Who put the peaches in our holiday ale?! Answer: a total genius. We’re loving the flavorsome breaks from our roasty, toasty winter warmers; here are 10 seasonal beers doing innovative flavors well.
CRANBERRY: Everything from this new cider label’s a hit—including this super-sweet cranberry-tweaked version. Ciderboys Cranberry Road goes down easy; after a few sips, a sting in the cheeks reminds you of a glass of the red stuff.
SPRUCE: Steamworks brews its Spruce Goose strong ale with spruce tips from the nearby San Juan National Forest; the verdant ingredient gives the malt-forward brew a jolt of fresh pine.
PEACH: Shiner Holiday Cheer is simply intoxicating—and one of our new favorite seasonals. Additions of peaches and pecans to a dunkelweizen base yield a soft, far-from-too-sweet swallow with a pop of meaty peach.
NUTS: Distinct nuttiness adds interest to the toffee-cocoa profile of the super-smooth He’Brew Messiah Nut Brown.
CINNAMON: Delicate mace (which hails from the nutmeg seed) rounds out a pop of cinnamon in the 8.5%-ABV SweetWater Festive Ale. It’s not Yankee-candle-cinnamon, but rather a mellow hum that melts into the easy-drinking cocoa-and-molasses swallow.
VANILLA: Amid big malts, chocolate and cinnamon, a ribbon of floral, sweet vanilla runs through the burly Terrapin/Shmaltz Reunion Ale 2012.
WHISKEY: Not for the faint of palate, Bayou Teche Joie a Tous (the Louisiana brewery’s first Christmas ale) is a blend of Belgian-funkified ale and local coffee aged in Jack Daniels barrels. The wood and whiskey tango in a boozy-smoke flavor you’ve never sipped before.
CHOCOLATE CHERRY: So it’s not really a beer, but the 5%-ABV Mike’s Hard Chocolate Cherry can hang with the rest of the toothsome holiday brews in your fridge with its ultrasweet Cherry Tootsie Pop impression.
ANISE: 21st Amendment keeps mum on the spices in its seasonal Fireside Chat ale, but there’s no missing the earthy, licorice-like tinge of anise among the smooth blend of cocoa and other secret ingredients.
RASPBERRY: New Belgium Frambozen’s huge, rich raspberry (but really fresh, not fakey) smacks up the 6.5%-ABV brown ale and tickles your mouth the whole way down.
SMOKE: One of beer’s most anticipated winter releases, Alaskan 2012 Smoked Porter gets its swirls of smoke from five malts smoked over local alder wood.