Brad Darnell's picture

Top 20 Christmas and Holiday Beers

As selected by Official Review judge Brad Darnell. (Issue 33)
Anchor Christmas Ale 20Anchor's annual Christmas Ale has become a mainstay of the holiday season.17
Anchor's annual Christmas Ale has become a mainstay of the holiday season.

 

Number 11
Deschutes Jubelale

Described as a Festive Winter Ale, this beer pours dark walnut brown with a foamy off-white head and creamy lacing. Hoppy citrus fruit, cocoa and toffee notes, rich malt and dried fruit. Medium bodied and offers a warming spice; this holiday beer would pair well with Christmas dinner -- or as a post-meal warming tipple.


Number 12
The Bruery Autumn Maple

While more of a late Fall than winter seasonal, I add this beer because it pairs so well with a juicy roast turkey, Christmas duck or glazed ham. The choices abound and this beer could serve as dessert on its own. It pours clear brown with a spare, off-white head. Heavy, rich cookie, caramel and toffee malt with notes of dates, apple, vanilla and maple syrup. Full body and moderate sweetness.


Number 13
Highland Cold Mountain Winter Ale

Called a Winter Warmer, this seasonal ale pours clear mahogany with a large, fizzy light tan head, medium-short retention with good lacing. Vanilla, nutmeg, caramel and cookie malt with dates and figs provide a malt and spice balance and a dry finish. Medium body and carbonation.


Number 14
Anchor Christmas AleDark Horse 4 Elf

Perhaps the most famous Christmas beer, this ale has been brewed annually since 1975 and its recipe changes every year. It typically pours clear dark brown with a fizzy, light brown head. Heavy cookie, caramel and nutty malt with medium floral, herbal and spruce hops, notes of plum, licorice, and nutmeg. Medium bodied and carbonation with a sticky texture. If you have veteran craft beer drinkers in your family, see if they have any older renditions in their cellar for a rare vertical tasting of this holiday beer classic.


Number 15
Dark Horse 4 Elf Winter Ale

According to Dark Horse, this beer is holiday cheer in liquid form. The beer pours clear brown with a small, creamy beige head, medium-short retention with light lacing. Nutmeg, cloves, allspice blend with light pine and spruce hops, caramel, nutty, and toast malt with rich notes of dates and figs. Medium body and carbonation.


Number 16
Anderson Valley Winter Solstice

Remember the beach image? Well, this 6.9% “winter warmer” is better suited to warmer locales. Pours clear dark amber with a medium, frothy off-white head, short retention with good lacing. Aroma is vanilla, caramel and cookie malt, dates and figs with light earthy hops. Flavor is malt dominant, vanilla, dates, faint hops and bitterness with a sweet finish. Medium body and carbonation.


Number 17
Captain Lawrence Nor' Easter Winter Warmer

This seasonal beer boasts 12% ABV and is aged in Bourbon barrels, which warms me right up just thinking about drinking this during one of those nasty winter storms. Elderberries add a jammy elegance to this bold offering.


Ramstein Winter WheatNumber 18
Ramstein Winter Wheat

Stylistically, Weizenbocks get my vote for all-around holiday beer style. The rich and complex malt and dark fruits are certainly reminiscent of many holiday plates. This beer offers a bouquet of wheat malt, black current, clove, and apple. Deep full flavors of caramel and chocolate malt balance with hops for a smooth warming character. The finish is smooth and malty leading to a subtle alcohol and dark caramel finish.


Number 19
Fantôme Hiver (Winter)

The brewer changes the recipe every year in this winter offering. Past versions pour clear orange with a large, off-white head, lasting with good lacing. Heavy straw and bread malt, light grassy hops with notes of pepper, pear, and dust. Medium bodied and lively carbonation, and a chalky finish.


Number 20
Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper

Port Brewing says this is one seriously naughty but nice beer. It pours opaque with a small, frothy dark brown head, mostly diminishing. Heavy chocolate and coffee malt pairs with molasses, perfume hops and notes of alcohol and prunes. Full bodied, creamy texture and medium carbonation. Topping out at 9.9 percent ABV, this boozy Christmas beer might not help Santa out that much -- even though we all know Rudolph does most of the driving.

Also seek out the Port Brewing Bourbon Barrel-Aged Santa’s Little Helper.


Photos Courtesy Respective Breweries

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Comments

gmuhlbauer80's picture
No Samichlaus? Really?
joel123's picture
When Samichlaus and Sam Smith Winter Welcome are not on the list I have to take pause
Mr. Pickles's picture
Great list! Winter beers are the best, and so many to mention. You hit many of my personal favorites- Corsendonk, Old Jubilation, SN Celebration, Jubelale, aged Anchor..... I'll be sure to try those listed that I haven't.
Ras Kafka's picture
Sitting in the cheese shop at France 44, drinking Todd the Aleman and reading this list. I will be going straight to the liquor side and hopefully find some Hoppin Frog BA Frosted Frog. Ge ge ge ge ge ge gaa

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Comments

gmuhlbauer80's picture
No Samichlaus? Really?
joel123's picture
When Samichlaus and Sam Smith Winter Welcome are not on the list I have to take pause
Mr. Pickles's picture
Great list! Winter beers are the best, and so many to mention. You hit many of my personal favorites- Corsendonk, Old Jubilation, SN Celebration, Jubelale, aged Anchor..... I'll be sure to try those listed that I haven't.
Ras Kafka's picture
Sitting in the cheese shop at France 44, drinking Todd the Aleman and reading this list. I will be going straight to the liquor side and hopefully find some Hoppin Frog BA Frosted Frog. Ge ge ge ge ge ge gaa

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