The holidays are upon us. Maybe you live somewhere blanketed by snow, and the wintry sheen makes the holiday lights look even brighter. Or perhaps you have a decorated palm tree in your yard, and there isn’t a hint of snow in the forecast. Either way, you’re probably in a holiday mood, which means Christmas beers are definitely on the menu.
Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you can’t argue with the appeal of these rich, tasty beers on a chilly winter night. For the uninitiated, a Christmas beer is a seasonal beer created to be enjoyed during the holidays. While there’s no set definition (and brewers have their own unique takes), they’re usually malty, dark, and loaded with flavors that normally belong in a fruit cake: candied orange peel, cloves, cinnamon, and other wintry spices.
To help you spend the next few weeks imbibing the best seasonal brews, we’ve rounded up our favorite Christmas beers of the year. ‘Tis the season to crack one open.
1. Anchor Christmas Ale
There are few American-made Christmas beers more beloved than Anchor Christmas Ale. 2021 is the 47th year the iconic San Francisco-based brewery has released its Christmas Ale. This seven percent ABV seasonal brew is a thing of beauty with its notes of cinnamon, dark chocolate, caramel; a slight alcoholic fruitiness that ties everything together nicely.
[From $13, 6-pack; drizly.com]
2. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale
One of the best Christmas beers ever made comes from Belgian brewery St. Bernardus. This 10 percent ABV quadruple is loaded with hints of toffee, toasted almonds, dried cherries, gentle yeast, and wintry spices.
[From $39, 2-pack; drizly.com]
3. Revolution Fistmas
With a name like Fistmas, you’d expect a gut-punch of a beer—and you wouldn’t be wrong. This 6.5 percent ABV holiday red ale from Chicago’s Revolution Brewing gets its added flavor from the addition of orange peel and ginger. On top of that, the beer serves up flavors of chocolate fudge, dried fruits, and slight seasonal spices.
[Price varies; available in stores]
4. Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve
Rogue Ales fans eagerly await the brewery’s Santa’s Private Reserve offerings every holiday season. This year’s Kringle Krusher is brewed with Weyerman Pilsner, Caramunich, and Carafa Special III malts as well as Biscuit rye. It gets its seasonal flavor from the addition of vanilla and aging on rum-soaked oak chips.
[From $15, 4-pack; drizly.com]
5. Avery Old Jubilation
Yet another eagerly awaited beer, Avery Old Jubilation is an 8.3 percent ABV strong ale brewed with Black, Chocolate, Bonlander Munich, and 2-Row malts as well as London ale yeast and Bullion hops. The result is a different type of Christmas beer: It’s not spiced like many other beers, but it offers notes of caramel and chocolate along with a nutty sweetness.
[From $11, 6-pack; drizly.com]
6. Tröegs Mad Elf
There might not be a more aptly named Christmas beer than Tröegs Mad Elf. This 11 percent ABV ale is brewed with Chocolate, Munich, and Pilsner malts as well as spicy Belgian yeast. It gets its flavor from the addition of honey and several varieties of cherries.
[From $17, 6-pack; drizly.com]
7. Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Great Lakes is one of those breweries that seems to brew a banger for every season. Its Christmas Ale is no exception. This 7.5 percent ABV Christmas ale gets its seasonal flavor from the addition of honey and spices. The result is a sweet, malty, rich beer with notes of cinnamon, honey, caramel, and ginger.
[From $14, 6-pack; drizly.com]
8. Delirium Noel
It’s quite clear that in addition to making some of the best beer in the world in any season, Belgian brewers know how to craft delicious, memorable Christmas beers. This 10 percent ABV ale is loaded with sweet yeasty flavors of caramel candy, dried fruits, and holiday spices, and it’s rounded out with a warming, subtly bitter finish.
[$8, 11.2oz bottle; drizly.com]
9. Deschutes Jubelale
Deschutes’ foray into the world of winter warmers is its Jubelale. It has a great mix of hops and malts: Pale, Crystal, Carapils, and Extra Special malts as well as roasted barley pair with Bravo, Cascade, Delta, Us Tettnang, and East Kent Goldings hops. This results in a malty, sweet, caramel-filled beer with a nice hoppy backbone.
[From $11, 6-pack; drizly.com]
10. Southern Tier 2XMAS
Southern Tier is well-known for its holiday-centric beers. One of its newest and best is its 2XMAS. This eight percent ABV spiced double ale gets its seasonal flavor from being brewed with orange peels, figs, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and ginger root. The result is a spicy, robust, sweet beer that’s ideal for cold weather drinking.
[$12, 6-pack; drizly.com]
11. Breckenridge Christmas Ale
It makes sense that a brewery located in a city known for its prodigious snow would make a solid winter warmer. This malt-forward ale has notes of chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, and just a whiff of orange. A total crowd-pleaser, Breckenridge Christmas Ale is something you can share with friends and family this holiday season (but we’ll doubt you’ll want to).
[$11, 6-pack; bottlerepublic.com]
12. Bell’s Christmas Ale
Generally speaking, Scotch ales are big, bold, overwhelmingly malty, and a bit heavy (hence their alternative name, “Wee Heavy”). That’s not the case with this unique offering from Bell’s. Simple, well-balanced, and supremely drinkable (impressive considering it has a 7.5 percent ABV), it’s a beer you can sip all evening without falling over.
[$12, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
13. Shiner Holiday Cheer
Christmas ales are usually characterized by the addition of warming spices (think cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and star anise), but Shiner is based in the heart of Texas, and the brewery does things a little differently. Brewed with local pecans and peaches (the dominant flavor in this brew), Shiner Holiday Cheer is perfect for those who live in a warm-weather destination (or maybe those dreaming of one).
[$9, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
14. Bronx Brewery Jingle Jangle
Bronx Brewery is known for making some playful and inventive suds, and this spiced beer is a great example. The brewers soaked chunks of Brazilian Oak in rum and steeped them in the beer during the conditioning process, which gives the resulting brew flavors of vanilla and cinnamon. Overall, Jingle Jangle tastes a bit like a liquified snickerdoodle cookie, which makes it a perfect dessert beer.
[From $21, 4-pack; drizly.com]
15. Hardywood Kentucky Christmas Morning
This boozy (10.6 percent ABV) offering from Hardywood will definitely help you get through a gathering with the in-laws. To make Kentucky Christmas Morning, the brewery takes its Gingerbread Stout and ages it in Kentucky bourbon barrels, a process which adds notes of vanilla, coconut, and rich toasted oak. It’s also cold-filtered through coffee beans before bottling.
[From $18, 4-pack; drizly.com]
16. Double Mountain Fa La La La La
If you’re more of a hop head than a malt worshiper, this treat from Hood River, Oregon is for you. It’s not quite an IPA, but at 7.5 percent ABV and 85 IBUs, this is about as close to the style as you can get in a holiday-inspired beer. Centennial hops lend notes of evergreen and citrus for a bright, easy-drinking brew.
[Price varies; available in stores]
17. Prairie Artisan Ales Seasick Crocodile
While Prairie Artisan Ales out of Oklahoma City makes a collection of dynamic holiday beers, we’re partial to the Seasick Crocodile for its novelty. The sour ale (a rarity in the Christmas realm) is brewed with cranberries, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg; it’s lip-smackingly tart yet very crushable.
[From $12, 4-pack; drizly.com]
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