Nothing against shacking up with a Syrah, but what better way to usher in the holiday season than with a pint of holiday beer in your hand? Now that it’s December, the time for pumpkin beer has passed and the time for the always-flavorful, always high-alcohol holiday ales has come.
Though many, maybe most, winter seasonal beers taste the way your overly perfumed aunt smells, winter likely produces some of the most creative beers of the year. If you’re so inclined to turn from the grape to the grain, here are six holiday beers to try before year’s end.
If you’re looking for a little Old World charm this holiday season, pop the cork of a St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. Coming in large format bottles, this classic Belgian Quadrupel makes a great gift, and it gets better with age (throw it in the cellar for a year or two). Don’t let its dark color fool you, it’s dangerously drinkable at 10% alcohol. Drink up; you’ll be drunk as a monk in no time.
A “go big or go home” holiday ale, Southern Tier’s 2XMAS does not skimp on the spices or the flavoring. Brewed with figs, orange peels, and spices in the style of a Swedish Glögg, it will surely satisfy fans of mulled wine. 2XMAS manages to taste and smell like the spice rack fell into the brew kettle without being overwhelming. Come in from the cold and crack a true winter warmer.
As the globe warms, seas rise, and seasons shift, our winter beers start to look more like fall and spring beers. These Brooklyn brewers offer another alternative to the traditionally flavored winter seasonal with this hoppy imperial red ale, while still maintaining some holiday spirit with its red color and slight spiciness from the yeast. There may be no snow on the ground, but this piney hops warlock will have you stumbling in a winter wonderland.
Brewed since 1975, with a different recipe each year, Anchor’s Christmas Ale is traditionally viewed as the quintessential American holiday beer. Take part in a national tradition by swigging back a bottle (or three, at a manageable 5.5%). The recipe is an aggressively defended secret, but the beer strikes a cheerful balance as it offers notes of malt, clove, and cinnamon without tasting like a gingerbread house. Cheers.
If the traditional, spiced holiday ale doesn’t jingle your bells, Celebration is probably the holiday beer for you. Sierra Nevada’s no frills take on the winter seasonal is a classic, though not for the hops-shy. A real epiphany in the beer world when it was first released in 1981, this IPA has stood the test of time. Gift yourself a twelve pack.
A real ruby demon of a Belgian dark ale, Mad Elf has garnered a serious cult following. Brewed with honey and cherries, Tröegs’ winter seasonal balances’ the tartness of the cherries with a mead-like sweetness and a touch of spice from the Belgian yeast. At a big, deceptive 11% alcohol content, Mad Elf is nothing to trifle with. A couple bottles of this, and you’ll have one shiny-ass nose.