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Craft Beer Experts Shout Out Their Favorite Holiday Beers Ever

We are smack dab in the middle of the holidays. While Thanksgiving in all of its turkey and gravy-filled glory and the eight crazy nights of Hanukkah are behind us, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are still upcoming. This means that we’re deeply immersed in the holiday beer season.

Strong ales, winter warmers, and of course Christmas ales are the norm this time of year. These seasonal staples are known for their caramel malts and seasonal spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and orange, along with other wintry flavors. But there’s no official recipe for what exactly a holiday beer should be brewed with — which makes every beer a little different… in a good way.

To find the best examples of classic holiday beers we asked a handful of our favorite brewers, beer professionals, and craft beer experts to tell us their favorite holiday beers ever. Stock up on these warming, sweet, and oftentimes spiced beers to guarantee good times around the fire this season.

Hardywood Christmas Morning

Hardywood Christmas Morning
Hardywood

Alex Wenner, owner and brewer at Lasting Joy Brewery in Hudson Valley, New York

ABV: 9.5%

Average Price: $18 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

Whenever I manage to get my hands on it, Hardywood Christmas Morning is a must-have. It is the perfect gingerbread stout with the right touch of coffee. I will never feel guilty about pouring myself a glass in that quiet time between my four kids opening presents and having to start cooking Christmas dinner.

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome
Samuel Smith

Dess Leeper, sales representative at WeldWerks Brewing in Greeley, Colorado

ABV: 6%

Average Price: $10 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale is always a treat during the holidays. I remember first having one around the time when I reached legal drinking age, and when I was first starting to pique my curiosity into craft beer back east. Aside from being intrigued by the clear bottle and gold foil top, I was amazed by the rich, roasted nut flavor and warming that was finished by slightly spicy and subtle hop bitterness.

I was immediately hooked and every year during this time you can find me grabbing a four-pack of it to pair with a great holiday meal.

Gouden Carolus Noel

Gouden Carolus Noel
Gouden

Jeremy Cowan, owner and founder of Shmaltz Brewing Company in Clifton Park, New York

ABV: 10.5%

Average Price: $11 for a 750ml bottle

Why This Beer?

I’ll cheat and say two. Gouden Carolus Noel is just extremely delicious. It’s somehow super punchy but balanced and smooth with wonderful flavors. But for the local scene and of course, the good shtick, gotta go with Sloop “(No) Santa” NEIPA — so lush and yummy for a completely different experience and a whole lot of fun.

De Dolle Stille Nacht

De Dolle Stille Nacht
De Dolle

Sam Tierney, brewing manager at Firestone Walker’s The Propagator in Venice, California

ABV: 12%

Average Price: $16 for a 750ml bottle

Why This Beer?

My favorite Christmas beer has to be Stille Nacht from De Dolle Brouwers in Esen, Belgium. It’s their strongest beer at 12 percent ABV and shows the full complexity of their house character from the copper brewhouse and coolship to their unique and funky yeast that creates a richly fruity and spicy amber-colored ale with a huge rocky head.

It’s somehow comfortably warming and shockingly quaffable at the same time like only the great Belgian brewers seem to be able to pull off.

Anchor Christmas Ale

Anchor Christmas Ale
Anchor Brewing

Patrick Ware, co-founder and head of brewing operations and Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. in Phoenix, Arizona

ABV: 7%

Average Price: $12 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

Anchor Christmas Ale is always fun around the holidays, especially if you can get one of the magnum-sized bottles of it. It’s full of chocolatey malts, spices, and beer nostalgia with friends. What more could you want for Christmas?

Schonramer Weihnachten Festbier

Schonramer Weihnachten Festbier
Schonramer

Jack Hendler, co-owner of Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers in Framingham, Massachusetts

ABV: 6.1%

Average Price: $5 for a 500ml bottle

Why This Beer?

“Weihnachten” means Christmas in German. My colleague Joe and I just went to Germany this past fall and met with breweries to talk about all things lager. Schonramer was the first one we visited. Their head brewer Eric Toft showed us around. They make a whole variety of excellent beer but this one, in particular, is unique as a Christmas beer.

Christmas beers in Germany tend to be somewhat similar to what people think of as Octoberfest beers — they are malty, stronger, somewhere between a regular beer and a Bock beer. It hits all the right notes for all the flavor profiles I like. It’s a continuation of that Octoberfest style of beer right through the holidays.

Sierra Nevada Celebration

Sierra Nevada Celebration
Sierra Nevada

Luis G. Brignoni, founder of Wynwood Brewing Co. in Miami

ABV: 6.8%

Average Price: $12 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

I’ve always loved Sierra Nevada’s Celebration. I enjoy all their products, really, but this beer brings back a lot of memories. When I first got into craft beer, it was a favorite and one that I still drink and use for cooking. For instance, I use it to brine our turkey during the holidays so it brings back memories of cooking with the family and the joy of the holidays.

It’s a fresh hop ale so you get some of the stickiness from the fresh hops and the aroma is wonderful, which makes it perfect for both drinking and cooking.

Eggenberg Samichlaus

Eggenberg Samichlaus
Eggenberg

Stephen Hale, founding brewer at Schlafly Beer in St. Louis

ABV: 14%

Average Price: $21 for a four-pack

Why This Beer?

My pick is Eggenberg Samichlaus. It’s not just the rare pleasure of being able to get a bottle, but the blissful enjoyment of such a complex, rich beer, pretty much just perfect as is for the holidays. Make sure to decant it. The visuals, aromas, and flavor are all part of the experience.

A wee bit of decadence every once in a while, surely you deserve that.

Bent River Jingle Java

Bent River Jingle Java
Bent River

Todd Bellmyer, head brewer at Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver

ABV: 6.4%

Average Price: $11 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

A small brewery in my hometown called Bent River Brewing Co., which began brewing in the mid-’90s, has a flagship coffee stout, Uncommon Stout. Every holiday season they release Jingle Java which is a spiced version of that coffee stout featuring everything from vanilla and pecans to rum.

Whenever I’m visiting family during the holidays, I have to get a Jingle Java.

Writer’s Pick: Troegs Mad Elf

Troegs Mad Elf
Troegs

ABV: 11%

Average Price: $16 for a six-pack

Why This Beer?

This eleven percent ABV, eagerly-awaited holiday ale gets its flavors from the addition of honey and a slew of cherries including Bing, Lambert, Van, Royal Ann, and Montmorency. The result is a yeasty, rich, and sweet beer with hints of dried fruits, holiday spices, and warming alcohol. All in all, it’s a perfect holiday beer.

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