Bottoms Up: Holiday Brews
The holidays are finally here, and what better way to celebrate than by tossing down a couple seasonal brews? From fall classics to winter faves, these beers are the crème de la crème, the absolute best brews the holidays have to offer (at least in my opinion). I’ll break down my picks – in no particular order – to help you find the perfect beer for the end of the year.
10. Sierra Nevada – Celebration
Let’s begin with one of the boldest holiday beers. Sierra Nevada is consistently high in quality, and their chosen holiday ingredients are no different. Celebration has a very strong citrus aroma with a faint floral undercurrent. The taste is thick in consistency, with a very creamy texture – not watery, not over-carbonated. ‘Tis a perfect holiday brew, especially for those avoiding a flimsy IPA.
9. Anchor Brewing – Christmas Ale
Anchor Brewing Company is generally not within my wheelhouse (when it comes to taste, Liberty Ale and I aren’t on great terms) but what’s the harm in trying new things? Trying out their Christmas Ale turned out to be a huge payoff. The smell definitely rings in the holidays: juniper almost overpowers the entire ale, but the subtle notes of pine and evergreen bring the beer close to achieving great balance. The beer does feel a little thin, but that is very forgivable given the overall flavor. A red ale at heart, Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale shocks you by slamming your taste buds with bitter oak immediately after hitting that sweet tooth. It’s a nice ale to indulge in after a few sips.
8. Weyerbacher – Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Simply put, Weyerbacher brews delicious beer. Their take on pumpkin ale is high gravity and high in flavor. The pumpkin flavor is plentiful, and is accompanied nicely by a quintessential amount of spices. Done incorrectly, this could be a disgusting beer, especially given the alcohol content. Instead, Weyerbacher manages to expertly mix the beer, providing one of the best holiday drinks around.
7. New Belgium – Accumulation Winter IPA
Ah, New Belgium Brewery. A recent introduction to the pantheon of Florida beer, New Belgium has fast become one of my favorite companies. Accumulation is their take on a Winter IPA, and it’s a doozy. Floral patterns dominate, but a strong oaky odor is also present. The taste is familiar to casual drinkers of IPAs; it has plenty of citrus flavors and is very bitter. Unlike the Anchor ale, Accumulation very carefully mixes the juniper in, and it does not overpower the IPA in the slightest.
6. Allagash – Fluxus
I’ve never had an Allagash brew before, although I may have to remedy that in the future. The drink is as unique as the label; Allagash is definitely one of the more interesting beers on this list. It takes the holidays in a different direction with a heavy fusion of blood oranges and barley. Fluxus also includes roasted malts, oats, and Cacao nibs. The beer is, quite simply, delicious. As a porter, it is thick and smoky, but the orange kills off any presumed tobacco aftertaste. The smell is mild and citrusy, but doesn’t quite prepare you for the magnitude of what you are about to consume. Not to mention, it’s the strongest beer Allagash has ever brewed. Definitely a delicious holiday treat.
5. Alaskan Winter Ale
A beer from Alaska…you can’t get more winter than that! This beer is literally Alaska in a bottle. With an aroma of spruce trees and other herbaceous plants, (and some fruity notes) the brew is palatable. It isn’t overly carbonated or thick. Sweetness may be a problem for some, but here it is welcome as it complements the overall hop. This may be the one beer that captures the true essence of a chilly season.
4. Great Divide – Hibernation Ale
A quick online search for the Great Divide Brewery turns up many award winning brews. Hibernation is a dark ale and incredibly strong. Each sip brings a little warmth, and it tastes strongly of coffee and oak, with just a hint of chocolate and something sweet. The feel is thick and creamy – café mocha comes to mind. It smells strongly of oak and licorice with just a hint of caramel. Hibernation is perfectly balanced, and holds a place in my heart as one of the most perfect brews.
3. Shock Top – Pumpkin Wheat Ale
Shock Top is an old favorite with many. Whether it’s Raspberry Wheat or Belgian White (or, in this case, Pumpkin Wheat Ale) Shock Top never seems to disappoint. Out of the bottle, this ale seems pretty ordinary. In a glass however – and, of course, after following the instructions provided– it transforms in taste and peaks in deliciousness. It smells of the classic Shock Top orange, but pumpkin is layered heavily within. It is a little thin to the taste, but that is easily forgivable given the fullness of the pumpkin flavor.
2. Weyerbacher – Autumn Fest
Weyerbacher is listed twice for a reason. You just can’t beat Autumn Fest. This malty brew makes for easy drinking. The smell is mild with a hint of caramel. Malty, woody, sweet and bitter at the same time, this beer is complex without being overbearing, and is quite clean and pleasant.
1. Sweetwater – Motorboat Ale
Life is too short for regrets. Don’t pass up this ale. It’s a clear amber beer, and tastes amazingly sweet after the hoppy kick. The kick is followed by toast and caramel with a hint of roast. Motorboat is floral but not overpowering. It’s a nice change of pace from banal Oktoberfest-esque brews.
There you have it, some good ole fashion beer to keep you warm through the temperamental, sometimes-chilly Florida winter.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
What’s your favorite holiday beer? Are any of these your go-to seasonal classics? Let us know below!