The holidays can get pretty hectic: shopping, baking, wrapping and decorating. You deserve a great beer (or twelve) to help you fully appreciate the holidays. Luckily, the world’s greatest breweries have long recognized the importance of seasonal brewing. With hundreds of choices, here’s a guide to the twelve days of Beer-mas.
On the first day of Beer-mas, I recommend easing into the holiday with Highland Brewing’s Cold Mountain Winter. This auburn-colored smoothie is rich with hazelnut and vanilla notes and a nose of toasted marshmallow. Hailing from Asheville, NC this crowd-pleaser works for the craft fan as well as the beer novice with it’s very mild body and inviting spice profile. As a bonus, it comes in 12-pks for your friends to enjoy with you!
On the second day of Beer-mas, we’re going to stay mellow with Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice. This cinnamon-forward amber also has a nutty, vanilla undertone but finishes a little more brightly than Cold Mountain. It is remarkably easy to drink and a nice addition to Atlanta’s beer scene. This six-pack is also a party-pleaser, although you may decide not to share after you crack the first bottle.
On the third day of Beer-mas, we will venture back to Merry Olde England to enjoy Sam Smith’s take on the holiday with their Winter Welcome. Picture Mom baking for the holidays…then crack open a Sam Smith’s Winter Welcome. The melody of candied fruit intertwining with a biscuit (dare I say cookie-esque) malt backbone and a hint of molasses. It pours copper in the glass with a lighter mouthfeel than expected in a winter ale. This beer tastes like Christmas.
On the fourth day of Beer-mas, we are going West Coast with our traditions: Anchor Brewing has been brewing a holiday beer for 38 years — each year with a different recipe and tree on the label. This year is a little thicker, bordering on stout, with an intense clove and fruitcake finish. This beer can be hit or miss for me, depending on the year. This year they nailed it.
On the fifth day of Beer-mas, we stay west but go with a newer tradition. The Bruery is five years into their 12 Days of Christmas series and each is designed to age. This year’s concoction tastes like Pineapple UpsideDown Cake — big sweet and sticky. It may be the fresh pineapple in the brew…or the 11.5% ABV but I felt warm with the holiday spirit after finishing this one! Buy one for today and one for next year because unlike the cake, this one will get better with age.
On the sixth day of Beer-mas, we will stay in the fruit beer category — this time raspberry. Just in time for Christmas, New Belgium releases Frambozen, a delicious raspberry brown ale that hits the perfect balance between tart and sweet. This pinkish brown delicacy is not much to look at but is light and easy – respite from the heavy beers to come.
On the seventh day of Beer-mas, things take a turn for the heavier with Avery Old Jubilation. This massive strong ale has no spice added, yet tastes distinctly of toffee and hazelnut. It weighs in at 8.3% but goes down easy thanks to a soft, velvety finish. It pours a deep woody amber and looks almost too pretty to drink…almost.
On the eight day of Beer-mas, we settle down for our winter Hibernation — Great Divide Hibernation, that is. Our third consecutive Colorado beer, this old ale style has been going strong since 1994. At 8.7%, this beer actually spends 3 months aging in the bottle before release, resulting a beautifully complex date and molasses backbone with a fruity (think mango) acidity on the finish. This is a sipping beer, perfect for a nightcap.
On the ninth day of Beer-mas a stout-ing we will go. Port Brewing’s Santa’s Little Helper is a 10% Imperial Stout with an addition of Belgian Candy Sugar to soften this edges. It is coffee-forward at the start with a big, burly body and loooong finish of chocolate and molasses. Beyond the label, this beer has very little to do with the holiday season, but instead could and should be enjoyed year round.
On the tenth day of Beer-mas we FINALLY make it to Belgium, the birthplace of the holiday beer. Delirium Noel is the essence of Belgian holiday – raisins, toffee, and a pinch of licorice – all at 10% ABV. It is remarkably easy beer to finish, coppery in color and medium bodied – this is the yardstick in the Belgian category.
On the eleventh day of Beer-mas, we scoot over to the Netherlands for Emelisse Winterbier. This amazing, delicate Belgian-style strong drinks like the best brown ale ever…at 10%. Hints of vanilla and sage dance over the generous chocolate malts. This one will taste great long after the holidays are over.
On the twelfth day of Beer-mas, we return to Belgium for the finale — another classic 10% from the Ardennes region — Fantôme de Noël a complex, heady mix of chocolate, fig, cherry, and oak over a layer of what can best be described as “funk”. This one is best enjoyed with a friend. What a perfect finish to Christmas. Happy Holidays!