Winter is one of the best times of year to be a beer lover. Breweries all over the world celebrate the season with special releases, most of which are loaded with flavor and strong enough to curl your toes. Looking to give a special brew to friends or family? Follow this Winter Beer Guide to find some of the best seasonal beers around, along with who to share them with.
The Significant Other: Straffe Hendrik Vintage Ale Quadrupel (Belgium, 11% ABV)
The special man or woman in your life is typically the first and most important person on your list, so they deserve something special. The regular Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel is one of the best beers in the world with fantastic flavors of date, plum, caramel, and spiced brandy. The Vintage Ale, only available once a year around November, is aged in oak barrels, which add vanilla, wood, and vinous notes to the already considerable complexity. Drink it now to celebrate together or age it for up to five years and then cheers to improving with age.
The Traditional Mom and Dad: Anchor Christmas Ale (San Francisco, CA, ABV Varies)
Say your father‘s a straight arrow who knows what he likes and likes what he knows. He doesn’t want anything fancy from a far off country either, making Anchor Christmas Ale the perfect choice. Made right here in the good old U.S. of A., the secret recipe changes every year, with some vintages being very malt forward and spicy and others piney and hoppy. The guessing will bring (possibly much-needed) spontaneity to your mom and dad’s structured life while the 6-7% ABV will make sure they can still unwrap their presents.
The In-Laws: Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti (Denver, CO, 9.5% ABV)
In-laws are one of the joys of any holiday dinner, right? By the time you get around to dessert, you’re ready for them to mellow out on criticizing your cooking and life choices. Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti has irresistible dark chocolate and roasted coffee flavors with a hint of cayenne pepper, and pairs exceptionally well with a host of holiday treats. The strength makes it a sipping beer, but you don’t have to tell them that. By the end of the bottle, they’ll say they always knew you were awesome, and tell you how much they love having you in the family.
The Creepy Uncle: Firestone Wookey Jack (Paso Robles, CA 8.3% ABV)
There’s something about that uncle you’re just not sure of.... like there’s a chance he might dress up as Chewbacca when no one’s around. Now he can have a beer to accompany his oddness — Firestone’s deliciously complex black IPA. Wookey Jack has a roasted, burnt coffee flavor (think wet asphalt, in a good way) a hint of spice from rye malt and a perfect piney and earthy hop bitterness all balanced to perfection. Great for getting ready to take on the Death Star.
The Demanding Boss: St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (Belgium, 10% ABV)
If your boss always expects the impossible from you, display your own lofty expectations with a brew that has been micromanaged to perfection for generations. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is perhaps the best Belgian holiday beer around and features flavors of dark caramelized fruit and a mix of holiday spices like nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon. A fantastic beer to celebrate that huge Christmas bonus you’ll be receiving... right?
The Meathead College Roommate: Samichlaus Doppelbock (Austria, 14% ABV)
Everyone’s got that friend who always goes to the extreme and feels the need to prove their manhood at every turn. Throw down the gauntlet by offering the strongest bottom-fermented lager beer in the world. Samichlaus is only brewed once a year, on December 6, and has flavors of rum, sweet caramel, toffee, and plums and a surprising drinkability. Plus, you won’t have to hear your ‘ol pal go on about his fantasy team stats because he’ll be asleep by halftime. Touchdown, Austria!
The Party Guests: Anderson Valley Winter Solstice (Boonville, CA, 6.9% ABV)
It’s hard to make everyone happy at a party with a beer that’s drinkable, yet strong and complex enough to satisfy the beer lovers. Anderson Valley Winter Solstice is not a traditional English style winter warmer; it’s unique. It has flavors of vanilla, burnt brown sugar, oatmeal cookie, roasted bitterness and a silky mouthfeel that lends itself to having more than one. Bring a few extra for yourself or you’ll be stuck with everyone else’s leftover Corona as the Winter Solstice disappears mysteriously from the fridge.
The Hipster Cousin: Unibroue Quelque Chose (Canada, 8% ABV)
Ahhh your cousin, the king of cool. He’s got big sunglasses, a mustache, a vest and skinny jeans. What do you get someone who is king of the scene? How about a beer meant to be enjoyed both cold and hot? Quelque Chose is a mix of a Belgian style cherry beer and a strong brown ale. Throw in some spices and you’ve got the perfect holiday treat that can be served cold or warmed like mulled wine or holiday cider. The complexity changes depending on how it’s served, which will make your cuz the talk of the speakeasy. You may have to hunt this one down due to limited availability, but it’s uniqueness makes it worth it.
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