Some people love Christmas because they can sip on peppermint hot chocolate and wear footie pajamas. Others love Christmas because they think lights are pretty. And some people, the best people, love Christmas because it begets one-of-a kind beers that will warm your bones and turn that frown upside down. We’ve compiled the very best. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it.
10. Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve
Pairs with: Lamb chops, Chevy Chase’s performance as Clark W. Griswold in Christmas Vacation
Tasting notes: This one is a tasty red/amber ale from a respected Oregon microbrewer. It’s rich, and leans a bit hoppier than your typical winter ales. Bonus points for the cheeky bottle art.
9. Anderson Valley Winter Solstice
Pairs with: Christmas turkey, explaining memes to your grandma
Tasting notes: This California-made brew has some maltiness and flavors of toffee and caramel. Like many others on this list, it’s in the classic style of “winter warmer,” which is a big, bold, malty beer meant to make you feel toasty inside, not unlike an ugly Christmas sweater.
8. Southern Tier 2XMas
Pairs with: Pickled herring, sleeping in your twin-sized childhood bed
Tasting notes: This beer is not shy. It packs an unorthodox punch, inspired by the Nordic tradition of glogg, a spicy, boozy Christmas party cauldron concoction that’s common in Sweden. Figs, orange peels, cinnamon are all prevalent. Aromas of Ikea are not.
7. Bell’s Christmas Ale
Pairs with: Creamy pastas, the interminable game of Monopoly on Christmas Eve
Tasting notes: This Scottish ale is from the Michigan craft brewer who makes one of the most respected IPAs in the land, Bell’s Two-Hearted. It’s got that delicious herbal, hoppy taste tucked in the background here, while caramel notes take the lead. You go, caramel.
6. New Belgium Accumulation
Pairs with: Enchiladas, considering going Christmas shopping at the mall before ultimately refusing and ordering everything via expedited shipping
Tasting notes: This Belgian IPA is a rebel among the winter set, going against the all-too-typical dark ales with something much bigger and more bitter. FYI, fresh hops are a suitable stocking stuffer, so long as it’s the right person.
5. Lagunitas Brown Shugga
Pairs with: Braised meat, accidentally getting tipsy while you wrap presents
Tasting notes: This thing is called an “American strong ale”—you can put “American” and “strong” in front of literally anything and we’re gonna like it. This complex, sweet beer was first made in 1997 when the company’s brewers botched a batch of a different ale.
4. Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale
Pairs with: Christmas cookies, re-reading the signatures in your high school yearbook
Tasting notes: Not only does this spicy, full-bodied winter warmer have the best name in the game, it’s somehow really smooth too. The cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel flavors are there but not overwhelming, like your dislike for candy canes.
3. Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA
Pairs with: Honey-baked ham, rewatching home videos of your sibling learning how to ride a bike
Tasting notes: This fresh-hopped IPA is nothing short of divine, giving clean, bright, juicy hops the forefront, while pine and citrus follow behind. Greatness of the beer aside, we still need some clarification on whether it’s pronounced Ne-VAW-da or Ne-VAD-a.
2. Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale
Pairs with: Roasted chicken, bumping into that one person from your hometown that you haven’t seen since middle school
Tasting notes: Everyone’s favorite grocer, Mr. Joe himself, brews a unique batch of beer annually. Each year is a bit different than the last, and when the stores sell out, they’re out. Get your hands on two bottles of this dark, spicy ale; one to drink, one to age.
1. Deschutes Jubelale
Pairs with: Chili, the existential despair on December 26th when you realize Christmas is 364 days away
Tasting notes: This best description of this flavor would probably be this: Imagine the frost-tipped heavens opening their arms and grasping you in a deep embrace, then spinning you weightlessly through clouds of cloves, oak and vanillas before setting you down softly on a cloud of dried fruit. Merry Christmas, indeed.
As fine purveyors of gifts for men, we’d be remiss to talk about all these tasty beers and offer nothing to pour them in. Our Tasting Flight gives a lucky drinker four 5-oz. taster glasses, an authentic oak-barrel stave to holster them, and a space for the bottle caps so he doesn’t forget what’s what.