To me, the spirit of the holidays can be found in its seasonal beers. The special ales brewed at this time of year make the season jolly for beer drinkers. From flavored stouts to heavy ales, there is a wide variety to enjoy by themselves or pair with delicious holiday foods and desserts.
With that in mind, here are my Five Faves:
Anchor Merry Christmas Ale – I always look forward to the release of Anchor Brewing’s holiday ale since their recipe changes every year, and 2012 did not disappoint me. The most recent one I enjoyed had light carbonation and tasted like nutmeg and cinnamon, but Anchor Brewing has said that different flavors emerge over time, so we will see what it tastes like next time. Drink this winter warmer next to the fireplace.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – Many tasting contests have awarded first prize to this robust beer. Count me among those liking it. Brewed with the first fresh hops of the season, this beer is more refreshing than some other holiday beers but still has a great seasonal feel to it.
Leinenkugels Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout – If you seek a beer with a sweet but heavy aroma reminding you of dark chocolate, toffee or molasses, this should be your pick. Its deep mahogany color reflects 11 different malts, espresso and mocha character inherent in the product. The stout goes down easy but still has a little kick to it.
Sierra Nevada Narwhal Imperial Stout – You can taste espresso, baker’s cocoa, roasted grain and a slight smoky flavor in this unique beer. I can taste the essence of chocolate-covered cherries and currants in this pitch black stout, which manages to be both creamy and intense.
Samuel Adams Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout – I felt like someone was baking gingerbread when I first smelled this one. Cinnamon, clove and nutmeg flavors are very apparent in this dark roasted malt. Add the silky texture, and you have a fun concoction that brings back childhood memories while you create new ones as an adult.
Also, I am eagerly awaiting the re-release of Lagunitas Sucks Ale. The company introduced this last year when it was unable to produce enough of its popular Brown Shugga seasonal beer for its customers, and it’s a great substitute. When I had it last year, the fruity flavors made me feel like I was relaxing on a warm, sunny beach in the middle of winter.
Clearly, I love the holidays and I love beer. Anyone have any other festive brewskies I need to try?
Bill Phillips is a native of North Carolina and beer enthusiast. His favorites are any of the big beers from Sierra Nevada but he's always game for a good IPA from Lagunitas.