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The 12 Beers of Christmas Will Make Any Holiday ‘Hop’

Thirsty Dog Brewery/The Bruery/Goose Island Brewery/Sierra Nevada Brewery

‘Tis the season for craft breweries to release their Christmas beers. Most people believe that every beer with the distinction of a holiday beer or Christmas beer will taste like a gingerbread cookie. Honestly, those flavors are usually very prominent in many every season, but breweries actually release a beer this season as a thank you to their patrons.

Here’s a list of the 12 Beers of Christmas that will leave you ready to sing ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’ watch the annual ‘A Christmas Story’ marathon and stock up on mistletoe.

12. Goose Island — ‘Christmas Ale’

ABV: 5.6%
Style: American Brown Ale
Brewed: Chicago, Illinois

This beer is widely available around the country and should be fairly easy to get your hands on. A Brown Ale is a nice change of pace from the normal barrage of winter warmers out there. You will instantly be hit with a smooth, cinnamon flavor with a hint of spice. This beer won’t hit you in the face and if you wanted to set a few beers aside, it should age just fine.

11. The Bruery — ’4 Calling Birds’

ABV: 11%
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Brewed: Placentia, California

When you pour this beer into a glass, you will notice that it is a darker color than most Belgian strong ales. Your nose will instantly be hit with hints of nutmeg and gingerbread spices, but it isn’t an overwhelming smell. When you finally taste “4 Calling Birds”, you will notice figs and prune in the flavor and a background of the usual holiday beer flavors. It won’t take long until this beer starts to creep up with you at 11% ABV, so I suggest eating a large meal before tackling this holiday beer.

10. Karl Strauss — ‘Parrot In A Palm Tree Holiday Baltic Porter’

ABV: 8.5%
Style: Baltic Porter
Brewed: San Diego, California

When making this list, we wanted a variety of styles, not everybody loves the usual holiday style. Not many breweries do big malty beers like Karl Strauss and “Parrot In A Palm Tree Holiday Baltic Porter” doesn’t fail to live up to the iconic brewer that the brewery is named after. You will be hit with a woody, caramel, chocolate aroma and when you dive in, a strong taste of roasted fig and malts. If you like a big Porter, you’ll enjoy this beer.

9. Avery — ‘Old Jubilation’

ABV: 8.3%
Style: Winter Warmer
Brewed: Boulder, Colorado

Even though this beer is listed at an ABV of 8.3%, its taste does not indicate a high level of alcohol. It has a mild taste with notes of roasted malt, toffee, hazelnut, and dark fruit. Winter Warmers have a decent amount of holiday spice, so you shouldn’t be surprised by this beer. I’m a big fan of Avery Brewing, they just seem to do a variety of beer styles very well and “Old Jubilation” holds up with some of their top releases.

8. New Belgium — ‘Frambozen’

ABV: 6.5%
Style: Fruit Beer
Brewed: Fort Collins, Colorado

We usually refrain from suggesting many Fruit Beers, but New Belgium has put a spin on this style and added a Brown Ale body. This beer is rather sweet, so we suggest drinking it after a meal as a dessert, but you will enjoy it and probably want to go for seconds. The sweetness of raspberries fight to balance an overall tartness, which is complemented with the usual yeast notes that New Belgium does so well. This isn’t your usual beer, but definitely worth a spot on this list of Christmas beers.

7. Three Floyds — ‘Alpha Klaus Xmas Porter’

ABV: 6%
Style: American Porter
Brewed: Munster, Indiana

This small brewery in Indiana is in high demand. They are slowly increasing their distribution, but this beer could be hard to get if you don’t live in the Midwest. If you are a fan of stouts, you will enjoy this porter. It is extremely thick for its style and has a sweet, milk chocolate smell. The taste is overloaded with chocolate, but the hints of citrus and cinnamon puts this beer into the right season. This is a beer that goes against the normal “Christmas Beer” release, since cinnamon is the only holiday spice you’ll notice and it is faint.

6. Boulevard — ‘Nutcracker Ale’

ABV: 5.9%
Style: Winter Warmer
Brewed: Kansas City, Missouri

After drinking the bold flavors of the previous beers, you might consider this a watered-down version of a Christmas beer. At 5.9% ABV, you can have a few of these and not feel like you’ve eaten an entire meal. You still get the taste of malt, toffee, and caramel, but without being overwhelmed by the boldness or sweetness of the beer. We suggest this beer if you’re going to a holiday party and planning on staying awhile. The problem with most beers in this season, the high ABV can leave you inebriated in a short amount of time.

