Ah, the winter holidays. A time to sit down with your friends and family, cozy up by the fire, and reflect upon the important things in life. Like drinking. And ways to do more of it. Luckily for you, this winter heralds some of the best seasonal and winter-time beers ever made. And isn’t that excuse enough? Here are 12 yuletide brews so good that even the frozen hellscape outside will seem… cheery.
Indeed Brewing Company’s Stir Crazy Winter Ale
Although this winter warmer socks you with its murky hue and meaty aroma of fresh ground espresso, don’t be fooled. Stir Crazy is a dangerously easy drinker. Thin but not watery, carrying the lightly malty notes of brown sugar, candied raisins, and cocoa nibs—this brew has all the makings of the perfect winter breakfast beer. Something you drink before you go out to chop wood, or, far more likely, turn up the thermostat.
Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale
This is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. Underneath its alluringly complex floral aroma of coriander and orange rind, the hefty copper colored beer is surprisingly dry—much like sake—with a strange but deliciously bready twist of warm banana bread, plum cake and cinnamon buns. We highly suggest you use this beer as a replacement to the holiday tragedy that is the fruitcake.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Winter or summer, this is a world class IPA. Full bodied yet drinkably thin, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is immaculately balanced by a trio of hop flavors that stretch from loamy, earthy herbs, to pine resin and spruce tips. Unless you’re insane or English, you know you should be serving your ales cold—and this is a beer that somehow makes you look forward to downing a chilly beverage on a snowy day.
Midnight black and smooth as fresh powder, Wintervention may be all Texas will ever need to prove that the desert-ridden state can pump out damn good winter beer. With a unique graham-cracker like maltiness, and a fuzzy, teddybear-like mouthfeel, this brew is essentially a sweater for your tongue. If you’re lucky enough to be within Peticolas’s on-tap distribution range (they don’t bottle this brew), order it and then have the bartender fill up your thermos.
With a deep and unforgiving bitterness masked by a surface-layer of holiday sweetness—dark chocolate, ginger and the slightest hint of peppermint—Jubelale is almost like your ex-wife, begrudgingly handing off the kid(s) halfway through Christmas day. But, as the burnt-coffee darkness of this bitter winter warmer sinks below a dry and fizzy citrus finish, the real distinction becomes clear. Because with Jubelale, you want to drink it again.
There is really nothing subtle about this Belgian ale, and that’s a good thing. N’Ice Chouffe hits your mouth like an elbow of fruity holiday flavors. Golden pear, maraschino cherry, and rich amaretto; it’s all there, entwined in creamy slide that feels a lot like half-and-half but tastes like musty brown sugar with notes of butterscotch and rich fudge. Drink it by the fire, and then think about keeping an extra bottle stashed away in your car’s glovebox—on the off chance you ever get buried in a snow bank.
Alaskan Smoked Porter
A meaty beer that pours like thin maple syrup, Alaskan Smoked Porter is powerfully dominated by its deep and delicious wood-fire smokiness. Undoubtedly America’s greatest smoked porter, underneath the brew’s smoldering haze is a body balanced between a burnt sugar malt and a loamy, earthy hoppiness. Think of it as the brisket of beers—something you drink if you’re either trying to cure hypothermia or remind yourself why the cold weather is worth it.
Santa’s Little Helper
Thick, chewy, and faintly acrid, like coffee grounds and vanilla bean blended into unsweetened dark chocolate, Santas Little Helper is a beer so dark that even the foam is turning black. Drunk philosophers agree that every beer has a perfect time and place to be drunk—and at 12% ABV, Santa’s Little Helper’s might be when you earnestly need help getting through this holiday season with your deeply maladjusted family.
Like liquid velvet, YuleSmith is unbelievably, almost outlandishly smooth—and this is an imperial red ale(!) we’re talking about. The bitterness of beer—still present despite the creaminess—is couched elegantly between a toasted malt character that tips toward roasted brazil nut, and a floral, almost grassy hop aroma. It’s no wonder AleSmith produces a summer version of YuleSmith too—if you’re not drinking a beer like this in all four seasons, you’re wasting your years away.
Yeti Great Divide
Like a distant father you only ever see at Christmas, Yeti Imperial Stout is here with a forward, unapologetic muskiness that will either put hair on your chest, or straight up strip it off. Black as squid ink, this bitter brew emphasizes all the best you hope to expect in an imperial stout. Notes of coffee, warm leather, and a hint of tobacco smokiness—like a single drunken cigarette—all fold into a study malt backbone with the flavor of a thick heel of rye bread.
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale
This rich, Belgian quadrupel hits you with an unmitigated, and improbably complex barrage of holiday flavors. Roasted apple, cinnamon-y cider, black cherry, sourdough, toasted walnut, marzipan, molasses and a distinct tang of licorice. It’s all there, somehow gracefully balanced. This is nothing less than Christmas in a bottle; maybe even some of New Years too—at least before the hangover.
Delightfully warming and nutty, with bold notes of hazelnut, macadamia, and cappuccino, Kasteel Winter has a fullness that you might otherwise expect in a blood-red wine. But there’s depth here too. In the background, the peculiar flavors of peppercorn, plum and dried cherry all sort of loll around like a bit too drunken carolers. Like spiced rum, a bottle of this heavy Belgian ale will kind of blend together the holiday season. Embrace it. Spring can wait a bit longer.