Just as winter is coming, so too is a new wave of holiday beers. Much more subdued in their appearance than the aggressive summer appearance of a slew of pumpkin beers, holiday beers offer fascinating spice nuances not normally explored with beer. Last winter, we detailed Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale and its 40-year history and the changing tree artwork found on its label. This year, we explore a selection of holiday beer found throughout the U.S. (For lovers of cinnamon and ginger, this list is lit.)
Sam Adams Winter Lager
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 line up 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 old staples Old Fezziwig and Holiday Porter, as well as Chocolate Bock.
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 IPA and Cranberry Porter.
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 IPA. Brewed since 1981, it’s among the oldest IPAs brewed in America and still an incredible representation of the style by one of the nation’s favorite breweries. (Want more Sierra Nevada? Check out their Resilience Butte County Proud IPA, which will go to help Camp Fire survivors.)
Old Jubilation Ale
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 percent ABV. The brewery also has Chanukah, Hanukkah: Pass the Beer, a dark ale brewed with chocolate. (You can read more about Chanukah beers here.)
Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale
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.
Want more wintery beers? Check out this list of the best winter warmers to try right now.