Christmas cheer, Christmas beer
December 16, 2011 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Recommend me some Christmas beers.

The holidays are nearing and that means drinking. I usually go over to my parents' place for 3 or 4 days over Christmas and I like to bring a bunch of interesting beers with me to share with the family, since I live in a city with the greatest beer store in all of Canada (this is a fact, not a boast). I normally just grab a bunch of things that I think would be good and/or unique.

This year, I think I'm going to aim for things that are specifically Christmas-y. Aside from a few obvious choices -- barley wines and winter spice ales1 -- what beers just scream: CHRISTMAS?!

1. Of course, just because they're obvious doesn't mean that you can't recommend specific brews.
posted by asnider to Food & Drink (37 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Christmas Ale from Anchor Brewing is hard to find in December, but it's worth looking for. I managed to buy two six packs last month and haven't seen it since.
posted by emelenjr at 8:07 AM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

So, not exactly a beer, but something that I've been making at my family's Christmas gathering every year for as long as I can remember is a Swedish drink called "mumma". It changes every year depending on my mood and the beers that are available to me, but the general recipe is:
Couple ounces of sherry (or port wine)
One bottle porter
One bottle lager
One can (or less) of sprite or coke or (if you have an Ikea nearby) Julmust

Combine all in a pitcher, making sure to have a nice head on there (at least an inch), which I usually accomplish by pouring in the porter last and from great heights.

The result is a dark, frothy sweet beer drink that goes well with lutfisk and aquavit.
posted by Grither at 8:09 AM on December 16, 2011

Sierra Nevada Celebration. Their Life & Limb collaboration with Dogfish Head (hard to find; delicious). Jubelale in the 22oz. Can you get Deshutes? Their new Stoic is amazing. High alcohol, almost like a pear cider but with more honey. And of course their Abyss is out and very chocolatey this year. Lagunitas Brown Sugar is festive!
posted by amanda at 8:09 AM on December 16, 2011

I you can get them there: Great Lakes Brewing Company's Christmas Ale (Cleveland) is excellent. Its creator founded another brewery called Thirsty Dog in Akron and their 12 Dogs of Christmas (ale) is also excellent.
posted by vkxmai at 8:26 AM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Tröegs Mad Elf. It's just... wow.
posted by The Michael The at 8:27 AM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Anchor Christmas
Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza de Noel
Fantome de Noel
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale
posted by brand-gnu at 8:29 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of my favorites is Bridgeport Brewery's Ebenezer, if you can find it where you live.
posted by nickthetourist at 8:32 AM on December 16, 2011

Came here to recommend Great Lakes' Christmas Ale. It tastes like gingersnaps soaked in beer. In a very good way.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:35 AM on December 16, 2011

posted by jeffch at 8:36 AM on December 16, 2011

I love Christmassy beers, and my favorite (and local to me!) is Dundee's Festive Ale. Also thirding the Great Lakes ale already mentioned.
posted by SeedStitch at 8:37 AM on December 16, 2011

Best answer: Granville Island Brewery's Lions Winter Ale.
posted by Zozo at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2011

To follow on elemenjr's comment -- I saw a magnum of it last Saturday in the Village Beer Merchant in Buffalo. A fucking magnum.

Good luck.

Great Lakes usually has a Christmas Ale, and Saranac a 12 Beers of Winter, and they're both dependable places.

I have Unibroue's Grand Reserve 17 waiting for me at home. It should be easy pickings where you are.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:05 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Great Divide: Hibernation

New Belgium: 2 Below

I also like going against the grain a little and getting a nice saison for this time of year, but it's traditionally a summer beer.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:26 AM on December 16, 2011

I can't stand Anchor Steam (not a fan of the California Common style) but Anchor's Christmas Ale is definitely A+++ in my book.

Sierra Nevada's Celebration is not at all Christmassy in my opinion (except for the label). It's very hoppy and bitter; when I think Christmas beer I think full-bodied, malty, and spicy.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:26 AM on December 16, 2011

Serious Eats is currently running a 12 Days of Christmas Beer series of posts. Lots of great-sounding beers have come up there.
posted by Gori Girl at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2011

Not explicitly a christmas beer, but every year around this time, I pick up a couple Goose Island Bourbon Stouts along with plenty of Full Sail Boarhead Barley-wine. The former is great with a pipe or cigar...or as a part of my death row meal: Bourbon Stout with beef bone marrow. The latter option is a really strange barley-wine that almost has a mellow IPA vibe to it. Careful, even though it's only like a 7-8% or something, it will most certainly fuck you up in a hurry.

I also agree that Anchor's offerings are never that great, EXCEPT the Christmas Ale; it is quite excellent. It also ages particularly well; i just opened a magnum of it from last year and it mellowed out like a champ. And uh, if you're a homebrewer, those magnums of Anchor's Christmas Ale are great because they just take a regular bottle cap. can brew and cap your own MAGNUM. Which is....well, awesome.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Apparently, Ommegang has a limited edition Christmas beer called "Adoration".

The LCBO being absolute shit, I couldn't tell you what it's like. But everything Ommegang does is gold, so it's bound to be good. And they're good people worthy of your patronage.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:36 AM on December 16, 2011

Response by poster: I have Unibroue's Grand Reserve 17 waiting for me at home. It should be easy pickings where you are.

