Ring Out, Solstice Bells!

A quick recipe post today, in the window of opportunity between christmas presents and overeating. This year’s christmas beer is called simply “Solstice”, in honour of my favourite christmas song, the only non-christian one I know; “Ring Out Solstice Bells” by the glorious Jethro Tull. “Seven maids dance in seven time”. Indeed.

Skerries Covered in Ice

Skerries, like most of the rest of the country has been under ice and snow for weeks now, and the lowest temperatures in decades are being recorded, as low as -19c in some places. Skerries hasn’t dropped much below -8 at worst, but it’s colder than I’ve ever known. I’m on constant freeze watch for my beer in the shed. As long as it doesn’t freeze this is excellent lagering weather.

Which leads me to a feature of Solstice. I used some repitched Wyeast 2124, “Bohemian Lager” Yeast. The Wyeast site says it can be fermented at a higher temperature, the usual 18-22c ale range, to achieve a type of common beer, which I discuss elsewhere. However I couldn’t find any mention of this on the Megabrain, so I decided to experiment. My beer fermented vigorously at about 17c, and produced the most solid head of foam I have ever seen, solid and thick, and in weird swirling formations. It smelled a little sulphurous for a day or two, as lager yeast can, but it ended up very clean, and with no off flavours such as fruity esters you might be worried about. All in all I can recommend this yeast as a good clean yeast that you can ferment indoors during winter temperatures, and then lager outside.

I started late with this beer, it was only brewed on December 1st, and 10 days later fermentation was well finished. It was so clear when I sampled it out of the fermenter that I’m surprised it’s still pouring a little cloudy from the keg. It could be that it’s so cold in the porch that chill haze is a factor. It is quite a dark beer with amber notes when held to the light. The head retention is good. It is basically in the style of a continental brown beer, it tastes lagerlike, but with a good sugary whack from the crystal used for colour. My initial inspiration came from some of the festive beers I sampled in belgium at the end of November, in particular a spiced offering from Senne I think.


As a festive beer this is hopped low, and spiced high. I used Ginger, Nutmeg, and just one Star Anise. I tried to be subtle, but I would definitely add less ginger next time, it sweetens the brew and dominates the other spices. I aimed, and achieved 6% abv, which is a proper level for a festive beer I think. The aroma is also dominated by ginger.

Half a Pint of Solstice Please!

Here is my recipe

“Solstice” :  25L : OG 1.056 : FG 1.011 : 6% ABV : IBU 40 : SRM 17

Grains: UK Pils (2.5 KG), Munich Malt (2.5 KG), Wheat Malt (.5 KG), Crystal 55L (.5 KG), Roast Barley (.15 KG), Acid Malt (.1 KG)  Mashed at 67c for 70 mins

Hops: Magnum (25g, 90 mins) Cascade (25g 10 mins)

Spices: 1 x Star Anise, crushed, 1 Heaped tsp Nutmeg, 1 heaped tsp finely grated Ginger (Added to boil for final 5 minutes)

Wyeast 2124 “Bohemian Lager”, repitched, 200ml

1 tsp Calcium Chloride.


Happy Christmas everyone!



Filed under Beer, Recipe, Yeast

3 responses to “Ring Out, Solstice Bells!

  1. Bionic Laura

    Nice post, great name for a beer. Love the label. I’m sure it tastes just as nice. Happy Christmas to you!

  2. Sounds like a tasty brew, I’ve been meaning to try using star anise in a beer, will have to do it some day. I made a Christmas beer myself this year, Good King Wenceslas Christmas Stout, with orange zest, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. It came out potent, but tasty, Cheers

    • stoutfellow

      Yes, be careful with the anise though! I used about 5 stars in a stout once, and it’s probably over 2 years old and still mellowing, and it gets more drinkable the more it mellows. There is less in this and it’s more subtle, which is good news. Your christmas beer sounds good, but I think I’ve had enough of spicy beer for a while!

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