We’ve assembled our beer gifts and baked beer-spiked desserts until our oven cried “quit!”—so maybe it’s time we treat ourselves to a small present. We dipped into our cellar to pull out seven vintage holiday beers, some of which held up and some of which turned out to be lumps of coal. Here are the five we recommend uncapping this winter, ideally in front of a toasty fireplace.
Goose Island Christmas Ale 2012
Goose Island recommends aging Christmas Ale up to five years, but this 2012 is absolutely peaking now. Not overly spiced, the brown ale’s hops offer a bright pine bitterness reminiscent of a fresh-cut Christmas tree. As the beer warms, dark cherry flavors add complexity. Most impressive, though, is the creamy, lively body, which hasn’t lost any vitality in the cellar.
Mother’s Imperial Three Blind Mice 2012
This 9.6% imperial brown still came in hot. The alcohol plays a dynamic role, adding not just heat but spice and sweetness. Dark fruit characteristics are still bright on the initial sip, with roasted coffee on the tail. Two years in the cellar contribute to a dryer finish, though this big boy could probably handle another year before it reaches its prime.
Avery Old Jubilation 2009 or 2010
Sorry, Santa’s reindeer ate the birth certificate on this one. Regardless of whether it’s four or five years old, this Avery winter warmer is one to pull now. The nose offers chocolate covered raspberry and other strong stone fruit sweetness, while age lends an earth tobacco bite to the sip. The body has flattened out, and likely wouldn’t survive another winter in the cellar.
Point St. Benedict’s Winter Ale 2010
Crisp, clean fig and raisin flavors taste surprisingly bright for a four-year-old beer, especially at 6.2% ABV. Grape mustiness, like a cross between unsweetened purple grape juice and lighter red wine, is the only indication that this is a vintage pull. Drink it now, while it still feels this fresh.
Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs Of Christmas Ale 2012
The honey is definitely this beer’s “it” factor. Whether there’s any science to it, the honey seems to preserve the distinctiveness of the ginger and clove, like the spices have fossilized in amber. Lively carbonation and a cohesive spice-sweetness make this beer “a dang delight,” as one of our editors put it. Drink it up this winter.