Whether you’re trying to surprise a holiday-party host with something special (and don’t know your way around a recipe) or simply want to cozy up fireside with your significant other and something stronger than hot cocoa, a cold-weather cold one can be man’s best friend. We tapped brew connoisseur Walker Pruett to present a few favorites. Read on for his top 5—and don’t forget something stylish on which to rest your glass.
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‘Tis the season, now that pumpkin beers are waning, for my favorite beer seasonal of all. Many breweries’ best beers come out in celebration of the winter holidays, and nothing salves the psyche on a dark, cold winter’s night like one of these hearty and luscious brews. Here are my top picks (in no particular order) for seasonally appropriate imbibing:
Sierra Nevada ‘Celebration’
6.8% ABV (alcohol by volume)
An archetype of the special beer for special occasions, ‘Celebration’ is hop-forward and balanced. It is technically superb and eminently satisfying, giving hop-heads something to look forward to among the spiced and malty milieu that dominates the holiday beer landscape.
Anchor ‘Our Special Ale’ (aka Christmas Ale)
This highly anticipated release from one of the progenitors of the American craft-beer movement is fun because it’s a surprise every year. ‘OSA’ features a perennially changing recipe of secret malts, hops and spices, yet it consistently delights. This year’s iteration carries aromas of allspice, with subtle vanilla and wintergreen; flavors are of dark toffee and smoky black pepper. These elements act beautifully in concert to deliver a refreshing winter draught.
New Belguim ‘Frambozen’
Frambozen’s fleeting appearance makes me a little giddy every year. Nowhere else can you find this combination of tart raspberry flavor against a sturdy caramel malt backdrop. Imagine your favorite raspberry pastry baked to perfection, but in spritzy liquid format. Thirsty yet?
Brasserie Dupont ‘Bons Voeux’
It’s no coincidence this seasonal Belgian gem comes in a champagne wrapper, as the quaint farmhouse brewery isn’t much more than spitting-distance from the Champagne region of France. The beer is lively and succulent, with underlying hints of sweets and spices. It makes an excellent stand-in for holiday toasts.
Samuel Smith ‘Oatmeal Stout’
We’re lucky enough to be able to drink this delicious tipple from one of England’s most heralded breweries all year long. Oats in the mash make this beer silky on the palate, while roasted malts contribute pervasive semi-sweet chocolate notes. The result resembles a liquid dark-chocolate ganache, though it’s light enough that a whole pint isn’t too tall an order.
By Walker Pruett, brewer and beer enthusiast living in Portland, Oregon. When in Portland, be sure to check out PDXBEERCALENDAR.COM for a full listing of Portland’s daily beer events.
[Intro illustration via Bearden Beer Market. Beer images: Sierra Nevada via The Full Pint; New Belgium via Better Beer Blog; Anchor, Brasserie Dupont and Samuel Smith's via the breweries' official sites.]