The sign outside the refreshingly old-fashioned Bierberg Bakery reads, simply, "Xmas cookies."

The sign outside the refreshingly old-fashioned Bierberg Bakery reads, simply, "Xmas cookies."

The Bierberg family has been peddling homemade German-style baked goods in the German Village since 1913. Visiting Bierberg is a beloved tradition for Villagers, many of whom grew up on the bakery's famous vanilla sticks - made with almond paste and confectioner's sugar, they look like piano keys and manage to be simultaneously crunchy and melt-in-your-mouth.

Bierberg matriarch Theresa used to bake cookies and cakes year-round, but over the years the Bierbergs scaled back operations to focus solely on family-recipe Christmas cookies.

These days, a fourth generation of family bakers fires up the ovens around mid-September and opens Bierberg's doors to the public October through December. Cookies are displayed in about two dozen holiday tins situated around a teensy showroom.

And when I say teensy, I mean teensy - I happened to drop in at the same time as a group of four other women, and we had to do an elaborate waltz anytime somebody wanted to swap spots.

Customers can pick up prepackaged one-pound boxes of cookies for $16 or smaller samplers for $5 (cash or check only). But it's more fun to mix-and-match straight from the tins. Here are the highlights:

• Almond macaroons: These bite-sized, orange-colored, amaretto-flavored cookies are excellent - moist and chewy underneath a coat of thin glaze.

• Marzipan: Little discs of almond meal and crystallized sugar are dipped in pink-hued white chocolate.

• Star cookies (Hammelburg): Star-shaped cutouts dipped in a lemony icing.

• Rum balls: These chocolate-dipped balls are quite tasty (and quite rummy), and get their chewiness from ground fruit and coconut.

• Crescents: Bierberg offers a few varieties of crescents (vanilla, hazelnut, almond, walnut), all of them with a buttery shortbread-like consistency and a great toasted-nut flavor.

• Raspberry Tarts: Tiny shortbread thumbprint cookies are filled with a dab of raspberry jam and some pretty pastel marzipan.

• Lebkuchen: These soft gingerbread cookies are painted to resemble Santa Claus.

Shelley Mann is the editor of Crave, Columbus' new dining magazine. Keep up with her at