Some doomsdayers believe that the world will end on December 21st in conjunction with the end of the Mayan calendar. This “event” is just the tip of the iceberg of oddities one can celebrate on the 21st. It’s also the Winter Solstice, an important day for Druids and many old religions and, being the shortest day of the year, makes for the longest night of the year, which just happens to fall on a Friday. Since there may not be a Saturday, TGIF to the max — to paraphrase REM, if it’s the end of world as you know it, you might as well feel fine.
If you believe the time of the apocalypse is nigh, there is a perfect beer for you: Quebec brewery Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde (9 per cent), which conveniently means “The End of the World” in English. The brewery didn’t miss a beat with its advertising — Unibroue has declared the 21st La Fin du Monde Day and celebrations will occur in many places where their beers are sold. For the first time, Unibroue has sent kegs of the beer to Alberta. I’ve enjoyed many bottles of this delicious Belgian-styled tripel over the years so let me warn you: if it turns out the Mayans were wrong and you have too many of these, you may wish the world had ended by the next morning.
For the Druids, the evergreen is symbolic of the winter solstice and the rebirth of the sun god Sol Invictus. Druids believed the tree had magic powers due to its ability to resist winter darkness, which is why they brought it into their homes to ward off evil spirits. Coniferous sprigs and branches also have a long history in brewing: the Scots, Finns and Americans all have brewed with pine boughs and sprigs to add flavour to beers and, in some cases, used them instead of hops. Anchor Brewing Company of San Francisco has done this for 38 years, infusing their dark winter holiday ale with the sprigs of a different pine tree each year — this year’s come from the Norfolk Island Pine that thrives in the San Francisco Bay area.
If drinking a pine tree isn’t your thing, but you still want to celebrate your newfound Druidism, Quebec’s Dieu du Ciel has their Solstice d’Hiver (9.2 per cent) and what’s inside the bottle is a bone dry example of a Barley Wine that will warm your cockles well into the wee hours of solstice night.
For those of you who don’t believe in any of this crap, there’s even a beer for you: Denmark’s Djaevlebryg Gudelos Imperial Stout (8.9 per cent). In Danish “Gudelos” means godless and the brewery donates one Danish Krone to the Danish Atheist Society for each bottle sold. This Baltic-styled Imperial Stout is as black as the longest night and has all the roasty toasty goodness this style has to offer.
For those who believe in science, NASA has studied the possibility of the Earth ending on the 21st and is predicting nothing other than a normal solstice. Scientists suggest another kind of drink for those about to imbibe all these beers on the 21st. It’s proven to make you feel better the next morning if you remember to take it along with your alcohol, and it is one of beer’s most important ingredients: water.