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The Best Craft Beers To Chase Down For December 2021

It’s December and the craft beer releases are dailed into that vibe. Winter warmers, spiced brews, bold IPAs, dark ales, pine-y lagers, black stouts, and barrel-aged everything are in the mix this month and we’re here for it all.

There are so many great beers on the shelf right now that it was hard to narrow it down to just eight. Still, we tried to highlight some beloved and under-hyped options as the holidays roll in and the year ends.

Hopefully, the eight beers we’re giving love to this month will pique your interest and inspire you to explore exciting brews made near you or sold at your closest bottle shop or brewery. The picks below are regional craft beer releases from breweries that we vouch for along with seasonal bottles we’ve been looking forward to tasting again.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST DROP: Elysian Skålrok

Elysian Skålrok
Elysian Brewing

ABV: 4.9%

Average Price: Available at the Brewery

The Beer:

Skålrok is a Nordic-style pale ale that feels like a wintry dream in a can. The base of the beer is Two Row, Honey Malt, Flaked Rice, and Golden Naked Oats that are mixed with local water and Kveik yeast from Scandinavia. The beer is then hopped with local Cashmere, Sabro, and Chinook hops, giving the final brew a touch of the Pacific Northwest with that Nordic base.

Tasting Notes:

Light notes of orange oils hit on the nose with a touch of sweet yet slightly funky malts. The palate follows that flavor profile while adding a little more sweetness to the malts with an almost creamy edge (thanks to those oats) alongside a slight nuttiness. The hops present as freshly twisted tangerine rinds that sprayed their oils all over the beer.

Bottom Line:

This is bright yet wintry with a great malt-to-hop balance. It’s also very easy to drink thanks to those low ABVs.

SOUTHWEST DROP: Anchor Christmas Ale

Anchor Christmas Ale
Anchor Brewing

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $13, six-pack

The Beer:

Every year for the past 47 years, San Francisco’s Anchor Steam has released a special winter warmer, Christmas Ale. This year’s release is a subtle winter warmer that’s just touched with holiday spices in the beer. Each year the recipe is slightly different and represented by a different Christmas tree on the label. This year’s tree represents the high desert of California with a Joshua Tree.

Tasting Notes:

The beer leans into fresh espresso laced with dark chocolate bitterness. Those notes lead towards a creamy nature closer to a choco-eggnog latte with plenty of that brown ale spice and depth. There’s a bit of a graham cracker maltiness underneath it all with a subtle sweetness to counterpoint that coffee/chocolate bitter bite.

Bottom Line:

This is a highlight of the craft beer season, and this year was no different. The beer is the perfect accompaniment to any winter day (warm or cold).

ROCKY MOUNTAIN DROP: New Belgium Oakspire Bourbon Barrel Ale

Oakspire
New Belgium

ABV: 9%

Average Price: $15, six-pack

The Beer:

This strong ale is made with Pale, Munich, Caramel 80, Rye, and Roasted Barley malts and lightly hopped with Nugget and Sabro hops. Then the beer is aged with oak spires from barrels that aged Four Roses Bourbon.

Tasting Notes:

Those oak spires help pull deep and dried fruit notes from the beer and highlight a touch of aged vanilla and eggnog spice. The taste amps up those notes while adding in a caramel malted base with a hint of plum, date, and maybe even dark berries. The end has a nice spice touch that’s tempered by those sweetened malts and mostly dried fruits.

Bottom Line:

Naturally, this is a great pairing beer if you’re looking for something to go with your glass of Four Roses. It’s also very “wintry” on the nose and palate and really suits sipping after a big holiday meal.

SOUTHERN DROP: Saint Arnold Christmas Ale

Saint Arnold Christmas Ale
Saint Arnold

ABV: 7.7%

Average Price: $9, six-pack

The Beer:

Texas’ Saint Arnold puts out quality seasonal brews that peak with their Christmas Ale. The malts bring about a great depth in the brew but the nuance here is in the Pacific Northwest hops used to spice up the beer.

