Jessica Daynor, Managing Editor: I’m a sucker for holiday spice, so even after pumpkin-beer season’s over, I’m still jazzed about the onslaught of cinnamony winter warmers. But this year, I broke my habit with Angel City Vanilla Porter, which was masterfully quiet and surprisingly drinkable. Rather than syrupy, the vanilla was subtle; the soft-spoken sipper’s the equivalent of humming “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” when there’s a church chorus belting out “Joy to the World.” The other standout was Djaevlebryg’s antihero, Hjul & Stejle. Grainy, earthy, sharp and dry—and with Santa impaled on the label, no less!—it just goes to show there’s more than one way to brew an awesome holiday beer.
Erika Rietz, Editor-in-Chief: For many years I spent the holidays with my family on the beach in Acapulco (they’re there now: Feliz Navidad, Rietz family!). It’s a little strange, but nothing screams Christmas to me like sunshine, ocean and a rum and Coke (Cuba Libre!). Not surprisingly, then, Heavy Seas Yule Tide, brewed with ginger and aged in rum barrels, was my favorite (nostalgic) Christmas beer this year: It’s a bit like a rum and Dr. Pepper, but hop bitterness keeps it from going too sweet. Another favorite? The classic Belgian dark strong Corsendonk Christmas Ale because it’s so easy to drink, but lusciously complex: It’s like a chocolate-and-toffee-covered cherry, with some herbal notes, a little smoke and kicky spice. It also chimes in at a dangerously well-hidden 8.1% ABV, which means it’s a one-and-done treat for me that I’m saving for our big holiday meal tonight.
Christopher Staten, Beer Editor: I actually hate real fruitcake (big surprise!), but that didn’t stop me from guzzling down and thoroughly enjoying the liquefied version Fullsteam Fruitcake. The sturdy old ale’s adoption of grilled figs, roasted chestnuts and bourbon oak made for a decadent, warming swallow that sated my thirst for holiday flavors. It’s the only fruitcake worth giving this Christmas. Everything I’ve tasted from St. Louis’ Perennial Artisan Ales has been incredible, including its seasonal Fête de Noel, a hefty 10%-ABV Belgian dark strong ale brewed with orange zest, raisins and—curveball—rosemary. The floral herb marks the highpoint of the swallow, sitting atop layers of prickly orange, sweet dark fruits, smooth caramel and toasted brown bread. It’s just beautifully constructed.