My favorite beer time of the year is winter. Pun-tastic names abound and brewers really throw together big, flavor-filled beers unencumbered by a particular style. I have even seen a peach/pecan mash-up! Here are eight less weird Holiday seasonals that should be under the tree and in your ‘fridge.
Full Sail – Wreck the Halls
A big hoppy IPA filled with citrus note. This 2010 World Beer Championship gold medalist is dry hopped with a blend of centennial hops.
Anchor Steam – Our Special Ale 2010
This is a pint glass of history. This beer (recipe changes and all) has been brewed since 1975. Each year a different tree graces the label and it seems like to me some tree-notes get into the bottle. Spruce and a malty bread note characterize the 2010 version.
The Bruery – Three French Hens
I just recently cracked this open and the flavors and drinkability of this year’s 12 Days of Christmas offering supports my theory that The Bruery is really stepping it up. Loakal Red was amazing. Gunga Galunga is bizarre (in a great way) and now the Hens, which is my favorite of the series so far. Straightforward Belgian strong ale done well.
21st Amendment – Fireside Chat
Christmas in a can with FDR! This is a spiced strong ale with cocoa nibs tossed in to really create a unique winter warmer. I have yet to find this in Los Angeles and opinion is divided between hate and love but it is certainly a beer to try at least once.
Ninkasi Brewing – Sleigh’r
Showing the range of what holiday ales can possibly be. This Eugene based brewery seasonal release is a dark double alt. So this is what the malty/chocolate beer lovers will be craving so it’s a good thing that their distribution has made its way down the 5 freeway to us.
Great Divide – Hibernation
Another newly distributed and malty treasure comes from Great Divide in Denver. Hibernation is an English style Old Ale. The website says that this pairs well with apple crisp and ginger ice cream. As if it isn’t great on its own.
Deschutes Brewery – Jubelale
Like Anchor, this Bend, Oregon brewer has a new label for each year of Jubelale. An artist is selected each year to create a suitable winter scene to attach to this great winter warmer. This balanced bitter warmer has been winning awards since 1990.
Brasserie Dupont – Avec les Bon Voeux
One of my all-time favorite beers is from Dupont. The Saison Dupont is earthy and tart with a rich aroma and some fruit hidden in it that always surprises me. Avec is their holiday version of that saison but amped up an extra 3% or so on the ABV. It is the perfect beer for the Christmas dinner table.
Most if not all of these beers should be showing up on store shelves during this shopping time. Depending on the old economic rule of supply and demand, some may be gone quicker than others. So if you see one, pick it up. It may not be there the next time you visit the store.
Check out Cap’n Cork in Los Feliz, your local Whole Foods, Vendome Toluca Lake, Hi-Time in Costa Mesa or Red Carpet in Glendale for these and other holiday favorites.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.