Tasting Notes:

This really hits those “winter ale” notes on the head. There’s an alcohol-driven sweet caramel maltiness that provides a solid foundation for mildly floral and bitter hop notes. Those hops have a little bit of a bite as a subtle spice kicks around in the background.

Bottom Line:

This is a really sippable pour. It’s refreshing yet filling. It’s nuanced yet full of flavor. If you’re in Texas, this is the winter beer to drink right now.

MIDWEST DROP: Great Lakes Christmas Ale

Christmas Ale
Great Lakes Brewing

ABV: 7.5%

Average Price: $14, six-pack

The Beer:

Great Lakes Christmas Ale is another seasonal classic that’s hitting the shelves right now. This multi-award-winning ale manages just the right note of seasonal conviviality, with enough nuance to keep you interested all season long. Though be warned, this is a really easy beer to drink, and those high ABVs will catch up to you.

Tasting Notes:

The maltiness of this beer leans more towards a honeyed sweetness and the spices kick up more of a grated ginger freshness. There’s plenty of Christmas spices in play with all that malty honey nature — making for a balanced, lush feel to this sipper.

Bottom Line:

If you have one beer stocked in your fridge this month, this should probably be it. It’s the epitome of now and will always hit the right spot in vibes and flavor profile.

NORTHEAST DROP: Allagash Nocturna

Allagash Nocturnea
Allagash Brewing

ABV: 9.5%

Average Price: $20, four-pack

The Beer:

This stout from Maine is aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla pods right in the beer. That aging process holds onto the deep and dark redness of the beer while building in a very wintry and bourbon-y flavor profile that suits this time of year.

Tasting Notes:

The malts — Allagash 2-Row Malted Barley Blend, Black Malt, Oats, Chocolate Malt, and Roasted Barley — shine through from top to bottom with both deeply roasted notes and sweetened caramel ones. The opening leans sweeter with a rich and butter toffee that’s dusted with ground almonds. That leads towards a dark chocolate powder that bitters towards an espresso bean that’s damn near oily. The bourbon comes through with a touch of oak as a woody spice mingles with sweet toffee and bitter chocolate on the end.

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for the perfect winter stout, this might be it. It’s delightfully dark and deep while still being welcoming and pretty warming with those high ABVs.

WILD CARD DROP: Alaskan Freeride

Alaskan Freeride
Alaskan Brewing

ABV: 5.3%

Average Price: $9, six-pack

The Beer:

We’re pretty big Alaskan Brewing stans around these parts and Freeride — their wintery pale ale — is a good example of why. The beer is a marriage of that famous Alaskan glacial water with Pacific Northwest hops and malts. The ABVs are middle of the road, making this an easy after-work sipper to take the edge off all November long.

Tasting Notes:

Tropical fruits meet floral-yet-mild dankness, with a caramel malty underbelly. Those fruity and floral hops really drive the taste with a nice dose of dry texture and a balance of slightly sweet malt character. The sip is refreshing, enticing, and light enough to keep you coming back for more.

Bottom Line:

We’ve been talking about a lot of big and heavy beers on this list. This is the opposite of that. It’s light, refreshing, yet still feels wintry. Your fridge needs a sixer of these in there for the rest of the season.

INT’L PICK OF THE MONTH: Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux

Brasserie Dupont

ABV: 9.5%

Average Price: $12, 750ml bottle

The Beer:

Brasserie Dupont is one of the most heralded Belgian breweries, full stop. Their Saison Dupont is beloved by beer aficionados the world over. This expression is a special holiday release that used to only go to family and friends of the brewery. It leaked out to the public and became so popular that it got a wide release and is now considered one of the best holiday beers there is.

Tasting Notes:

The beer is richly aromatic from the moment it nears your nose with hints of clove, green banana, black pepper, and lemon curd. The malts are bold, sweet, and creamy as the grassy tart nature of the lemon mingles with a distant spiciness and fruitiness. The sip ends dry while still feeling full-bodied and very silky.

Bottom Line:

This is the ultimate beer for winter celebrations. Pop that cork at your next holiday party, Christmas gathering, or NYE party and enjoy one of the best beers ever made.

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