Just as winter is coming, so too is another new wave of holiday beers. This being 2020, you’ll likely need one more than ever. Holiday beers tend to offer fascinating spice nuances not normally explored with beer, taking the sting out of the winter chill. And, like ghoulish Halloween cocktails or Thanksgiving wines, these beers are all kinds of festive.
We’ve covered classic holiday beers like Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale in the past. In fact, this year’s delightful batch made this year’s cut, joining a host of acclaimed beers that greet the season wonderfully. Representing both coasts and many breweries in between, these are the holiday beers to stuff your stockings with.
Boston Beer Company
Perhaps the most prolific holiday beer brewer is Boston Beer, the makers of Sam Adams. Along with Sam Adams Boston Lager, the brewery is known for its lineup of great seasonal, but for the holidays, the company goes wild. Sam Adams Winter Lager, the wheat bock spiced with orange peel, cinnamon, and ginger, highlights Boston Beer’s winter lineup. But each year the brewery also releases its Winter Classics Variety Pack, which includes beers only available in that pack. This year Boston Lager, Winter Lager, and Sam ’76 are joined by the Holiday Porter, Holiday White Ale, and American IPA.
Market Garden Brewing
Ohio is mad for their Christmas beers, with multiple breweries putting out top-notch holiday brews. Among these, Cleveland’s Market Garden Brewing releases its spicy and delicious Festivus around the same time, complete with its caramelized wort, brown sugar, nutmeg, and ginger. In addition, Fat Heads Brewery has its Holly Jolly Christmas Ale, again filled with ginger, honey, and cinnamon and Great Lakes Brewing Co. has its Christmas Ale, which you can read more about here.
Each year, Pennsylvania’s Tröegs Brewing releases Mad Elf, a tasty 11 percent alcohol by volume dark Belgian strong ale laced with notes of cherries, honey, cocoa, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. The brewery also has Wild Elf, a sour version of Mad Elf fermented with wild yeast from local Balaton cherries. It then spends time in barrels, bathing in an assortment of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus resulting in a tart cherry beauty. Tröeg’s also has a few other winter beers, like Naked Elf, Mad Elf Grand, Troegenator Double Bock, Blizzard of Hops Winter
Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Fresh Hop Ale is an annual tradition for so many beer lovers across the nation, social media lights up now when it’s finally released. Unlike most of the holiday beers on the market flavored with familiar holiday spices, Celebration is a beautiful
Colorado’s Avery Brewing forgoes the added spices and instead brews up this big, 8.3 percent ABV. English Strong Ale perfect for a cold afternoon by the fire. Even without added spices, the malts used to bring out strong caramel and coffee notes.
Shmaltz Brewing Company
Holiday beers aren’t reserved just for Christmas. The New York brewery Shmaltz Brewing Company makes its brand’s He’Brew’s anniversary beer Jewbelation in the winter. This year, Jewbelation 22, is made with 11 different malts and 11 different hops, coming in at 11% ABV. The brewery also has Chanukah, Hanukkah: Pass the Beer, a dark ale brewed with chocolate. (You can read more about Chanukah beers here.)
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Anderson Valley goes way back in the California brewing industry, and its “winter warmer” is creamy and deliciously full of caramel and spice. It’s around from September to January, so it’s not really just a holiday beer, but as its name suggests it is perfect for those short days around Christmas.
There’s no beating around the bush with this lauded and aptly-named annual release from San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing. This year marks the 46th consecutive installment of the beer, featuring two trees on its hand-drawn label to symbolize unity in a time of extreme divisiveness. The recipe remains top secret but we do know that it shows beautifully, with some more exotic spice-centric notes fluttering around flavors like graham cracker and baked marshmallow.
Hopworks Urban Brewery
This Portland-brewed winter classic sports one of the best label designs in all of beer. Fortunately, the book is as good as the cover, as the beer is jam-packed with flavor. It’s zesty and hoppy, with the proper amount of malt-driven toffee notes to round it all out. It’s drinkable all year but the higher ABV status and richer tones of the beer are ideal for the sleepy days of winter.
A highly-anticipated release every year, the Deschutes Jubelale offers something new but reliably solid every winter season. The recipe and label are tinkered with each release but the resulting brew is always perfect for the frostiest of festive nights. The batch for 2020 includes five malt types and hops ranging from Bravo and Cascade to Delta and East Kent Goldings. In the glass, it’s reminiscent of some of your favorite holiday treats, with notes of baking chocolate, caramel, and warm winter spices.
Highland Brewing Company
Another staple festive beer, this North Carolina ale has been an annual tradition of Highland Brewing’s since 1996. Considered Asheville’s original winter warmer, the beer is rounded out with rich vanilla notes, decadent dark fruit, and hints of spice in the form of dried cinnamon and nutmeg. Those lucky enough to live near the brewery get various riffs on the beer, like barrel-aged, imperial, and coconut takes.
Colorado knows snow and beer and just how to pair the two. First brewed in 1998, the Isolation Ale is backed by bold flavors of biscuit and molasses without being too heavy or too high-octane. The first whiff is an intoxicating mix of roasted coffee and sweet malts. Pack a couple of cans along on your next snowshoe or cross-country skiing adventure.
Want more wintery beers? Check out this list of the best winter warmers to try right now.
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