With Thanksgiving now in the rearview mirror, it’s time we prepare ourselves for the Christmas season.
That means fighting crowds, wrapping all sorts of presents and listening to family inevitably start to bicker over sports, politics and religion. So, what better way to unwind from what can be one of the most hectic times of year than with a nice, cold glass of Christmas cheer. And while Christmas brews are still a relatively new fad in the ever-evolving beer landscape, there’s plenty that are worth your time – which is why we came up with 12 beers you need to put on your Christmas list this December.
Christmas Ale: Anchor Brewing Co. – 6.5% ABV
For 43 years, the folks at Anchor have churned out Christmas Ale, one of the season’s easiest drinking Christmas beers. This winter warmer beer, made in San Francisco, has a variety of seasonal spices, such as chocolate and nuts, and a strong malty presence that helps give it a deep brown color. There’s even a slightly malty finish that can bring about a bread-like aftertaste. At 6.5 percent alcohol by volume, you can down quite a few Christmas Ales before Santa squeezes his fat, white ass down the chimney – as Clark Griswold would say. Serve in a lager glass.
Bush De Noël (Scaldis Noël): Brasserie Dubuisson Frères sprl – 12% ABV
Scladis Noël, as it’s known here in the United States, was introduced in 1991 and quickly became a year-end staple. With a dark amber color, this Belgian strong ale features caramel malt and candy sugars, offering a full-bodied, fruity taste. Like many of the other beers on this list, Scalids Noël has an undeniably sweet essence to it with hints of banana, pineapple and an assortment of dried fruits. It might be a little difficult to go through three or four of these in one sitting and, at 12 percent alcohol by volume, we wouldn’t recommend it – otherwise you might find yourself dancing like Buddy the Elf. Serve in a trappist glass.
Krampus: Southern Tier Brewing Co. – 9% ABV
If you enjoy being on the naughty list, this beer is definitely for you – and its well worth it! Brewed in the spirit of Krapmus, a Christmas Devil that punishes bad children with sticks and chains, this helles lager, brewed in Western New York, is chock full of aromatic hops and dark malts. With a gold color that more resembles a gift from the wise men than a form of torture, Krampus is medium-bodied and offers a smooth, dry ending. But, at nine percent alcohol by volume, the punishment can catch up to you and really pack a wallop. It definitely beats getting an old-fashioned whipping, that’s for sure. Serve in a dimpled mug.
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale: Brouwerij St. Bernardus – 10% ABV
A perennial European favorite, it doesn’t get much better when it comes to Christmas beer. This quadruple-style brew has a rich, dark color, an irrefutable head – be careful with that pour – and an unmistakable hint of fruit. Each sip can bring about the taste of fermented molasses, apricots and even licorice and it is highlighted by the same yeast that has made the brewery such a hit since 1946. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is medium-bodied and offers a slightly sweet aftertaste – one that will leave you wanting more. But be careful, a few of these might make stringing up the lights difficult. Serve in a trappist glass.
Fistmas: Revolution Brewing Co. – 6.1% ABV
One of the newest beers on the list, Fistmas is a holiday red ale featuring aromas of bread and fruits – some of which contribute to its deep red color. Brewed in Illinois, this beer often comes in a can and features a healthy dose of both rich ginger root and orange peel – which leads to a somewhat strong, or spicy, aftertaste. As far as Christmas beers go, Fistmus is pretty hoppy but this medium-bodied brew is very easy to drink – and only 6.1 percent alcohol by volume. It’s really the perfect Santa fuel. Serve in a lager glass.
Old Jubliation: Avery Brewing Co. – 8.3% ABV
Another Christmas beer found predominantly in cans, Old Jubilation is a winter strong ale brewed in Colorado. It contains five different types of malts that help give it a mahogany color and a finish that has hints of both toffee and mocha. With a medium body and relatively thin head, this 8.3 percent alcohol by volume brew smells of both caramel and malt. Old Jubilation is a beer you might want to sip and, while it might not be the very best beer on this list, its affordability only adds to its deliciousness. Serve in an English pint glass.
Snow and Tell: Boulevard Brewing Co. – 6.3% ABV
A simple brew for a stressful time of year, Snow and Tell is another beer relatively new to the Christmas scene. This oak-aged scotch ale, brewed in Kansas City, offers a prominent taste of both toffee and caramel notes, plus a hint of smoky malt, perfect for sitting in front of the fire. It’s brown and amber in color and a bit dry at the end. Of course, 6.3 percent alcohol by volume is a breeze compared to some of its contemporaries that are on this list but either way, we recommend giving this one a try – at a slightly warmer temperature perhaps. Serve in a pint glass.
Winter Warmer: Harpoon – 5.9% ABV
Harpoon began brewing Winter Warmer in 1988, at a time when Christmas beers were few and far between, but it’s become a staple for the brewery – both in New England and beyond. It’s copper in color and provides a rich cinnamon and nutmeg finish, with a potent malt flavor providing much of the taste. Winter Warmer is medium-bodied and offers a typical head but there’s no in between with this beer – you either love it or you don’t. At 5.9 percent alcohol by volume, you won’t regret giving it a try. Serve in a lager glass.
Holly Jolly Christmas Ale: Fat Head’s Brewery – 7.5% ABV
This beer – along with Fat Head’s Brewery – has really been making a name for itself recently. Brewed just outside of Cleveland, Holly Jolly Christmas is one of the most drinkable on the list – perfect for if you’re trying to stay up late to share a pint with Mrs. Claus. Inspired by sweet, local honey named Holly, this beer is filled with the smell and taste of ginger, honey and cinnamon spices. It’s a caramel colored, medium-bodied brew that contains over a handful of different malts which help give it an orange-brown color. It’s a simple, yet tasty, Christmas beer – one you’ll definitely want to sip on and drink slowly. Serve in a lager glass.
Mad Elf: Tröegs Brewing Co. – 11% ABV
Considered the Red Ryder BB Gun of this list, Mad Elf helped put Christmas beers – and Tröegs – on the map. This Belgian dark ale, brewed in central Pennsylvania, has a ruby red color that is almost as bright as the label and features a delicious blend of honey, chocolate malts and cherries, the latter of which is the undoubtedly the strongest. Mad Elf has quite a fluffy head to it and a thick body that helps to preserve the caramel finish. One sip and it’s clear why this brew has won numerous awards. However, too many sips and you’ll have quite the story to tell everyone the day after Christmas. Serve in a chalice.
Gift of the Magi: The Lost Abbey – 9.5% ABV
The three wise men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to Bethlehem, so it seems only fitting that a beer focused on these gifts is a Golden Ale. Brewed in Southern California, this medium-bodied beer is murky brown in color, with a light head, and offers an eclectic taste of malt, caramel and even wood. It finishes with a dry end, making it the perfect beer to sip, potentially limiting the quantity – well, that and the 9.5 percent alcohol by volume. The wise men would’ve walked pretty far for a taste of this beer. Serve in a trappist glass.
Delirium Noël: Brouwerij Huyghe – 10% ABV
Delirium Noël has become a staple of the Christmas season and is part of the Delirium trilogy of beers. It has a copper red color, with a thick head, and offers a strong yeast aroma. With a strong hint of flavors such as figs, raisins and cardamom, it’s a consistent taste each and every year. The finish offers a slight metallic taste, that which has become standard for one of the Delirium beers and, at 10 percent alcohol by volume, Delirium Noël is not to be taken lightly. It’s most often found in 750ml bottles. Leave some out with the cookies for Santa – you won’t regret it! Serve in a trappist glass.