10 December 2012

Holiday Beers

Over in the Hoosier Beer Geek email inbox, it should come as no surprise that we receive a lot of newsletters and press releases.  Last week, the folks at Shmaltz (HE'BREW) sent us an announcement for their Jewbelation Sweet 16 and their Holiday Gift Pack.  This particular press release provided a bit more substance than most and provided us with an interesting topic.  The holiday shopping season is ushered in with the Black Friday tradition of ridiculous bargains and continues throughout the season with huge markdowns, intended to help you purchase even more presents for your loved ones.  Beer, on the other hand, successfully bucks the trend.  Every winter, craft brewers unanimously break out the big guns.  Barleywines, strong ales, old ales and every variety of high alcohol spiced beer flood the market and are synonymous with the season.  Seeing as the hallmark of the season is high alcohol, it follows that this would also be the season which releases the most expensive beers of the year.  And yet, craft beer consumers eagerly run out and purchase all of their holiday favorites, plus a few more for good measure.  'Tis the season to share!

Rather than dwell on the phenomenon of craft beer successfully releasing their most expensive offerings while every retail store slashes their prices to draw customers in, let's focus on the beers that keep us looking forward to December all year long.  Shmaltz suggested a few of the winter seasonals they are looking forward to - Anchor Christmas Ale, Firestone Walker 16th Anniversary and Stone Vertical Epic 12-12-12. Here are ours.  Be sure to leave your favorites in the comments!

Oh, and if you haven't seen the Shmaltz Holiday Gift Pack, check it out.  It comes with instructions on how to turn it into a menorah.


Goose Island Christmas Ale - This is a fun one, as they change the style up each year. This year's seems to have a background of candied cherries in it.

Three Floyds Alpha Klaus - I certainly wouldn't be upset if Three Floyds made more stouts, and this one has a delicious hoppy kick.

Anchor Christmas Ale - Predating Goose Island's tradition, Anchor also brews a different beer each year. Last year had a good balance of smoke and spice.

Bell's Hopslam - Not really a Christmas beer, but it does come out in the winter and I do look forward to it!


I agree completely with Alpha Klaus. It was one of the first winter seasonal releases that I tried and will always have a place in my heart.

Stone/Nogne O/Joly Pumpkin Special Holiday Ale - This one has been out the last two years and is fantastic. I buy it anytime I see it on the shelves for opening in early December.

The Bruery 12 days of Christmas series - This year is Five Golden Rings. I typically buy three bottles; two to drink and one to put back as part of the vertical.


Alpha Klaus - Definitely look forward to this one every year. It's one of my favorite Three Floyds beers, and I wish it were available year 'round.

He'Brew's Jewbelation series - You'd think that a beer brewed with as many different malt and hop varieties as the Jewbelation beers are would be a huge mess. But without fail, Jewbelation is delicious every year. Jewbelation is one of a select few big beers that is kind on the palate when it's fresh as it is with a year or so of age on it. I opened a Jewbelation 15 at Tailgate for Nothing 7 and consistently got the exclamation "That's awesome!" from everyone who tried it.

Flat 12 Glazed Ham Porter - The brewery's Pogue's Run Porter is already one of my go-to beers, but when they release the Glazed Ham Porter, I can't get enough of it. The subtle clove and cherry notes in the beer really make it shine.


The holiday season also coincides with a temperature drop. This is high alcohol beer season. Alpha Klaus is always near the top of my list. I buy an entire case every year. You can get the case price to around 6.50 a bomber when buying from FFFs. My other beer I really enjoy is Jolly Pumpkin's Noel De Calabaza. I will have to Flat 12 credit as well. I really enjoyed that Koko B. Ware last year and look forward to grabbing a growler this year.


The holidays means spending time with family. And spending time with family means drinking. Lots and lots of drinking. This time of year, I crave big beers and big flavors. Imperial stouts, barleywines, imperial IPA's, anything bourbon barrel aged, and anything spiced. I am sure with all the new breweries in town I will be selecting some new favorites, but here are some of my go-to's...

Brugge Thunder Monkey - assuming, of course, that they make it... TED!

Three Floyds Dark Lord - I usually open a current year's DL on Christmas Eve to share with the family. Alpha Klaus is awesome too.

He'Brew Jewbelation - I'm not a member of the tribe, but I do enjoy He'Brew's many offerings. And Jewbelation 16 is really good. Good enough to make me get all Black Eyed Peas and say Mazel Tov!

Mikkeller Big Worse/Big Worst - I'm not necessarily identifying Mikkeller's barleywines as the best. I'm just saying that a lot of Mikkeller's beers are great for winter drinking and they have a couple of barleywines to boot. 
Upland Bourbon Barrel Winter Warmer - Bourbon. Beer. Honestly, do I need to say more?


Spaten Optimator - Probably not what many consider a holiday beer. It's my Dad's favorite, and when I venture home for the holidays we share a few pints. He only serves it at room temperature, he doesn't mess around.

Bell's Hopslam - Technically it's released AFTER the holidays (in January), but I look forward to this one with great anticipation. I buy enough to last throughout the year, but it's usually gone by March.

Sun King's Johan the Barleywine - I was lucky enough stock up on this when it was released, this is my favorite cold weather/holiday/sit in front of the fireplace beer. At 10% ABV, it warms ya right up.


I love the Gingerbread Brown from Triton. The name definitely does the beer justice - the spices are fantastic.

I also dig Three Floyds Alpha Klaus to get my holiday spirit going. I'm not usually a porter fan, but this one is laced with some great chocolate and coffee flavors, and I love the hoppy kick at the end.

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome is also a favorite of mine, and to hit a family note, my mom absolutely loves this beer. 
Finally, I'll go with Brugge's Black. It's easy drinking and warms me right up!

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