Tis the season for all sorts of excellent Winter seasonals and Holiday beers to make their way to the shelves of bottle shops everywhere. I have a tremendous amount of love for the Christmas season and so these unique brews that show up once a year like a jolly fat man in a red suit never fail to capture my attention. The festivel labels and creative name are only part of the appeal. More often than not a winter/holiday ale will offer new and unique ingredients and fresh takes on old classics.
As a hop-head, this is sometimes a risk as not a lot of brewers are whipping up wild triple IPA’s to help with your yuletide spirit. This means that what I’ll be sharing with you is a wide variety of styles and flavors. The list is in no particular order and this is by no means a ranking. Also this is nowhere near complete to all the different Christmas beers around, just twelve beers that captured my attention and I thought I’d share with my friends. Some of these might be obvious selections but I hope to point you at a few new ones as well. Here we go…
- Sierra Nevada “Celebration Ale” – American IPA 6.8%ABV – This beer is a truly delightful treat. It’s aptly named for the first hops harvested of the season. This is one of the few IPA’s you can find on a regular basis for the holidays and it’s also one of the oldest, since Sierra Nevada first brewed it in 1981. The nose on this beer is a wonderful blend of citrus and pine. The color is a bright golden copper and when you sip it that brightness comes through with a pleasant kiss upon your tongue. The hops are bold yet not aggressive and helps to makes this a beer that has a nice crossover effect with people who may not be the biggest lovers f hops. A truly winning blend of cascade, centennial and Chinook hops, this beer is a must have for your ugly sweater party.
- Anchor Brewing “Our Special Ale 2013” – Winter Warmer 5.5%ABV – Anchor has been brewing this fun and tasty season for 39 years. Every year the tree on the label is new and so is the recipe for the beer. This year the label is a California White Fir and the recipe is distinctly Anchor, new and exciting but right in line with their 100 year old legacy. The beer pours a deep mahogany color with a thin off-white head. The smells are straight from your childhood and Mom’s kitchen; nutmeg, cinnamon and the usually suspects. The malts are roasty/toasty and give the ale a sense of warmness. The hops ops are there giving the beer a sense of pine adding the idea that this might be the tree in your living room. I liked this beer quite a bit despite it not being my usual style choice. This is a nice beer for drinking after you’ve opened all your presents.
- AndersonValley “Winter Solstice” – Winter Warmer 6.9%ABV – Another lightly hopped, malt heavy beer that is a wonderful surprise to drink. A nice amber color pours from the bottle with a slightly tan head. The nose is sweet with a only the faintest of hops noticeable. The flavors pop along the tongue where you should be able to detect notes of toffee and caramel and some seasonal spice as well. The beer goes down smooth and easy might pair well with your holiday meal or maybe even better with a slice of pie.
- Port Brewing “Santa’s Little Helper” – Russian Imperial Stout 10.0%ABV – This one is for lovers of stout and coffee and it has the big flavors that are associated with both. It pours a very dark brown, just a shade or two from being black. The foam layer has an almost milk chocolate quality. Despite its high alcohol level it’s hardly noticeable underneath the espresso flavors that coat your palette on the back end. While this brew isn’t my personal favorite I can recognize the qualities that will make a must have for many. Like most other stouts on the planet this beer would probably be exceptionally tasty with a chocolate dessert.
So there we have it, the opening salvo in the 12 Beers of Christmas. Hopefully you have already had occasion to try some of these beers or perhaps you’ve found a few that you like that I’ve not mentioned yet. The next installment will be up very quickly as the holiday rapidly approaches.