5. Sierra Nevada — ‘Celebration Ale’

ABV: 6.8
Style: American IPA
Brewed: Chico, California

We had to add an IPA to this list and I’m glad that a brewery puts out a holiday IPA in celebration of the holidays. Sierra Nevada made some adventurous beers this year, but year after year, their “Celebration Ale” is a solid choice.  You’re going to get hit with the normal hop aroma that you would get with any typical IPA, but you will taste it. You’ll notice a finish of pine with a slight caramel undertone. It’s a fantastic IPA for any season and a nice change of pace during the holidays.

4. Thirsty Dog Brewing Company — ’12 Dogs Of Christmas’

ABV: 8.3%
Style: Winter Warmer
Brewed: Akron, Ohio

This beer was invented by someone involved with inventing a beer that you’ll see later on this list, Great Lakes Christmas Ale. You will notice some of the same tastes, but you get a higher ABV % and this tastes much sweeter. If you like Great Lakes Christmas Ale and can only find “12 Dogs Of Christmas,” it is a nice substitute, except the balance of flavors isn’t quite there. It is an extreme version of the Great Lakes beer with an abundance of holiday spice that makes this a very rich beer. We still enjoy this beer a lot, but it is hard to put a copy-cat beer higher up than the beer it was trying to replicate.

3. Spoetzl Brewery —  ’Shiner Holiday Cheer’

ABV: 5.4%
Style: Dunkelweizen
Brewed: Shiner, Texas

The first time we ordered this beer was by complete accident. They had the wrong tap handle on and we thought we was ordering an IPA. The bartender put the glass in front of me and the aroma of pecans and peaches hit my nose. We instantly knew that we had the wrong beer, but we were so intrigued by the smell that we didn’t really care. The first taste was quite strange, because we were ready for an IPA and had no clue what was actually in the glass. The taste was an explosion of fruit (peaches and cranberries) and pecans. We use the word explosion because the beer has a lot of carbonation in it, almost like a soda. It is extremely light and a very nice session beer for the holidays. For those wondering, We ended up drinking three or four of them and actually tipped the bartender an extra 10% for her mistake. We probably wouldn’t have tried this beer if it weren’t for her mistake.

2. Troegs Brewing Company — ‘Mad Elf Ale’

ABV: 11%
Style: Strong Dark Ale
Brewed: Hershey, Pennsylvania

If you already know about this beer and love it, then you know that it can be harder to find than an actual Elf. This holiday brew has a large following and once it is released, it doesn’t sit on shelves very long. The beer smells quite fruity and the taste is a large dose of cherries and honey. You won’t find too many beers that contain as many real cherries as “Mad Elf.” The cherries don’t overwhelm the beer, It works well with the rest of the components of the beer. The extremely high ABV % is something to be aware of, since this beer doesn’t have a strong alcohol taste. This, in my opinion, is the best beer that Troegs Brewing Company puts out and it is worth the hunt.

1. Great Lakes Brewing Company ‘Christmas Ale’

ABV: 7.5%
Style: Winter Warmer
Brewed: Cleveland, Ohio

This is the point of the list where we will be called a Great Lakes Brewing Company loyalist. We enjoy a large number of beers they brew (Holy Moses, Conway’s Irish Ale, etc), but the day that Great Lakes Brewing Company releases “Christmas Ale,” it is marked on thousands of calendars across Ohio. You can get this beer in a few other states now, but this beer is another very elusive beer to find. Unless you go to a Great Lakes Brewing Company restaurant, it is hard to find this beer a few weeks after it is released. A lot of bars will actually buy their kegs and wait for the bars around town to run out…then tap their kegs. That is when you know that you have something special. “Christmas Ale” has a nice blend of ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon that isn’t overpowering. The ABV % is above average, but shouldn’t sneak up on you. You can taste the alcohol in the transparent taste of hops you’ll receive. If you have a chance to pick up a pint or a 6-pack of this beer, We highly suggest that you pull the trigger and enjoy this delicious Christmas beer.

Bobby Roberts is a snarky white boy without a filter. He is an author, sports blogger, music blogger  and America’s White Boy.

 

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