What's brewing? 5 beers for the holiday cheers
Baby, it’s cold outside, so let’s drink some of these craft beers that are released specifically for the holidays! Sometimes referred to as “winter warmers,” these unique holiday brews are something to look forward to each year.
The flavors of pumpkin pie spices in craft beer around Halloween kick off a celebration of aromas and flavors that truly make these end of the year holiday brews special. Just as we enjoy the feeling of a warm fire, the visuals of fluffy snowflakes, twinkling lights and the sounds of carolers around the holiday season, brewers use the wonderful aromas and flavors we associate with the holidays to bring us their culinary delights.
These brews made with pine, gingerbread, clove, orange peel, cookies, cinnamon and raisins are truly some of my favorite things.
Rich, full-bodied and malty flavored beers that warm our insides pair well in the winter months. Whether it’s a Belgian beer brewed with orange peel, a porter with real vanilla bean or a stout aged in bourbon barrels, they make great gifts. Stouts or any craft beers that are higher in alcohol can be aged, too.
They make good conversation pieces the following year when they’re opened. In addition, many brewers include seasonal and festive words like “elf,” “St. Nikolaus,” “snowdrift” and “Christmas” in the name of their beers to help drive home the holiday specialness. Many times these craft beers are accompanied by a great visual design, too. I enjoy seeing James Stitt’s new Christmas tree artwork that changes each year on Anchor Brewing Co.’s Christmas Ale label. It’s one of many things that make craft beer around the holidays so special.
Here are a few holiday ales you’ll only find this time each year. Cheers!
Snowdrift Vanilla Porter (6% ABV). This is a porter-style beer that pours dark brown with aromas of vanilla and cocoa. Flavors include coffee and caramel, which are brought out by roasted malts. Aged on real vanilla, it’s smooth and creamy with a medium body and mildly carbonated. Slight lingering vanilla finish.
Perfect for warming up winter!
Tröegs Independent Brewing (Pennsylvania)
The Mad Elf (11% ABV). This dark Belgian strong ale pours amber brown with a red hue. It smells sweet, spicy and a bit like sour cherries.
Flavors of cherries, honey, cocoa, cinnamon, clove and allspice really come out after the beer warms up a bit. Boozy and well hidden, so prepare yourself because this one could get you into some trouble.
Full Pint Brewing Co. (Pennsylvania)
Festivus (6% ABV). A mildly spiced brown ale for the holidays. Light to moderate aromas of nutmeg and cinnamon. Taste is malty throughout with a hint of nutmeg and hops.
Pennsylvania Brewing Co.
St. Nikolaus Bock (6% ABV). A European-style rich, dark, malty lager with notes of chocolate. Medium body and smooth tasting with a toasted malt finish.
This won a silver medal in 2011 from the Great American Beer Festival. The regular Bock is available from November until January, while the Brewers’ Reserve is available in November and December only.
Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. (Ohio)
12 Dogs of Christmas (8.3% ABV). Aromas of caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Flavors of raisins, malt and orange peel. As the beer warms, additional flavor of honey. Heavy body and sweet.
A lingering malty, gingerbread finish.
Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He’s the author and illustrator of Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers.