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Top 10 Winter and Holiday Beer Recommendations

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Winter and the holiday season see a lot of really good, small production seasonal brews in the form of Christmas beers and winter warmers. Christmas beers are often malty and complex although there are no rules for how they should be brewed. Some are made with fruit or spice and some rely on artful malt or hops combinations for wonderful complexity. The winter warmers are similar though they are rarely made with any adjuncts. Both typically contain more than usual alcohol and are usually available from November to February.

And so, in no particular order, here are my Christmas and winter beer selections.

1. Samichlaus

The king of Christmas beers, Samichlaus is the highlight of the holiday season for many beer enthusiasts. It is a rich, aged doppelbock brewed at the Austrian brewery Schloss Eggenberg.

2. Samuel Adams Winter Classics Mix Pack

This mix pack contains a variety of beers. This makes it a nice way to try some unusual beer for beer lovers who are just discovering craft beer. Though it can change from year to year the mix pack often contains Boston Lager, Old Fezziwig Ale, Winter Lager, Holiday Porter, Black Lager, and Cranberry Lambic.

3. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

How do you say Merry Christmas to a hop-head? With a six pack of Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada. Besides have a pretty significant bitterness at 62 IBUs, this beer is also dry hopped which raises the hops in the aroma and flavor.

4. Samuel Smiths Winter Welcome Ale

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome is a traditional winter warmer and in many ways has served as the modern benchmark for the style. It is big in flavor and alcohol. Though maltiness dominates it does have a good bit of balancing hops as well as hints of apples and caramel.

5. Odell Brewing Co. Isolation Ale

Odell Brewing brews Isolation Ale as their winter seasonal. This beer is packed with hops character without a lot of the bitterness. It's a bit unusual as a wintertime beer in that it does not carry the huge, dark malt flavors of many of the others.

6. Avery Brewing Old Jubilation

This is one of those examples of artful, adjunct free beers. Avery brews some pretty amazing beer using only the four traditional ingredients.

Old Jubilation certainly fits in the winter warmer category. With heaps of malt and 8% alcohol, this complex and tasty beer will make a welcome addition to your holiday bar.

7. Bush Noël (Scaldis Noël in the US)

This is how the Belgians make a winter warmer. This beer is rich with lots of malt. Though malt dominates, the complexity from the wilder yeasts Belgians tend to use plus the unusual practice of aging this beer with hops flowers in the vats for four to six weeks, gives this brew unique flavor and character.

8. Schlafly Christmas Ale

If you're looking for a beer with all of the traditional yuletide flavors, this is it. Schlafly adds cloves and orange peel to this medium bodied ale. This beer says "Christmas" in a very straight forward way.

9. Young's Winter Warmer

Young's beers are always solid beers and generally excellent examples of style. Their Winter Warmer is a middle of the road warmer. This would be a good beer to have on hand if your some of guests might not be up to the challenge of some of the bigger beers that I've listed above.

10. Your Local Brewery

OK, so this is not a specific beer but I cannot let this opportunity pass on my personal mission to get more people to drink local beer. While I've listed some popular beers here that can help you celebrate the season - and there are many, many others - do not overlook that brewery that's making great beer just a few miles or perhaps even just a few blocks from you. Personally I have two local breweries that make perfectly wonderful winter brews and stopping in for a fresh pint is always a treat. While you should head to the good beer store to stock up on some great seasonal brews you should also stop at the local brewery and see what they've whipped up.
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