This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by Nick Costa.
The holidays are the perfect time to gather with kith and kin, even more so with a few beers in hand. And with Christmas only 12 days away, we at The Hop Review have made a list (and checked it twice) of 12 Christmas-inspired brews perfect for all your favorite winter festivities…from a pick up game of pond hockey with old friends to trimming the tree with your family. So from The Hop Review to you and yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and most importantly, cheers!
Anchor Christmas Ale
SAN Fransisco, CA – 6.7% ABV
There may be no beer more quintessential for Christmas than Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale. First brewed in 1975–long before ‘craft beer’ was a thing–the highly guarded secret recipe changes yearly. This year the winter warmer has notes of cocoa, toffee, roasted nuts and hints of honey and an herbal spice. Not only does the recipe change each go-around, the label’s tree illustration does too. Check out this link to see the complete 43 year collection of labels.
Great Lakes Christmas Ale™
Cleveland, OH – 7.5% ABV
Using locally sourced honey to balance traditional holiday spices and rich caramel malts, this six-time World Beer Championship medal winning red winter ale is near perfect. From Cleveland and beyond, it gets shared over holiday meals and even used in Christmas cookie recipes, and has been since 1992. In fact, its legion of devoted fans clamor for the annual GLBC release to the point of cult-obsession. So much so, that Clevelanders sometimes have to explain their passion.
Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA
Chico, CA – 6.8% ABV
Whoever said Christmas beers had to comprise of all dark malts and holiday spices? Another classic dating back over three decades, Celebration utilizes fresh west coast hops to deliver a classic American style IPA full of citrus and fresh pine. It’s a dank, resinous and a tinge sweet; the perfect beer to sip on while decorating that fresh tree you just cut down.
Bell’s Christmas Ale
Kalamazoo, MI – 7.5% ABV
Bell’s Christmas Ale is another old standby of the season, but is completely new for 2017. The new recipe ditches the familiar spices for a traditional Scotch ale, rich and malty with caramel notes and a 2% bump in ABV to finish toasty and warm. Again, feel free to set the spice aside in favor of some other warming flavors…
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale
Watou, Belgium – 10.0% ABV
A classic Belgian strong ale that will never disappoint you during the Christmas season. At 10% it is a big beer, but impeccably balanced with a velvety mouthfeel. Rich in color and flavor, with notes of bread, licorice, mild spice and the familiar fruity esters from the Belgian yeast, it’s an Abbey ale from the folks who know Belgian beers best.
Melle, Belgium – 10.0% ABV
Another Belgian strong coming in at 10%, but Noël is certainly distinctly Delirium. The yeast is pronounced with huge aromas of banana and clove. Toss in some notes of cinnamon and caramelized sugar and it is reminiscent of banana bread that was soaked in cognac. Pull up that chair next to the fireplace and let this beer do its thing.
Dark Horse 4 Elf
Marshall, MI – 8.75% ABV
The Michigan brewery throws a party of the same name every year to celebrate the holiday season and this winter warmer. Full of cinnamon, nutmeg, and spicy clove this beer pairs with all your holiday fixings from herb stuffing to gingerbread cookies.
Troegs Mad Elf
Hershey, PA 11.0% ABV
It is no secret that after a few of these 11% holiday bombs you will be feeling cheerful, and even maybe a little mad yourself. This elf is not shy, with an in-you-face Belgian yeast presence, ripe cherries, and honey–all propped up by a sticky toffee, caramel sweetness and a welcomed alcohol heat on the finish.
Prairie Christmas BOMB!
TULSA, OK – 13.0% ABV
Speaking of holiday bombs, this Bomb! variant from Prairie takes all the good things from their year-round Imperial Stout–chocolate, coffee, vanilla beans, and a hint of chili pepper–and takes it to another level with flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a hint of clove. A perfect post-meal respite from any family drama that might occur around the Christmas dinner table. If that’s your worry…
Chicago, IL – 6.5% ABV
The local holiday favorite of The Hop Review, this red ale is steeped with ginger root and orange peel resulting in a beer full in aromas of fresh breads, caramel, and stone fruit. Our favorite thing about this beer is the generous hop bitterness that balances it all out, making it easy to enjoy one after another, after another… and maybe one more after that.
The Bruery 10 Lords-A-Leaping
Placentia, CA – 10.5% ABV
In an undertaking that started a decade ago to honor the 250th anniversary of the holiday classic, ‘Lords’ is the tenth offering in The Bruery’s Twelve Beers of Christmas series. This year’s beer is a dark imperial wit brewed with, you guessed it, 10 different spices. Whether you’re drinking this on its own, or setting it aside for an epic vertical tasting in 2019, 10 Lords-A-Leaping is definitely a beer worthy of sharing with friends.
ESCONDIDO, CA – 8.1% ABV
It’s name might not be as on-the-nose as the other Christmas offerings on this list, but Xocoveza is a perfect beer for when the temperature drops. And while the Mexican hot chocolate profile is nothing new in beer (and seemingly copied by everyone these days), Stone’s offering is 1) Available everywhere and at a modest price, and 2) Executed flawlessly. A perfect balance of baker’s chocolate and coffee with cinnamon, nutmeg, and the slightest hint of pepper.
Rogue Ales Santa’s Private Reserve, Nogne Ø God Jul, 3 Floyds Brewing Alpha Klaus, Brouwerij Het Anker Gouden Carolus Noel, Scaldis Noël, Harpoon Winter Warmer