Hope: A Lager in Darkness

Many beer drinkers spend their winters in darkness. As the weather gets colder, they swap their pilsners and wheat beers for porters and stouts. Straw-colored brews give way to obsidian drafts. 

Kalea knows better. The Swiss maker of beer advent calendars chose light over darkness by selecting many helles lagers for its 2022 Brewer’s Advent Calendar. The German word helles can be translated as light, but that word might mislead native English speakers. A helles is light in color; it’s not a low-calorie and literally corny “light beer” (But if you’re interested in those beers, we’ve written about them here). The first beer in Kalea’s calendar, a helles lager from Privatbrauerei Schnitzlbaumer in Traunstein, Germany, is an excellent example of the style.

The Beer: Lagerbier Hell from Privatbrauerei Schnitzlbaumer

Churches that celebrate Advent light a candle for every week of the season. The first candle symbolizes hope. Parishioners light these candles during brief ceremonies in the church service, which can include prayer and readings from biblical texts or poems. These ceremonies never include beer, but maybe they should. A good beer is poetic, appealing to multiple levels of understanding, and evoking vivid imagery with its flavors and aromas.

Take the Schnitzlbaumer helles. Aromas of grain and hay evoke the fertile earth sleeping under the snow. Gentle flavors of honey, pear, and fresh bread recall a summer breakfast. The beer’s golden body is the sun rising after a long winter night.

Schnitzlbaumer Helles can and glass
Schnitzlbaumer’s helles lager

The Music: “The People Who Walked in Darkness” by G.F. Handel

We’re pairing the Schnitzlbaumer with an aria from George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah, a fixture of the Advent season. The words to that aria, “The People Who Walked in Darkness,” go well with the beer. And if you’d like to hear those words in a powerful, rich bass voice, watch this video of Matthew Curran singing with the Choir of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New Canaan, CT:

Those words, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light,” come from the ninth chapter of the Biblical book of Isaiah. Christians often read Isaiah 9 as a reference to Jesus. Some Jewish readers interpret the chapter as a reference to King Hezekiah. We think of beer when we read the text. The Schnitzlbaumer Helles is a great light lager, and it’s an excellent way for people accustomed to winter darkness to inaugurate a season of hope. 

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