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The Best Craft Beer Releases To Ring In The Holiday Season

Halloween is behind us, meaning it’s officially the holiday season (yes, you can legally play Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” starting today — but please don’t overdo it). Wintry craft beer releases, many of which have already been dropping since September, are out in full. And while mid-October perhaps felt a little early to dip into the wintry hazy IPAs, winter lagers, spiced wheat beers, and syrupy imperial stouts, November does feel like the right time.

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. 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: Alaskan Brewing White

Alaskan Brewing

ABV: 5.3%

Average Price: $10 (six-pack)

The Beer:

Alaskan’s White is a Belgian witbier (white wheat beer). Basically, this is the original hazy ale. The wheat adds a spicy dankness to the brew that leaves the hoppiness far in the background while amping up citrus and spice.

Tasting Notes:

The beer opens with notes of citrus (orange and grapefruit), fresh coriander, and peppery spice. Orange peel arrives with sweet cracker malt leading to a dry-ish finish. There’s a crisp depth at play as the spicy, gingery, orange-y body of this beer really lets the malts shine with a light sweetness that keeps you going back for more.

Bottom Line:

This is a pretty easy beer to drink right now. It’s not overdone with its flavor profile or ABVs, meaning you can actually drink this during a weekend session or at a holiday party without getting too far gone (or blowing out your palate).

SOUTHWEST DROP: Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop IPA

Sierra Nevada Brewing

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $12 (six-pack)

The Beer:

This is both a classic winter craft brew and a classic IPA. The beer is brewed with fresh hops from the beginning of the harvest to really rev up the West Coast dankness of the body while also clearing way for the wintry aspects of a winter ale. It’s a bit of magic in a bottle.

Tasting Notes:

Toasted malts and dank pine-resin hops beckon you in. The malts become sweeter as the sip progresses and the hops bloom with citrus. The end is a matrix of dankness, citrus, and caramel malts with hints of spice that just works.

Bottom Line:

You don’t have to love IPAs to love this beer. It’s just so damn easy to drink, so bright, and so full of wintry vibes. Plus, this year’s drop tastes even better yet again … or maybe I was just too excited to see it on the shelf and got a little carried away with getting to drink it again.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN DROP: New Belgium Accumulation

New Belgium

ABV: 6.2%

Average Price: $14 (six-pack)

The Beer:

The beauty of this winter ale is its divergence from the darker, strong ales that usually dominate the scene this time of year. The brewers at New Belgium decided to go the wheat beer route with their winter ale but kept the ABVs fairly elevated. That addition of smooth wheat malts brings accessibility to the brew that makes this a very easy-sipper.

Tasting Notes:

The hoppiness of the nose draws you in by touching on glowing citrus, sweet tropical fruits, and an almost spicy/resinous hop edge rounding it out. That taste delivers on that hoppiness, with a mild counterbalance of sweet/spicy malts underneath it all. The finish is fairly dry but has a juicy depth thanks to all that wintry tropical fruit.

Bottom Line:

This is another easy pick, especially as the weather turns. A six-pack of this, a slow-braised piece of meat in the oven, some spicy and sweet cookies waiting and you’ve got an evening planned!

SOUTHERN DROP: Smith & Lentz Mariachi Static

Smith & Lentz Brewing

ABV: 4.7%

Average Price: $6 (0.5l at the brewery)

The Beer:

Nashville’s Smith & Lentz’s lagers came highly recommended and, wow, did they deliver. Their helles lager, Mariachi Static, hit some very high marks as a classic German lager with clear American craft vibes.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is all about those Germanic malts and hops with equal measures of malted cakes with a note of green grass hops. Those malts pop on the palate with a hint of very thin caramel next to unsalted shortbread as the hops gently flutter in the background with mild hints at grassy fields, light straw, and a touch of florals.

Bottom Line:

This just hit the spot. With the rain pitter-pattering outside, this clean yet distinct beer delivers on what it promises. If you do make it to Smith & Lentz, make sure to try the Pizza Palace Pils for a little hoppier lager.

