The holiday season is upon us, which means it is finally time to string up the twinkly lights and other decorations, and sit back with a filling, delicious beer. Ales and lagers aren’t a typical holiday tradition — they are usually beaten out by steaming drinks like mulled wine and warm cider — but these 11 beers are sure to make you crack open a cold one after a long day of holiday celebrations.
1. NinkasiSleigh’r Dark Double Alt Ale
For some reason or another, old-fashioned German altbier isn’t often found stateside, but Eugene’s Ninkasi revives the ancient style for a seasonal holiday ale. This dark double is seriously savory, with smokiness surrounding sweet and bitter notes of fruit and chocolate. The taste lingers — just like we wish holiday brewing season would.
2. New Holland Ichabod
For beer aficionados that love the fall spirit but aren’t terribly keen on pumpkin-flavored everything, Ichabod is the brew for you. Incredibly spicy, with nearly overwhelming notes of nutmeg and cinnamon, this ale is also refreshingly smooth. Plus, due to its low ABV, you can down a couple and still artfully navigate the hay maze.
3. Delirium Noël
Even if you’ve never tried a Delirium beer, you know about them: They are the brews that come in eye-catching white ceramic bottles with iridescent labels. Over the years, their holiday Belgian strong ale has received quite a bit of clout for its taste that perfectly mimics a fruit cake — the good kind. This year, you should get your hands on some just for the experience.
4. Bell’s Christmas Ale
Bell’s has expertly balanced sweet and bitter, light and dark, and creamy and refreshing in this seasonal brew. Revered as easy to drink, this ale from Michigan will keep you singing carols all 12 days of Christmas.
5. Niagara Brewing Company Pumpkin Eater Ale
A new brewery, Niagara Brewing Company has pleasantly surprised beer lovers with its first-ever fall seasonal. Despite its name, the Pumpkin Eater boasts a gratifyingly moderate pumpkin flavor, with spice levels to match. The brew mixes well with the craft brewery’s regular line of (well-named) ales and lagers.
6. Samuel Adams Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout
Though Sam Adams is far from being the beer aficionado’s favorite American brewer, his holiday seasonal is widely available — and unexpectedly delicious. Dark and rich (with a rewardingly high ABV) this brew smacks of real gingerbread flavor, with some smokiness to balance the sweet. Plus, a bottle is less than half the cost of most on this list, so you can make merry into the night.
7. Timmermans Pumpkin Lambicus
Lambics are usually sickly sweet with fruit flavor, but this vegetable lambic from the shores of Belgium has none of that. Instead, Timmermans offers a strong pumpkin flavor, without bland earthiness or intense spice profile of most pumpkin beers. It tastes natural, crisp, and perfectly pumpkin.
8. Shipyard Prelude
When the night is cold, and you need a beverage to keep you warm and fill you up, you need Prelude. With a multitude of sweet, malty flavors — caramel toffee, toasted biscuit, plum, milk chocolate, brown sugar, and more — this winter warmer does exactly what it says, especially if you pair it with a hardy baked potato and a fresh steak.
9. 21st Amendment He Said
This pumpkin porter doesn’t have “pumpkin” anywhere in its name — for good reason. 21st Amendment and Elysium Brewing paired up to craft a fall brew that is subtle on familiar flavors but still packs a punch. As a result, this porter is big on roasted oatmeal and chocolate malt, while the spices and pumpkin are secondary.
10. Troegs the Mad Elf
If you can imagine the flavors most likely to make up your holiday cookies, you can imagine drinking this delicious ale. Bright red in the glass, the Mad Elf tastes like cherries and chocolate, with notes of toasted caramel, oatmeal, honey, and figs. You can drink this for dessert and leave the baked goods for Santa Claus.
11. St. Bernardus Christmas
The unrivalled winner of the winter seasonal, St. Bernardus always astounds with its Christmas Beglian strong dark ale. A pour as black as the holy night, this beer will surround you with the aromas of the holidays, pure and simple. This beer is so flawlessly crafted that it deserves to be sipped reverently like the once-per-year holiday treat that it is.