Alas, it appears to be available exclusively in Quebec until the New Year. I am a huge fan of anything Unibroue makes, though, so I'll be sure to track down a bottle or two when it is available in Alberta.
posted by asnider at 9:39 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome
posted by mkultra at 9:43 AM on December 16, 2011

Mmmmmm, seconding Jubelale! Last year's was delicious and this year's is too. Also agreed that anything Ommegang is likely to be great.

I can't figure out if there is a Redhook Eisbock available this year, but if there is, I highly recommend it.

Alaskan Winter Ale is so wintry, it's got actual spruce tips in it. This sounds bananas if you've never had it before, but I assure you it's amazing -- tastes like sweet fresh blueberries.
posted by clavicle at 10:05 AM on December 16, 2011

Alaskan Winter Ale Thought that spruce tips would be a bad thing (i.e. resiny and piney in flavor), but NO! They taste faintly of blackberries, in a good way, not in an overly-sweet-summer-wheat-beer-with-berries-way.
posted by Betty's Table at 10:05 AM on December 16, 2011

Harpoon Winter is the only beer I like.
posted by rmless at 10:18 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sam Adams Old Fezziwig. I look forward to it every Christmas.
posted by chiefthe at 10:58 AM on December 16, 2011

Here's some ideas, most of which aren't "Christmas" beers, but would be really good for the Holidays.

Traquair Jacobite (really good if you can find it)
North Coast Old Rasputin
Allies Win the War - 21st Amendment and Ninkasi
Any good Belgian Dubbel
Harvey's Christmas Ale
Gouden Carolus Cuvee van de Keizer Blauw - Het Anker
posted by bajema at 11:19 AM on December 16, 2011

Leffe's christmas beer is ok.. I can get it here in the Netherlands.. not sure about Canada. Bière Leffe de noël
posted by mary8nne at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2011

Best answer: At this time of year, I really like La Fin du Monde. Hints of nutmeg, coriander and orange peel. Cheers!
posted by HarrysDad at 12:06 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, my English father drank only American beer--I remember him drinking Coors or Burgie constantly and Rainier Ale on special occasions. This was in the late 70/early 80s when fancy beer was harder to come by. But every Christmas he would get a few bottles of Belhaven, Taddy Porter, or Old Peculier. I always think of these as special beers. And every year at Christmas, he'd have one bottle of Stingo. You couldn't get Stingo for a long time, but Samuel Smith's started making it again a couple of years ago (or maybe just making it availabel in states again). It's a spendy beer--one 22 oz is likely to run you 15 dollars. But it's a classic Christmas heavy--tastes of Christmas Pudding and golden raisins.

I had a bottle of it last year, and I had to stop everything else I was doing. Just sit down in front of the fire and enjoy that damn bottle.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2011

Best answer: I think of Fin du Monde as a New Year's Eve beer, myself. Has anyone tried the Rogue Brewing Christmas beer? I was on the lookout for it as I generally like Rogue, but didn't know if it was good or not.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:05 PM on December 16, 2011

Alas, it appears to be available exclusively in Quebec until the New Year.

It's available in Ontario right now, so you might want to dig a little deeper on that. As shitty as the LCBO is, it at least has this.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:55 PM on December 16, 2011

Odell Brewery's Isolation Ale.
posted by Demogorgon at 2:02 PM on December 16, 2011

You can't really go wrong checking out the Commercial Examples of the BJCP Christmas Beer Style Guidelines.
posted by rocketman at 2:03 PM on December 16, 2011

Response by poster: It's available in Ontario right now, so you might want to dig a little deeper on that.

Interesting. The web page for the product suggests otherwise. I'll have to take a look. If it's available here, Sherbrooke will surely have it.
posted by asnider at 2:18 PM on December 16, 2011

I'd like to bring up Great Lakes Christmas Ale again. Great Lakes is a fantastic American brewer based in Ohio, and Christmas Ale ends up being a big thing in Cleveland... so much that they brew an encore batch in July... "Christmas in July."
posted by Michael Pemulis at 5:19 PM on December 16, 2011

My partner heartily recommends Holidale from Berkshire Brewing Company. It is strong and delicious. I am not sure if it is sold in Canada.
posted by tr0ubley at 6:07 PM on December 16, 2011

Sam Adams had a beer in their winter 12 pack last year that reminded me a great deal of hot chocolate.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:37 AM on December 17, 2011

I sought out Samichlaus a few years ago and found it to be really rather disgusting. It tasted more like carbonated dark soy sauce than lager. Not very Xmas-y.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:52 PM on December 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions, folks. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find many of the beers you recommended, but I will definitely keep an eye out for them in future years.

I did manage to get a good selection of Christmas/Winter beers, including some of the ones from this list, and nearly all wear fantastic. I even managed to find a Krampus beer! (Link is not mine, nor the breweries; I can't seem to find an official site.)

The Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale was fantastic. The store was out of 6-packs, so I bought a 1.5L magnum. I end up drinking most of it by myself, because everyone said they would share it but then, once I opened it, they lost interest. (I had to drink it! I couldn't let it go flat!)
posted by asnider at 8:39 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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