MIDWEST DROP: Toppling Goliath Term-Oil Fluffernutter Imperial Stout

Toppling Goliath

ABV: 13.1%

Average Price: $12 (0.5l bottle)

The Beer:

Toppling Goliath is dominating a lot of craft beer conversations right now. The micro-brewery’s Term-Oil line is one of the main reasons. Their “Fluffernutter” is a blend of imperial stouts which were aged in ex-bourbon barrels. That base liquid was then amped up with the addition of dry roasted peanuts, peanut butter, marshmallow, and vanilla beans into the beer as it matured.

Tasting Notes:

This was way less sweet than expected with the savoriness of the peanut shining through. The vanilla creates a velvety texture as the marshmallow sweetness remains almost hidden behind the big imperial stout notes (alcohol, malts, bitter syrups). The finish lasts a while and you’re left with a nice balance of peanut depth, vanilla smoothness, and just the right amount of sweetness to counter all those ABVs.

Bottom Line:

This is a sharing beer for sure, which makes it perfect for pairing with big meals with family and friends. If you are drinking this on your own, keep it to one — otherwise, you’ll be stumbling pretty quick.

NORTHEAST DROP: Samuel Adams Winter Lager

Boston Beer Company

ABV: 5.6%

Average Price: $18 (12-pack)

The Beer:

This is probably the easiest-to-find beer on the list this month. The new(ish) version of Winter Lager takes the goodness of Samuel Adam’s classic lager and moves it into bock territory (a lager with longer storage times) with the addition of cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel in the beer.

Tasting Notes:

Toffee malts greet you with a clear sense of those spices up top. The beer delivers on what it promises, with plenty of those sweet malts balanced with orange citrus, spices, and a hint of ginger. The hops are present but take a backseat to the malts and spices on this very easy-drinking brew.

Bottom Line:

This is a solid yet light winter beer. The ABVs are almost low enough to make this a sessionable beer while the added spices will 100 percent help you ring in the season.

WILD CARD DROP: Rahr & Sons Winter Warmer

Rahr & Sons

ABV: 8%

Average Price: $9 (six-pack)

The Beer:

Texas’ Rahr & Sons Winter Warmer is a stone-cold classic winter ale. The beer leans into the big, malty, Christmasy, fruity flavors with no hesitation whatsoever. The strong ABVs combined with the strong flavors suit what drinking feels like right now.

Tasting Notes:

You really get a sense of the deeply roasted malts with dark cacao next to a bit of spiced hops. The beer embraces the malts with plenty of caramel, creamy dark chocolate, and a holiday cake full of dried fruit. This is wintertime in a can.

Bottom Line:

This hits that sweet spot of having higher ABVs but it’s not a “knock you out” ABVs. It’s also clearly a winter ale with no pretense at being an IPA or lager or anything else. This beer is straight winter vibes from top to bottom, and we’re glad it’s back on shelves.

INT’L PICK OF THE MONTH: N’Ice Chouffe

Au Chouffe

ABV: 10%

Average Price: $13 (0.75l bottle)

The Beer:

Nothing says winter more than a .75l bottle of N’ice Choufee in the fridge. The beer kicks ten percent ABVs worth of winter spice into every single bottle with a deep Belgian tradition of craftsmanship and deliciousness.

Tasting Notes:

This dark Belgian winter sipper has a mild hop bitterness with hints of fresh thyme, wheat spice, and curaçao. The spiciness really shines with notes of cloves, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg. There’s a slight dried plum fattiness with a sweet edge to cut through all those spices. A mild acidic — almost tart — edge brings about a dry, rich finish.

Bottom Line:

This is one of three winter brews I keep stocked this time of year. It’s the perfect end-of-week pour if you really need to let loose a little. It’s also the perfect bottle to pour when you’re with friends, either having a big meal or just a long beer session. In short, this is the ultimate winter crusher.


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