The 12 Beers of Christmas
What’s better than the 12 days of Christmas? Well, most things actually – that song takes FOREVER – but the answer we’re looking for is the 12 beers of Christmas! Obviously 12 beers are better than 1, and 1 beer is better than most things.
Your average Christmas beer is a bit darker with spice notes accompanied by a touch of comforting sweetness. Good Christmas beers also manage to be nothing short of magical, and once you find your favorite it’ll be a welcome addition to your family’s repertoire of annual Christmas traditions.
With inspiration taken from the r/beer subreddit, we thought we’d take a look at several beers that were either upvoted a lot, mentioned a lot, or just ones we thought sounded interesting from the thread that started with u/Dr_PokeMaster’s question: “What are some good Christmas beers?”
Here are a few ways we recommend approaching this list:
- Buy 12 of your favorite beer and drink one a day (or at whatever pace you damn well please)
- Buy 1 of each (and wish you had bought more)
- Buy 12 of each one and throw a big Christmas beer “tasting party” (which starts out with good intentions and tiny glasses, but usually ends with someone passed out on the front lawn).
The top upvoted St. Bernardus, aka, Brouwerij St. Bernardus, comes from Watou, Belgium where it was first brewed by Trappist monks. It’s now brewed commercially using the same recipes and yeast strains that it was at the monastary. The Christmas Ale is dark and rich with typical Belgian aroma – sweet, yeasty, and a little fruity. It’s sweet with cherry and spice notes, but not overly carbonated, making it delightfully drinkable.
Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Great Lakes Brewing Co’s Christmas Ale isn’t just a holiday favorite of Cleveland locals, it’s also a 6 time World Beer Championship gold/silver medalist. People really dig how this dark amber winter warmer’s honey flavor is balanced by subtly spicy cinnamon and ginger. It’s been pretty hard to find in the past few years, but is slowly growing in commercial availability in the midwest. Keep an eye out and let us know if you see it in a surprising place so we can pass along the info.
Having been a Portland area resident and then moving to a part of the world that doesn’t sell Deschutes has really made me realize what a special place the Northwest is when it comes to beer. If you come across this puppy, perhaps even as part of a holiday sampler from Deschutes, our personal advice is to snag it and serve it to guests who will subsequently love you forever.
Jubelale is a medium dark brew with notes of warming spice, chicory, dried fruit, and toffee.
Another recent Northwest fave brewed by Eugene’s Ninkasi Brewing Company, Sleigh’r is an extra dark “double alt” that’s brewed at colder temps to give it a crisp lager-like flavor with notes of sweet toffee, maple, and banana that has nutty, dark fruit aroma.
Anchor Steam “Our Special” Christmas Ale
This year’s Anchor Steam Christmas Ale will be a bit different than the previous forty iterations, which were all brewed from unique recipes each year (and come with a brand new tree on the label each year as well). The tradition of changing the recipe each year is meant to send a message of Christmas joy and renewal.
An easy drinking dark beer with a creamy tan head, tasting notes include spices like nutmeg and cinnamon with some drinkers noticing an increased sweetness from previous years.
Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA
Sierra Nevada claims that this is one of the first American-style IPAs ever brewed. If you’re an IPA fan, this is definitely the Christmas beer for you – it’s one of the hoppiest beers on the list. Unlike Anchor Steam which changes its recipe annually, Sierra Nevada’s beer has become part of many people’s holiday traditions because of its nostalgia-friendly consistency. Its aroma is intensely citrus and pine with a taste of pine and hops to match.
Don’t forget that all Sierra Nevada brews are bottle conditioned, aka “real ale,” which ferment in the bottle.
This red ale is brewed with specialty malts to achieve a deep mahogany color with aroma and taste of baked bread, caramel, and peaches. Flavors of ginger root and orange peel are steeped in to add another Christmasy layer. Again, mostly only available in the Midwest (for now).
Delerium Noel (also called Delerium Christmas in Belgium) is an amber that sits lightly on the tongue with sweet aromas and the sweet, spicy Christmas notes you want in a winter ale. The fruitforwardness and warm spices of this brew is what makes it a nice winter warmer and an excellent choice for a holiday get-together.
Southern Tier Krampus, 2XMAS
Bonus points for hearkening Krampus, St. Nick’s terrifyingly evil European sidekick of yore, this brew is finished with lager yeast and cold aged for a month, allowing the dark, rich malts and strong hops to mix and mingle. Meant for drinking with strong foods like sharp cheddar or spicy thai, this golden red beer is hoppy hoppy hoppy with notes of bread, lemon, and pine. Another one for those that don’t like sweet Christmas ales.
Also mentioned was Souther Tier’s 2XMAS, a Nordic inspired brew that steeps in orange peels, figs, cardamom, clove, ginger root, and cinnamon. If Krampus is Krampus, 2XMAS is Santa.
Shiner Holiday Cheer
Shiner Holiday Cheer is an Old World Dunkelweizen with the added Texas twist of peaches and roasted pecans. It’s dark bronze in color, and basically like eating a big slice of peach pie in aroma and flavor. Bless its little heart.
Mad Elf by Tröegs
This red-golden amber ale smells tangy and tastes sweet and spicy with notes of cherry, honey, and cinnamon. Try it with cinnamon sugar around the rim!
Bonus: Christmas Morning from Hardywood Brewery.
If you could actually bottle Christmas morning into a beer, it taste exactly like this (assuming you drink beer on Christmas morning). This gingerbread milk stout brewed with coffee has notes of sweet honey and cookies, because that’s what Christmas is all about.
Merry Christmas, happy yule, and skål to all of you! If we missed your favorite Christmas brew, we need to know! Tell us in the comments.