Remind us to thank Santa: the big guy swung by the Draft office early this year and dropped off a bounty of winter warmers, spiced Christmas ales and hoppy winter beers. (How we managed to stay off the Naughty List we’ll never know, but we’ll take it.) We tasted our way through them all; these are the eight that really jingled our bells.
Great Lakes Christmas Ale
The trifecta of the perfect holiday beer is (1) you can drink it on its own (2) you can drink it with Christmas dinner and (3) you can have a few throughout the day and still keep your head (almost) as clear as a silver bell. This spice and honey-infused brew fits the bill. Very soft caramel develops into floral honey and marmalade sweetness before ginger zing lends a snappy finish. Try it with your savory holiday ham, or just take down a few in front of the fire.
Fort Collins Sled God
Keep your Christmas morning mellow with a mug of Sled God, a lovely imperial brown ale brewed with brown sugar and coffee. This soft beer’s swell of vanilla, chocolate and hazelnut is reminiscent of a three-cream holiday-spiced cup of joe, with just enough roast to keep all of the sweetness in check.
Begyle Christmas Ale
This holiday release made with bay leaves and cinnamon sticks even looks like Christmas, pouring a gorgeous deep copper color with ruby highlights. Butter-cookie malts melt into baked cinnamon goodness mid-sip; just a touch of herbal bay adds a savory note to the very dry, very clean finish.
Golden Road Back Home Gingerbread Stout
Every time this beer hits shelves, we prepare ourselves for the spices of the season: An aromatic blast of gingerbread cookie rises from the inky brew while pure gingerbread, a touch of orange and lively carbonation keep the sip festive and bright. Prickly ginger spice lingers well into the finish and doesn’t let up until this brew is many minutes behind you. Don’t worry about the stout part (it’s barely there), but do mind the very sneaky 8.5% ABV.
Wichita Brewing Co. What Winter? Ale
We all dread winter’s cold, bitter wind, but the gust of bitterness in this seasonal brew is actually quite welcome. Sweet toffee smooths over the tongue first, paving the way for fresh pine, ginger root and a touch of orange in the center. Bitterness storms at the far end of the sip, a few beats after the swallow, and grows with each return to the glass. By the end of your pint, you’ll feel every inch of this brew’s 99.1 IBUs.
Troegs Blizzard of Hops
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for big, spicy, dark and malty holiday brews. But a well-crafted beer is welcome at any time, and this Winter IPA simply hits the spot. A juicy swell of mango hops gets a fresh, piney edge that keeps the sip brisk, and just enough bitterness steadies the swallow to a very clean finish.
Three Magnets Wreathing Havoc
This imperial red rye ale has several things going for it: A chewy body with tingly carbonation that feels like crushed velvet on the tongue; alcohol content that’s both ample (9.4%) and barely noticeable; and a flavor that blends dry pumpernickel bread with spicy black strap molasses, cinnamon sticks and drizzles of maple syrup before a sweet, figgy finish. Plus, each post-sip exhale tastes like overbaked gingerbread cookies.
Samuel Adams White Christmas
The best part of the holidays is spending time with your loved ones, even if they don’t share your love of insanely sour wild ales and thick, cloudy IPAs. Fortunately, this beer is one the whole family can agree on. An unfiltered wheat beer brewed with spices, its soft, full wheat base drives the sip. A sprinkle of nutmeg, a flit of orange and a dash of cinnamon are subtle enough for casual beer drinkers and tasty enough for you. Plus, the body’s wonderfully smooth, just like your holiday will be—if everyone just gets along.