Weekend Drinking Assignment: Celebrate These Christmas Beers

Presents, carols and elaborate family may be traditions you look forward to every year...but how 'bout some Christmas beer? This is one excellent seasonal ale you should stock up on for the holiday.

Christmas ales are special beers, though they aren't comprised of a particular style. Many are well-spiced versions of Belgian-style ales, but there are some great hoppy favorites, to. Santa is allegedly a fan of the piney East Coast style, for instance. The unique spicy flavor profile makes them great for sharing and also fantastic for pairing with a Christmas feast. Here are my picks for the season:

Sierra Nevada: Celebration

A wintertime tradition dating back to 1981, this festive IPA uses whole fresh hops for a truly memorable hoppy flavor. It's perhaps one of the most accessible and available Christmas beers, but don't let that deter you — it's up there with the best of Sierra Nevada's lineup. Look out for grapefruit, pine and lots of fruity citrus, but it's still balanced enough to make it dangerously drinkable for its 6.8% ABV. IPAs normally don't hold up well over time, but this one ages extremely well, maintaining its hoppiness for years to come. That's a gift that keeps on giving!

St. Bernardus Brouwerij: Christmas Ale

If you like their Abt 12 Quad, imagine it with spices and you've got one incredibly festive dark ale. Dominated by dark fruits like figs, raisins and even banana, plus sweetness from the malt, chocolate and delicate spices, this is perhaps the definitive Christmas ale to sit by the fire and savor (not chug: it's 10%!). Allow it to warm a bit before drinking and serve in a chalice like the Trappist monks do for maximum enjoyment. A must-try for fans of strong Belgian ale.

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales: Noel de Calabaza

Let's get this out of the way immediately, this is not a pumpkin beer. Michigan's Jolly Pumpkin is one of the best breweries for sour ales in the country. This is a take on a similar style of Belgian strong ale, only stored in oak barrels, which results in a pleasing sour characteristic. There's a bit of holiday spice, some funk, oakiness and sweetness from the malt. It's different, for sure, but it takes the slight sourness found in traditional quadrupels and cranks it up a level.

Anchor Brewing Company: Our Special Ale

As far as craft beer classics go, this one could very well take the cake as the longest-running — now in its 38th year! Each year the brewers change up the flavor profiles, but it's always a winner with spices, fruit and roasted caramel sweetness. Fans go crazy cellaring this beer, which is one of the few lower-ABV beers I can strongly recommend keeping around for years to come to see how the spices evolve. Don't miss out on the magnum bottles for an awesome party treat!

The Bruery: 6 Geese A Laying

Clearly not afraid of ambitious projects, this is The Bruery's 6th installment of their annual 12 Days Of Christmas series. The goal is to be able to age each bottle until the final beer is brewed. And then have a crazy Christmas beer party. If you were deterred by the sweetness of last year's 5 Golden Rings, rest assured things have been balanced much more in this year's release, brewed with gooseberries. This dark ale has a ton of cherry and dark fruit, some citrus and a bit of tartness from the gooseberries. It's boozy at 11.5%, but worth taking time to finish a bottle, especially if you have a few friends to share the experience with.

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