Saturday, December 27, 2014

The 12 best Christmas beers to enjoy this holiday season


Christmas was on Thursday, but it’s just the first of 12 days (like the song). As such, we at For The Win are equipping you with the knowledge to achieve peak holiday cheer through the joy of beer.

Christmas beer can get out of control. Just yesterday, I stumbled upon a cinnamon horchata holiday beer in my parents’ refrigerator. It was a bad time. The goal of this list is twofold. One: offer up our favorite brews. The second: Save you from impostor, flavor-injected ales that mock the tradition of Christmas beer.
Christmas was on Thursday, but it’s just the first of 12 days (like the song). As such, we at For The Win are equipping you...

With that, here are 12 Christmas beers for the 12 days of Christmas.

12. Blue Moon – Winter Abbey Ale (5.6% ABV)

This is a Dubbel-style brew that serves as a great introduction into Christmas beers. Most of the beers on this list feature a few similarities: All have higher ABV, all are rather dark and heavy, and none taste like Bud Light. Blue Moon’s Winter Abbey Ale is the one beer on this list that can span across palates. Still rich enough to please the purists, but still mild to keep the less appreciative taste buds happy.

11. Snow Blind – Star Hill (7.4%)

Pours a mahogany color, and offers up a caramel and coffee aroma. This Doppelbock from Crozet, Va., is true to the season with a dark, malty taste with hints of fruit and sweetness.

10. Celebration – Sierra Nevada (6.8%)

An IPA for the person in your family who refuses to drink anything but IPAs. If you don’t like traditional Christmas beer and love hops, you will likely enjoy Celebration, which embraces the latter and shuns the former.

9. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year – Anchor (5.5%)

The annual secret recipe from the San Francisco brew master has become a staple since the first batch in 1975. The 2014 offering is a spicy, ruby colored brew that isn’t too heavy.

8. Merry Maker – Samuel Adams (9%)

It’s a gingerbread stout, which could be a disaster (see: horchata beer). It achieves a festive taste without being overly ostentatious or … gingerbready? Gingerbready.

7. Delirium Noël – Brouwerij Huyghe (10%)

I feel the same way about Delirium Noël as I do about the 24-hour airing of A Christmas Story on Christmas Day. It’s a very good beer. But it’s popularity has given it clout it doesn’t quite deserve. That said, if you enjoy dark ales, this is well worth a try if only to see what the fuss is about.

6. Adoration – Ommegang (10%)

This beer plays on its coriander notes masterfully, mixing with cinnamon, orange peel, and the signature Ommegang bite.

5. Christmas Ale – Corsendonk (8.5%)

Do yourself a favor and pour a taste of the Corsendonk Christmas Ale and try it after sipping Delirium Noël and you will immediately understand the differences between a good Belgian dark ale and a great Belgian dark ale. The Christmas Ale has the usual staples – cinnamon, coriander, and spice – but follows that with almost a cake-like finish.

4. Prelude – Shipyard (6.7%)

A true Winter Warmer – sweet and malty – the Prelude’s residual sugar mixed with the floral notes you get off the head make for a perfect evening beer.

3. Brown Shugga – Lagunitas (10%)

First, let’s address the name. Brown Shugga gets its name from the fact that Lagunitas dumps heaps of brown sugar into this beer, which is very apparent. But it works to perfection, mixing with the bitter hops for a fruity and delicious experience.

2. Mad Elf – Troegs (11%)

A personal favorite that has turned into a family tradition. Mad Elf pours a deep ruby and has a strong cherry taste with toasted caramel and spice at the end.

1. Christmas Ale – Brouwerij St. Bernardus (10%)

Simply the perfect Christmas ale. It pours near-black and it smells like you’d expect Christmas to smell. Plums, spices, and a hint of burnt sugar permeate the brew. It has a sweet, almost rum-like quality and should definitely be sipped, even if you want to guzzle.