Big meals, decadent desserts, and hearty drinks are a hallmark of the holidays, marked by distinct aromas and tastes like as pine, ginger, and cinnamon.
Each year, brewers create Christmas Ales that seek to encapsulate the sensory delights of this festive season. These 12 Ales of Christmas are some of the best.
1. Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale
Old Fezziwig’s rich malt profile includes toffee, caramel, and chocolate, which is combined with a blend of traditional “wassail” spices comprised of cinnamon, ginger and orange peel. It’s the Christmas cookie of beers.
2. Deschutes Jubelale
Forget fruitcake. Jubelale offers beer drinkers a delicious mix of cherry and dried fruits along with toffee, warming spices, roasted malt, and a steady dose of hops – a sublime balance of flavors. Better yet, indulge in the richness of Jubel 2015, which spends six months each in Pinot Noir and new Oregon Oak barrels.
3. Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Enjoying this roasted malt beer by the open fire is made easy by the inclusion of honey and generous portions of ginger and cinnamon. A six-time World Championship medalist – gold and silver, this pale-colored Christmas Ale enjoys remarkable drinkability.
4. Bruery 8 Maids of Milking
The Bruery’s eighth beer in their annual 12 Days of Christmas series is an Imperial Milk Stout, and at more than 11% ABV, it will also stand up to December’s chill. One will love the astounding creaminess of this stout that’s sure to complement any plate of cookies. Robust notes of chocolate and subtle hints of spice and roasted coffee flavor balance the creaminess exquisitely.
5. Southern Tier 2XMAS
Inspired by a Swedish Glögg party, “2xMas Ale” incorporates figs, orange peels, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger root into the brew. The aroma and flavor remind one of spice cake or warm mulled wine. Southern Tier suggests pairing it with Christmas dessert, or if you want to celebrate in true Glögg fashion, try pickled herring.
6. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
First brewed in 1981, Celebration Ale is a hop-forward holiday beer, comprised of harvest-fresh Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops. However, it also has a full-malt body, with a rich caramel flavor. The discernible pine aroma and taste are the perfect complement for tree trimming.
7. Prairie Artisan Ales Christmas Bomb!
An American-Southwest version of Christmas. They start with their robust Bomb! Imperial Stout – espresso, chocolate, vanilla, and ancho chili peppers – and then add cinnamon bark for a little Christmas zing. The spices and heat, along with 13% ABV, will keep your warmer than an ugly Christmas sweater.
8. Great River Brewery Gingerbread Stout
Every Christmas needs a little gingerbread. This Imperial Gingerbread Stout is brewed with an entire stocking’s worth of seasonal spices, including real ginger, molasses, clove, nutmeg, honey, and just a hint of vanilla – incredibly comforting.
9. Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale
12 Dogs involves bountiful amounts of toasted and caramel malts, honey, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. It’s an inviting brew, to be sure. But, if you reach way down into your stocking, you might also find their bourbon-barrel-aged version which will help defeat any cold Jack Frost throws your way.
10. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale
St. Bernardus is to Christmas Ales what Buche de Noel is to Christmas dessert – classic and sweet. A traditional Belgian-Quad, it employs fermented molasses, apricots, licorice and marzipan. However, winter spices, roasted malt, and a wonderful aroma emanating from their special yeast provide impeccable balance to this sweet Christmas treat.
11. Hoppin’ Frog Frosted Frog Christmas Ale
Prominent cinnamon and ginger notes, along with brown sugar and caramel malt, provide for a tantalizing aroma and unmistakable holiday flavor. It functions well as an after-dinner drink, especially if you choose to enjoy the barrel-aged version, which provides a wonderful kick to an already tasty brew.
12. New Belgium Accumulation
If you were dreaming of a White IPA, you have your wish. New Belgium refused to be on the nice list by rebelling against traditional Christmas brews. This “Festivas for the rest of us” ale is pale-golden and abundantly hoppy, incorporating Nugget and Centennial hops, as well as dry hop Mosaic and Amarillo, allowing for an herbal spiciness, citrus, and tropical flavor.