When the weather dips down and the dulcet tones of Michael Buble assault my ear drums, it is time for two things: taking my bath and the colossal selection of holiday-themed craft beers. We are not only lucky in this market to have local breweries concocting delicious holiday and seasonal offerings, but we also get many of the best national selections to fill our tulip glasses and pair with our holiday feasts. I contend that if the Grinch had been able to savor the deliciousness of Indeed Stir Crazy, his holiday disposition would have been much different. It is indeed a wonderful time of year and below you will find my list of 12 Beers of Christmas! These beers go well, but are not limited to the following occasions: holiday work parties, family gatherings, helping one get through the wall to wall holiday music on Kool 108, happy hours with friends, family holiday fun, Bikram Yoga class, dealing with holiday shopping, waiting up for St. Nick to arrive, celebrating making it through your Festivus Airing of Grievances, and the wall to wall holiday music on Kool 108. Whether you are with others in a crowd, or just at home relaxing by yourself, these yummy yuletide libations will take the chill out of the air and dazzle your palate with a variety of holiday flavor sensations. While this is a list, there is no order. This is a list of beers, of which each one offers something special that you will enjoy in your holiday season. So, without further ado, I present my 12 beers of Christmas.
Indeed Stir Crazy-This Winter Ale is 6.5% ABV and 22 IBUs. Stir Crazy is available in the taproom and most liquor stores starting in November and lasts usually until February. It has a dark brown, and slightly dark reddish color with a slight to medium head. This beer has a very nice roasted malt aroma, with a subtle hint of coffee. The flavors of dark chocolate, vanilla, caramel and raisin intensify as it warms, so make sure you are not drinking it too cold. There is just a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg spice in this beer which is nice because many people find overdoing of spices in a beer off-putting. The mouthfeel is medium and the dark color of this beer makes it seem like the beer is heavier than it is. It is not overly sweet and almost has a dry finish. At 6.5% ABV, this is a very drinkable beer that will still take the chill out of your bones.
Bau Haus Brew Labs Jingle Fever-This Baltic Porter is 8% ABV and 20 IBUs. This is a beer style that I am not all that familiar with and was very eager to try. As most porters are very roasty in their aroma, the roasted malt character in this beer is more subtle. However, that is not to say that it is lacking in flavor and depth. It drinks smooth and velvety with the bittersweet chocolate and caramel notes and a nice black licorice flavor. If you are dealing with a few humbugs at the work mixer, knock a few of these back and suddenly you will be riding the one-horse sleigh to fun town!
Summit Winter Ale-This beer is 6.5% ABV and 40 IBUs. Summit Winter Ale has become synonymous with my holiday imbibing over the years. Trust me on this, you will not regret getting a sixer of this to bring to the in-laws for some holiday cheer. I know that there are people out there who often bypass Summit to have something trendier. However, this is a great representation of the Winter Warmer style and has flirted with my palate for years with its nice nutty, roasty and malty flavor. It drinks really smooth and goes well with many holiday foods like ham or a nice roasted prime rib. For me, this is the beer I always drink when I am out at my favorite wing joint with my buddies. So, to say that this beer is representative of the embodiment of holiday cheer is an understatement.
Schell’s Snowstorm Grand Cru-This beer is 6.5% ABV and 20 IBUs. This is a bit of a departure from the dark and velvety Winter Warmers that are readily available during this time. This is part of a series from Schell’s that is a little different every year in regards to the style. This year’s rendition is an incredibly refreshing Grand Cru. The aromas of citrus, esters and slight coriander are really bright. It drinks very clean with a nice carbonation effervescence. There is a slight chocolate hint that is an homage to the wonderful marriage of orange and chocolate. This beer drinks lighter than the 6.5 ABV would suggest and because of that, is one of the more approachable beers on this list.
Bad Weather Ominious Midwest Warmer-This beer is 7.5% ABV and 40 IBUs. The first thing I notice before I even take a sip is how amazing this beer smells. The roasted malt character is so enticing and then you add in the hints of chocolate and coffee and I am ready for the snowdrifts to force me to stay home and read Garfield’s 5th Treasury by the fire. The beer is medium bodied and is very smooth. Barry White would have absolutely loved this beer. It is remarkably effervescent for having as much body as it does. This is probably not the first thing that you think of when you think winter beers, but if you give this a try, you will be rewarded with a very solid drinking experience.
