One of the many traditional preparations for the Christmas celebration here in Norway, is the brewing of the Christmas ale. In my family, and in families throughout my native village, this is usually started three-four days before Christmas Eve, so that the flavour settles properly in time for the main feast (which in Norway is on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day). The Christmas ale usually goes by the name "sukkerøl", sugar ale, as it is very sweet. It is brewed on a syrup made from boiled juniper twigs, which is then mixed with water that has been boiled. The mixture then cools down a bit, and then we add a malt syrup, sugar water that has boiled but cooled down, and yeast. Some also use hop instead of malt.
The ale is then kept at a certain temperature for the yeast to do its work, and it is then left overnight to ferment a bit. The purpose of the sugar ale, however, is not to make strong ale, and for that reason we stop the fermentation on the evening after we started the process, meaning that we only let it ferment for about 24 hours. We then put it on glasses and bottles, which is done by putting a plastic hose into the ale container and the ale is then tapped. This is the part where I feel most like an alchemist when brewing.
This year we ran into an unexpected problem, as my father - who is the main hand in the hole brewing process - had accidentally shortened the hose, so that we couldn't get it all the way to the floor. There needs to be a certain fall between the ale level and the bottle for the tapping to go smoothly, and this year - as can be seen below - we had to improvise. In the end, when the level had sunk from about twenty to ten litres, we were left with no other option than to pour the ale onto glasses and bottles through a funnel covered by a cloth to keep out the dregs - an option that we usually seek to avoid as it is both heavier work and less precise.
In the end, however, we were left with around twenty litres of ale. We had consciously reduced the volume a bit, because we rarely manage to drink all of if in the course of the Christmas season, not even when we give to neighbours and guests. Today being Christmas Day, I have already tasted several bottles of the ale, and I'm happy to say that we've managed to hit the right flavour this year too.