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Pubs we love: winter wonderlands

Glittering fairy lights, miles of garland and soul-warming seasonal brews. At these bars, the holiday season is truly the most wonderful time of the year.
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Samuel Gauthier, head bartender, Sippin' Santa's Surf Shack

Samuel Gauthier, head bartender, Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack

It’s not hard to radiate vintage charm when you’re housed in a repurposed 1906 train station, but this suburban Chicago brewery takes it to a whole different level for the holidays, decking the halls (and windows and archways) with verdant wreaths, strands of garland and twinkling white lights. During the annual 12 Beers of Christmas event, the brewery unveils a festive new seasonal every day for nearly two magical weeks; past offerings have included Jolly Jiggly Belly, a cinnamon- scented amber bock, and Jack Frost, a stout that sings with raisin and clove. Each December, Flossmoor Station treats visitors to Christmas at the Brewery, a family-friendly, one-day celebration featuring free horse-drawn carriage rides through the surrounding neighborhood. 1035 Sterling Ave.

Every day feels like Christmas in your uncle’s basement at this gloriously weird Austin dive where the tinsel shines and the artificial tree twinkles 365 days a year. Decorative highlights include a profusion of snow globes, nutcrackers, stockings and a life-size rooftop Santa, sleigh and reindeer team. Look for an ever-changing roster of drafts from Texas outfits like Grapevine Craft Brewery and Adelbert’s, plus on-theme brews like Peppermint Victory at Sea, Ballast Point’s cool-as-a-candy-cane imperial porter. Lala’s annual 1/2 Christmas bash in June (think white elephant exchanges, house-made eggnog and tipsy adults perching on Santa’s lap) means never needing to put your ugly sweater in storage. 2207 Justin Lane

Each November, a team of 15 employees clocks about 75 combined hours installing garland, scores of bows and ornaments and a whopping four football fields’ worth of lights, transforming Philadelphia’s oldest continually operating pub into one of the nation’s cheeriest Yuletide hangouts. When the season’s in swing, the bar dedicates a few of its 30 local and Pa.-centric handles to local holiday gems like Tröegs’ Mad Elf, a Belgian strong ale with a sweet cherry aroma and a Rudolph’s-nose hue. Do as the locals do and drop by for a pint between rounds of Christmas shopping; if you’re lucky, you might catch a tune by the Mummer string bands that pop in to perform throughout December. 1310 Drury St.

This December, swap raging nor’easters for balmy trade winds when this quirky pop-up blows into Manhattan, temporarily converting the beer-and-a-shot spot Boilermaker into a Christmas-in-the-islands hideaway. Expect Hawaiian shirt-clad bartenders, thatched tiki trim and lots of tropical tchotchkes. Boilermaker’s signature menu of brew/hooch pairings gets an injection of Christmas spirit. Last year’s included inspired combos like the Donner & Blitzen, featuring cider served with a warming dram of Plantation Dark Rum. We hope you like the easybreezy Christmas classic “Mele Kalikimaka,” because there’s no way you won’t find yourself humming it post-visit. 13 1st Ave.

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