Lift Bridge Commander Barley Wine-This beer is 12.5% ABV and 75 IBUs. This is a special beer. The aroma has notes of bourbon barrel, vanilla and some slight cardamom spice. There is no head on the beer and it is amber in appearance. This beer is complex and is perfect for the season. It is very balanced and there is very little hop bitterness. The malty sweetness is the main act in this flavor show and as it warms, the flavors intensify. The cardamom is used sparingly, and yet, it has a definite presence in the beer. What a perfect beer for a nice cold night when all you have to worry about is which really good cheese are you going to pair with your snifter of Commander.
Great Lakes Christmas Ale-This beer is 7.5% ABV and 30 IBUs. This beer is so easy drinking and delicious. The spice is done with a deft hand and the hints of honey and cinnamon come through in a very pleasing way. This beer is a mainstay for me and I have been lucky enough to have this in my kegerator during the holidays for the last couple of years. Most of the people who come over and try this beer wind up enjoying it and by the end of the night are big fans of its drinkability and approachable flavor. This is the beer that I want to be drinking when I am sharing a laugh at a holiday party with my family and friends. This beer is as harmonious as the sound of the laughter that fills your home when you have people over to celebrate the holidays.
Odell Isolation Ale-This beer is 6.1% ABV and 29 IBUs. This beer is a straight-forward ale with a very subtle aroma of cookie-like malt. The flavor is balanced with caramel malt flavor and a subtle dry hoppiness. This is the least spicy of all the beers on this list and would be a nice alternative for someone who doesn’t enjoy too much spice in their beer. It drinks smooth, like most of Odell’s beers, it is very approachable and you will definitely want to have more than one of these!
Deschutes Jubelale-This beer is 6.7% ABV and 60 IBUs. The smell of roasted malt along with some slight spice is very inviting. This beer has a definite hop presence that is noticeable in the finish. The flavor is roasty, somewhat sweet and toffee-like. This beer is smooth and balanced. As it warms up, the flavor of raisins and dates is more obvious. This beer is very smooth for having as much of a hop presence as it does. Deschutes is always a great choice, no matter what time of year it is. However, you would be wise to add this to your holiday beer list and just pray that Santa saw you being nice this year. . .
Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale-This beer is 7%ABV in the style of an Old Ale. This has a nice aroma of earthy hops along with a boozy aroma with a hint of smokiness. The color is a beautiful reddish brown and looks magnificent in a snifter. Old Man Winter is robust and has a good body. One can definitely tell they are drinking a 7% ABV beer. I still have yet to try a Southern Tier offering that I don’t like. This beer is definitely a nice sipper and almost tastes boozier than it is. It has a very good hop flavor that cuts through the booziness of the beer.
Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve-This beer is 6% ABV and 65 IBUs. This beer has a very floral hop aroma. The head is rocky with nice retention. The flavor is very earthy and clean at the start. That transitions to a piney and resiny hop flavor that stays on the tongue for a bit until it finishes very dry. Based on this beer, I am thinking that Santa is definitely a hop lover. It makes perfect sense, after spending all night long drinking milk and eating cookies he needs something hoppy to balance out all those sweets.
Great Divide Hibernation Ale-This beer is 8.7% ABV. This is an English Style Old Ale. It is has a rich and malty aroma with hints of roasted malt and coffee. It drinks smooth and medium bodied without feeling heavy. The malt and booze in the beer balance really well with the hoppy notes. The color of this beer is a really beautiful hue of reddish brown. This is the essence of a Winter Warmer as it really does take the chill out of the air. I enjoyed this in my living room as we put up the holiday decorations and it was the perfect compliment to the nostalgia that comes along with this time of year.
As always, our mission at Beerploma is to educate and promote craft beer, locally and nationally. Since this is the season for sharing and good cheer, head on down to your local craft beer store and maybe make yourself up a holiday six pack to bring to the next gathering on your calendar. I am sure that you will find something on this list that you would want to have on your wish list. My hope is that you find yourself enjoying this great season for merriment and laughter with the people that you find most important. Beerploma wishes you all a very happy holiday season and please let me know if there are any of your favorites that I should go out and try. As the season progresses, I will be enjoying many of these beers myself, as well as a Swiss Colony Beef Log or two. Prost!
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