linked to combustible dust, the sites must be equipped with certified material.

In some cases, these hazardous workplaces are ATEX type and must be equipped with certified equipment.

As a reminder: An ATEX site is a place where explosive atmospheres are likely to form.

2.4. How to equip your brewery ?

Certified equipment against gas risks

First, the hazardous areas must be determined. The areas will then be categorized and classified according to their explosiveness and hazard level.

In order to prevent the CO₂ level in the air from becoming too high, it is necessary to ventilate the room with a specialized ATEX fan for confined spaces such as the UB20.

Installation of a fixed gas detection system is also required, as carbon dioxide is a non-humanly detectable gas. Fixed detectors, such as the MX43, are able to detect and report excessive gas concentration.

And finally, for any technical intervention in the brewery, in particular during cleaning or maintenance of the machines used to make beer, a portable gas detector, like the GASMAN CO₂ will have to be worn by the technician. The atmosphere being more concentrated in CO₂ around the manufacturing machines, especially around the fermentation tanks.

The qualified technician shall also wear respiratory protection, such as X-PLORE 6000.

Titre du push

Protecting yourself against risks in the brewery

Ventilateur/Extrateur UB20

Fan/Extractor UB20

Centrale de détection gaz MX43

Central MX43

Détecteur monogaz GASMAN

Single gas detector GASMAN

Masque filtrant X-PLORE 6000

X-PLORE 6000 Mask