Quoting Russ on this one … everyone sing along: “It’s the most wonderful time … for a beer!”

Holiday season – winter – cold weather. They all bring some of my favorite times of the year. I love cold weather – College football bowl season (40 games in 24 days!) – and of course, the perfect time to drink dark, heavy beers. Yes, I’ll drink porters and stouts all year, unlike some other people. But everyone should agree that now is the time to enjoy the dark and heavy stuff. So, bring out your BA quads, Russian Imperial Stouts, and all of the heavy stuff. ‘Tis the season!

Today, we focus on one style of beer that really only appears in the colder months. The Winter Warmer. Some call it a Christmas beer, but the style is really a winter warmer. These beers fit my profile perfectly … super malty, very little hop bitterness, and some even drop in some holiday-esque spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. The consistent theme throughout beers in this style is that they’re not all that consistent. There is a great deal of variety across this spectrum, and the exploration is what makes it great! It just screams sitting next to the tree with the fireplace glowing. Yeah, watching Elf, Scrooged, or Christmas Vacation at the same time would help, too.

I thought I’d share with you a list of the best Christmas/ holiday/ winter warmer beers I’ve ever had. Yes, there are tons of options out there that may be better … but these are the best ones I’ve personally tried. What are your favorites?

In no particular order:
Samichlaus Helles – only brewed one day per year and then aged for 10 months. This one was a great find a few years back. I need to find it again!

Trader Joe’s Vintage (2018 is really good)

Sweetwater Festive – be careful. This one packs a surprising wallop and can sneak up on you.

Anchor Christmas – it’s my annual quest to find this one. Slightly different recipe each year, and I can’t wait to find it and try it.

Deschutes Jubelale – maybe the gold standard for the American winter warmer

Full Sail Wassail – here we go a-wassailing!

Cinnamon Cocoa Drafty Kilt – this maybe doesn’t fit the style exactly, but a Scotch ale with cinnamon and cocoa seems to fit this list really nicely.

St Bernardus Christmas Ale – potentially the best I’ve ever had. So fantastically terrific. It’s their Abt 12 (quadrupel) with winter spices added – weighs in at 10%.

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale. Just had this for the first time this week. Exceptional!

Breckenridge Holidale (Whiskey Barrel Aged) – this was a 2017 beer. I haven’t seen it since. I hope it comes back?

Great Lakes Christmas Ale – honey gives this one a little extra sweetness.

21st Amendment Fireside Chat – very nicely balanced.

Southern Tier 2XMAS – I need to find this again. This was an awesome one.

And that’s a wrap. (See what I did there?) Tell us – what are your favorites? And which of the above have you had?

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December 12, 2018
Mike Pennington

Author: Mike Pennington

Mike Pennington, normal, 40-ish, father of three, living the suburban dream north of Atlanta.  

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