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Holiday Beers with Lasting Impact - Our Top Picks


Holiday Beers with Lasting Impact - Our Top Picks

Halloween has passed and the Craft Beer world makes its transition from pumpkin and Oktoberfest season full into holiday mode on a dime.  Over time, our world has really made transitions as to what a holiday beer really is.  The rise of pastry stouts and heavily fruited sours have really opened the doors to what that possibilities are. 

Even with all the influx of newer styles and flavor profiles, there are a few classics out there. These have been around for years, have withstood all passing trends and occasional shade and continue to be on everyone’s nice list every single year, without fail.  In no particular order, here are a few that have made lasting impacts on me over the years. 

·      Troegs Mad Elf – I remember (from my past lives) being on a tour led by John in the OG Troegs facility in Harrisburg, where he reminded us how well the ABV alone of this beer gets you through all family gatherings.  This Belgian-style dark ale is brewed with cherries and honey.  The yeast brings the spice, and a touch of chocolate malt provides the depth. Those not into tart cherry (reminds folks of cough syrup) may want to stay away, but to me this is in the quintessential mix for the holidays.

·      Great Lakes Christmas Ale (and barrel aged version) – literally the prototype for your “standard” Christmas Ale.  An amber brewed with honey, cinnamon, and ginger, this one brings the balance and tradition like no other can. 

·      Hardywood Gingerbread Stout – An imperial milk stout that was one of the first that I remember to really bring the flavor. Sure, there were contenders before it, but GBS was a bridge into the pastry stouts of today.  Over the top without going too far, this stands the test of time by being a go-to on those chilly nights (or mornings).

·      Anchor Merry Christmas, Happy New Year (Christmas Ale) – this one returns this year for its 43rd (!!!!!) vintage.  Always a favorite of mine and rotates every year to a new flavor profile.  What’s evolved over time into essentially a spiced brown ale, this year’s version will draw inspiration from Amaro. 

·      St. Bernardus Christmas Ale – This is another throwback favorite of mine that I grab a pour of every single year.  A classic Trappist brewed Belgian Quad with spices.  I always get a little bit of orange and cardamom, which both play great off the luscious grist base and fun yeast profile.

·      Sierra Nevada Celebration – Celebration is still the go to mass produced ipa in my books.  While still super old school, it withstands the test of time.  Called a “fresh hop” ipa, it utilizes hops very recently harvested and processed, bringing the ultimate freshness without being wet hopped.

      If you want to really dive in to more “hype” takes on what’s going on out there, take a look around at your local scenes for the fruit game.  Cranberry and plum typically highlight purees being used in new and creative ways.  The inspirations are endless here and the directions that go with them are, as well.  Pastry stouts can also provide the base to bring any holiday dessert to life, especially with a little bit of barrel aging thrown in.  Be creative and bring all those wintery inspirations to life.  It’s a fun time of year and beers like these only make it more enjoyable!

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