Tis The Season


After Prohibition was lifted in 1934, Huntington’s Fesenmeir brewery
 began offering a seasonal Christmas Beer, identifying its bottles
 with this label showing a traditional winter scene

Courtesy James E. Casto


‘Tis the season — and that means Christmas beer.

The brewing of beer is as old as civilization itself. The first beer in the world
 was brewed by the ancient Chinese around the year 7000 B.C. In the
west, however, the process recognized as beer brewing began
in Mesopotamia at the Godin Tepe settlement, now in
 modern-day Iran, between 3500 and 3100 B.C.

In pre-Christian Scandinavia, the Vikings would brew dark,
 malty winter beers to honor Norse gods and the winter
solstice. Scandinavian immigrants to the United
 States brought with them their brewing
techniques and their esteem for
brown, wintery Christmas

Meanwhile, countries throughout Europe created their own versions
 of winter beer. Stella Artois, today’s popular Belgian beer, actually
debuted as a Christmas beer in 1926. The word “Stella” was
intended to commemorate the Christmas star.

The Fesenmeir family began brewing beer in Huntington in 1899.
Their brewery survived a disastrous fire in 1905 and the flood
of 1913, but it couldn’t survive the state of West Virginia’s
enactment of Prohibition in 1914 — five years before
 the rest of the country. Unable to continue operating
as a brewery, the Madison Avenue plant was
 converted into a meat-packing business.

Sensing that Prohibition was soon to be lifted, the Fesenmeirs
took a gamble and began brewing and stockpiling beer.
 On May 5, 1934, the first day that beer could again
be legally sold, the company had 250,000
gallons ready for the thirsty
Huntington area.

Today, there’s no way of knowing if the Fesenmeirs offered
 a Christmas beer in their earliest years, but they certainly
 did so after Prohibition was lifted, identifying its bottles
with a label depicting a traditional winter scene.


Note:  This Article and picture appeared in the Herald-Dispatch Newspaper on Dec. 20, 2022.


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