Holiday beers aren't all spice bombs (though we've got a handful of those, if that's your thing); some pair with rich food, others are dessert sippers and still others are accessible enough to serve to any party guest. Whatever you're drinking this holiday season, we hope you love it.
Saint Arnold Winter Stout
Even if you don't think you're a fan of milk stouts, give this one a try: It packs some dusty nuttiness before light roast and just a drop of lactic sweetness round out the sip, leaving peanut butter and light chocolate flavors on the tongue.
Awesome bottle, right? Inside is a holiday beer for the spice haters. Instead of a cinnamon-laden malt bomb, Smistletoe is a ruby-hued, fruit-spiked and oak-aged version of a biere de garde, though it doesn't hew too close to style. Instead, it's full of cherry, raspberry and raisin, with just a touch of oak for depth.
Blue Point Jingle Mingle
The 11.4% ABV is well hidden between the chocolatey malt and tart cherry juice flavors of this imperial stout brewed with cherries. Some leather tones close the sip, and sticky vanilla remains on the tongue; it would be a great after-dinner, fireside sipper.
Wild Christmas Ale
If you have red wine drinkers at your holiday party, encourage them to try this Leopold Brothers rye whiskey barrel-aged (and Brett-soured) version of Upslope's Christmas dubbel. The aroma is similar to a jammy pinot noir, as is the flavor, which is reminiscent of mulled wine. Serve it with savory duck or ham.
Wicked Weed Milk & Cookies
True to its name, this imperial milk stout brewed with golden raisins, cinnamon and vanilla tastes like a liquid Girl Scout Samoas cookie, with just enough roast at the finish to remind you it's a beer. A damn tasty beer.
Boulevard Snow & Tell
An oak-aged Scotch ale might sound formidable, but this wintertime brew goes down easy. Caramel and toasty malts lead the even-keeled sip, with a note of drying oak and lightly spicy hops drying out the finish. It's a definite go-to winter beer for the spice-averse.
Three Magnets Wreathing Havoc
What's an imperial red rye winter ale? An aromatic delight, for starters. Notes of baking spice bread, candied nuts and cinnamon float to the nose with a base of sturdy roasted chocolate; on the sip, alcohol prickles the tongue before sweet coffee, dark fruit and baking spice wash across the palate.
SweetWater Festive Ale 2015
Here's one for the licorice lovers. Released annually, this year's winter warmer offers up spicy black jelly bean and dark cola notes before a smidgen of toastlike malts close the smooth sip.
Hoppin' Frog Frosted Frog Christmas
This whiskey barrel-aged, spiced brew is in line with what many of us imagine winter warmers to be: Boozy and cinnamon-laced. The pour smells like snickerdoodle cookie dough, while the sip continues with additional cinnamon-sugar and vanilla like dessert in a glass.
Widmer Brothers Brrr
It's always a nice twist when a hop bomb makes it way to the shelves this time of year. This red IPA's caramel just barely holds together a huge burst of grassy, piney and citrusy hop notes, like a refreshing blast of winter air.
Karl Strauss Six Suits A-Hangin'
Take some time to savor the aroma of this dialed-up Belgian brown aged on French oak; toasty malts, light smokiness, plum fruitiness and a sweet wine grape note all weave together for a complex bouquet. Brown sugar, candied fruits and currants lead the super-cohesive sip supported by baking spice breadiness. There's plenty going on, but it's blissfully easy to drink.
Indeed Old Friend Holiday Ale
Brewed with ginger and honey, this limited release pairs perfectly with gingerbread cookies (or could replace them all together!). Caramel and honey underscore spicy ginger in a smooth swallow; the sip settles into pleasant toasted notes for an easy finish.
Heavy Seas Yule Tide
A weizenbock is easiest to think of as a giant version of a hefeweizen, a natural fit for aging in sweet rum barrels and soaking up spicy ginger. The banana, clove and rummy vanilla work well together, but this is still best reserved for fans of sweeter-leaning beers.
Magic Hat Winter Mingle
This super-accessible vanilla stout leads with dusty cocoa and just a prickle of coffee roast; the body is smooth and easy to drink, making it a contender for your first beer of the holiday morning, er, afternoon.
Red Hook Winter Hook #31
'Tis a gift to be simple: This brew's sweet caramel and toast crest into a clipping, bitter finish. It's so balanced and drinkable, you'll certainly want more than one; just heed the 6% ABV.
Anchor Christmas Ale 2015
One of the iconic Christmas beers, Anchor's doesn't disappoint this year (its 41st iteration). Underneath a giant, mousselike tan head, toffee malt richness and fruity plum, raisin and fig greet the tongue before cinnamon and ashy chocolate sweep in to close the sip. All hail the O.G.
HUB Abominable Winter Ale
Don't be afraid to dive right into this monster beer: Sweet caramel smoothes across the tongue before grassy, earthy hops burst into a blustery bitterness, like a biting wind. The spicy, boozy finish lingers long and warms the throat.
Silver City Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Scrooge
The bourbon barrel-aged version of Silver City's GABF gold-winning strong ale is a big beer, heavy with vanilla, butterscotch and bourbon that brings a palpable flush to the cheeks. Sure, you could lay it down for a year or even two, but fans of a ton of bourbon character will want to crack it now. (Maybe wrap your presents and light the fire before drinking too many snifters of this.)
Now in its 15th release year, this English old ale's brewed with Sitka spruce tips plucked from the trees in Gustavus, Alaska. Quiet cherry threads the sweet caramel sip before a pop of fresh spruce and spicy hops invigorate the swallow. It’s well balanced and easy to drink, perfect for a wintry afternoon.
Starr Hill Snow Blind Doppelbock
This brew's sweet toffee and caramel are a perfect complement to baking apple sweetness in the soft, pillowy sip. The 7.7% ABV isn't detectable on the tongue, but a warming glow in the chest assures you it's there; sip next to a warm glowing fireplace.
Double Mountain Fa La La La La
At 7.5% ABV, this winter warmer drinks boozy and full; very sweet brown sugar pours across the tongue before a touch of earthy hop clips the sweetness. It's a prime candidate for cellar time; consider popping it open next Christmas.
Deschutes Jubel 2015
Bust out the snifters. This rumlike brew begs for small sipping with flavors of raisin and tannic pinot grapes perked up by spicy notes of dark brown sugar, warm vanilla and oak. It's complex but not overwhelming, exactly what we want in an armchair beer.
Einstok Icelandic Doppelbock
Complexity is the calling card for this Nordic winter seasonal: Heavy layers of caramel, burnt toast and caramelized sugar drive the nose, while on the tongue, bread and rich toffee tones interlace with a touch of raisin and dark honey before a nice roasty conclusion.
Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Another prime candidate for your daytime drinking, this winter lager brewed with orange peel, cinnamon and ginger is engagingly flavorful, but still crisp and refreshing. Sweet toffee and caramel carry a twinge of spritzy orange; warm cinnamon and herbal ginger surface in the center and linger into a clean finish.
Shmaltz Hanukkah, Chanukah Pass the Beer
Brewed with eight malts, eight hops and clocking in at 8% ABV, this malty beer's made for "mazel tov-ing." Lovely leather, sweet raisin and dark chocolate flow across the tongue, before spicy alcohol meets stern roasted bitterness in a warming finish. Drink by a fire with latkes.
Brooklyn Insulated Dark Lager
You could stay warm with a puffy coat ... or this roast-packed schwarzbier from Brooklyn Brewery. It borders on porter-level dark roast, with a malted milk ball cushion and plenty of piney hops that seem oddly appropriate when you're drinking it next to a Christmas tree.