Ho ho ho and a bottle of Christmas beer

  • 1998-12-17
  • Paul Beckman
VILNIUS - Better watch out. Better not cry. Better just grab an empty glass because when Santa Claus comes to town, he won't be the only arrival. A couple of Lithuanian companies are betting they can get a leg up on the competition by launching alcoholic drinks made especially for the Christmas season into the local market.

Lithuania's market leading beer producer, Kalnapilis, is hoping their seasonal beer, Kaledinis (Of Christmas), becomes a traditional favorite. For a third straight December, Kaledinis has surfaced on store shelves in bottles reeking of Christmas references. Frost-colored labels promise consumers they are buying "the first internationally certified Christmas beer in Lithuania." A jolly Santa, taking a nip himself, is also pictured to sway the unconvinced.

Lionginas Mackevicius, general director of Kalnapilis, assured TBT that Kaledinis is more than just an everyday beer with a bunch of fancy labels.

"This product follows the traditional European style of Christmas beer," said Mackevicius. "That means the beer's qualities include being dark, strong and thick. In fact, this is the only dark beer our company makes. This certification for Kaledinis came from Lapland," said Mackevicius. "Maybe it was awarded by Santa Claus himself."

But are Lithuanian consumers buying the seasonal brew? Mackevicius said that sales this December have so far amounted to less than in the beer's debut year.

"We aim to sell this product before Christmas and finish right after New Year," said Mackevicius. "But people are not running out to buy it. Based on last year's experience, we may have to sell for a while longer. We've produced 20,000 boxes of bottles for this year."

Kalnapilis is still hoping that the Christmas spirit, coupled with a little motivation, will cause consumers to buy more. The countless posters draped all over the Lithuanian capital are part of a huge advertising campaign which Mackevicius said should help significantly.

Kalnapilis is not the only Lithuanian company which is hoping a Christmas theme will pan out into bigger sales. A company called Darija imports an assortment of gluhwein (hot wine) from Germany. With December temperatures so far failing to rise above the freezing mark, the company is banking on consumers warming up with the traditional German Christmas beverage.

The only details the company was willing to provide about their December gluhwein sales was formed into a brief written statement.

"Darija began importing Christmas wines three years ago," the statement reads. "Each year we have a bigger assortment of such wines. Of course, they are more popular just before the Christmas holidays."

According to Darija, they also import a non-alcoholic Christmas wine for children called "Kinder Freude." Although the company did not provide any sales figures, they did reveal that one wine, simply called "Gluhwein," was among the most popular. Its tetrapak container, dressed in a festive winter scene, provided a couple possible answers as to why. From all the holiday wines, "Gluhwein" is not only the cheapest, but with its 10 percent alcohol level, also packs the most punch.

Well, that's one way of encouraging visions of dancing sugar plums.