Happy Brew Year

Spicy, rich, and filled with lots of character, holiday beers are worth celebrating

By Linda Monastra and Richard Bolster

Published on December 8, 2014

Typically strong, malty, and full-bodied, holiday beers have a history as deep as their flavors. As far back as the Viking days, Scandinavians drank beer at the winter solstice, and medieval monks brewed a potent beer to celebrate the birth of Christ. The English made mulled beers in winter, as we would cider. The 17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys drank his beer hot and infused with sugar and ginger, the spice actually a remnant of an older tradition that harkened back to the days before hops were commonly used to flavor and preserve beer. Though we drink them chilled, today's holiday season brews tend to be spiced as well. With notes of cinnamon, pine, and chocolate, plus a lingering boozy kiss, they go great with game, cheeses, and desserts.

Photo Credit: Ingalls Photography

christmas beers, holiday beers
Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper

Chocolaty and big at 10 percent alcohol, this beer is great now but will also age well for Christmases future. ($16; 375 ml; winecommune.com)

Great Lakes Christmas Ale

The bitter finish of this well-hopped ale is balanced by notes of cinnamon and ginger, plus a sweet dose of honey. ($26; twelve 12-oz. bottles; rozis.com)

Deschutes Jubelale Holiday Beer
Deschutes Jubelale

There’s something for everyone in this satisfying ale: subtle fruitiness, a hint of smoke from roasted barley, and a floral hop complexity. ($2; 12 oz.; deschutesbrewery.com)

Eggenberg Samichlaus Classic Holiday Beer
Eggenberg Samichlaus Classic

Brewed on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day, this doppelbock is an intense partner for strong-tasting foods like lamb. ($7; 11.2 oz.; halftimebeverage.com)

D'Achouffe N'Ice Chouffe Holiday Beer
D'Achouffe N'Ice Chouffe

Complexity abounds in this classic from Belgium; a candy-sweet aroma gives way to flavors of orange, cloves, and allspice. ($10; 750 ml; luekensliquors.com)

holiday beer, winter beer
Nøgne Ø 
Underlig Jul

Made with cardamom, this beer presents a sensation at once unfamiliar and lovely. The beer is reminiscent of mulled wine, which inspired the recipe, and includes star anise, ginger, and molasses. ($12; 500 ml)

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