The end of the year always rings in as a great time for craft beer lovers. The combination of a year’s worth of brewing and the holiday season means a lot of great bottles of beer are dropping right now. ‘Tis the season, as they say.
December is a month for winter warmers, strong ales from Belgium and Germany, and hardcore aged stouts. All of them pack a wallop of ABVs and, usually, push the boundaries of what beer “tastes” like. In short, it’s a good time to be a beer drinker.
The eight beers below are some of our favorites hitting the market right now. Some of these beers are going to be lining shelves from sea-to-shining-sea while others will be a little harder to source without some serious effort. Still, when is a journey to find great beer ever taken in vain?
STONE ENJOY BY 01.01.20 UNFILTERED IPA
The Beer: Stone’s Enjoy By series are seasonal beers that fit a particular time of year perfectly. This season’s brew is an unfiltered double IPA that’s spiked with 12 different hop varietals. Add in the 9.4 percent ABV and you have a big beer that’ll hit the taste buds hard.
Tasting Notes: Peach, tropical fruit, and citrus burst forth with a healthy dose of dank hops. There’s a dryness to the hops that sit next to the yeast-driven fruit feel with more peach bringing sweetness to all that hoppy bitterness.
BARREL-AGED OLD RASPUTIN XXII
The Beer: North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin is a masterful bottle of imperial stout. The next level of that beer in this year’s Old Rasputin XXII which takes things a step further and ages the beer in both bourbon and rye whiskey barrels for an added depth.
Tasting Notes: Rye spiciness sits next to bourbon vanilla with oak drawing a straight line through the sip. There are hints of classic imperial stout roasted coffee and very dark chocolate bitterness. That vanilla and oak carry on with a nice hint of spice and smoke drawing the brew to a satisfying close.
FISTMAS HOLIDAY ALE
The Beer: Out in Chicago, Revolution Brewing just dropped their yearly holiday ale, Fistmas. The red ale is spiked with sharp fresh ginger and orange peel, adding major Christmas vibes to the brew.
Tasting Notes: The beer opens with a rush of freshly baked sourdough still piping hot from the oven with a slight funk and buttery edge. That gives way to ripe stone fruits covered in caramel with a Christmas spice edge on the backend.
FAMILY BUSINESS BEER CO. KICK OUR THE YAMS WINTER ALE
The Beer: Kick Out The Yams — a strong winter ale from Dripping Springs, Texas (just outside of Austin) — is the epitome of great winter beer. The suds are cut with candied yams, toasted marshmallows, and bourbon and honey-soaked oak chips. It’s part beer, part dessert, and all delicious.
Tasting Notes: Expect a good dose of alcohol and spice. The sweetness of the candied sweet potatoes with wisps of smoke come through against clear bourbon vanilla and a hint of oak.
JESTER KING SNÖRKEL
The Beer: Jester King went for the funk with their release of Snörkel. The ale is brewed with oyster mushrooms and Alderwood smoked sea salt, giving the beer a classic gose vibe.
Tasting Notes: This beer packs an umami, forest moss, and campfire balance. The malty base comes through as a supporting act for the smoky salt, forest-floor earthiness, and almost fatty umami from the mushrooms. This is a unique sip of beer.
HIGHLAND BREWING BLACK WATCH
The Beer: North Carolina’s Highland Brewing drops a great stout this time of year. Their Black Watch is a double chocolate milk stout. The beer is jacked with over 100 pounds of cacao nibs, five malts, roasted barley, and flaked oats. This creates a malty and rich stout that’ll warm your cockles throughout this cold month.
Tasting Notes: The beer has an almost brownie batter feel with an edge of butteriness, fat, and dark bitter chocolate co-mingling throughout the sip. Campfire roasted marshmallows and that dark chocolate balance each other between creamy sweetness and bitter with a slight hop dank lurking in the background.
GOOSE ISLAND BOURBON COUNTY STOUT 2019
The Beer: This is a much sought-after bottle of beer. The Goose Island stout is aged in a combination of Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace, and Wild Turkey barrels to add a deep complexity to the already great brew. The best part is that this beer is going to be aging and developing for years to come. If you can, buy a six-pack now and drink one every year. That way you’ll get a sense of how beers like these grow over time and change. It’s a great lesson in beer drinking.
Tasting Notes: Classic notes of bourbon vanilla, caramel, and oak shine through. You get echoes of rye spice next to whiffs of pipe tobacco and worn leather. Buttery fudge and rich caramel bring the sip back around with vanilla and cocoa driving the complexity of this beer home.
INT’L PICK OF THE MONTH: ST. BERNARDUS CHRISTMAS ALE
The Beer: This is Belgian Christmas in a bottle. The high ABV beer is all about the winter spices, malty nature, and low hop bitterness. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is a celebratory beer that’ll leave you on your ass if you’re not careful with the 10 percent ABV. Consider yourself warned.
Tasting Notes: Orange zest, Christmas cake spices, and dried fruit sweetness arrive early. The spice really drives through the caramel malts with a sense of fire-roasted nuts and distant notes of dark chocolate.