Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh….
Yep, it’s that time of year when we roll out the Yule Log, bake some cookies and celebrate with the 12 Days of Christmas Holiday Beers. Of course, if you follow the parameters of the 12 Days of Christmas song, you won’t be able to focus on the football game on December 25th. So, I suggest holding the beer swilling to just two or three per day, but hey, everyone should celebrate in his or her own way, right? Right.
Typically, when a brewery concocts a seasonal beer, it not only tastes special; but often carries a punch. Among my picks, the alcohol by volume (ABV) numbers range from a sturdy 5.9 percent to a meet-the-floor 10 percent. In the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas ditty, you know, where the number of gifts grows from one to 12, the list begins with the lowest ABV to the highest. Because, well, I had to put them in some sort of order didn’t I.
Some of these breweries distribute regionally and some nationally. Hopefully you can find at least a couple of them in your area.
On the First Day of Christmas
Highland Cold Mountain – This 5.9-percent winter warmer from Asheville’s Highland Brewing resonates with notes of nutmeg, caramel vanilla and cookie dough. You would need to spend an entire afternoon at the brewery to sip all the Cold Mountain variations available in house only.
On the Second Day of Christmas
Deschutes Jubelale – This 6.7-percent English-style ale is actually older than the brewery. Deschutes is also making an Imperial version for this season. You may taste fruit, toffee, cocoa and coffee.
On the Third Day of Christmas
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – Tipping the ABV scale at 6.8 percent, this fresh-hop IPA is for the hop lover who still gravitates to IPA, even in the dead of winter. A distinct waft of pine on the nose gives way to a big, hoppy, somewhat sweet flavor.
On the Fourth Day of Christmas
Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale – A winter warmer packing a 6.9-percent ABV, this ale mixes several holiday aromas on the nose like caramel, vanilla and cookie dough. On the tongue the malt-bread backbone remains with hints of vanilla. A bit of a hop-induced dry finish brings up the rear.
On the Fifth Day of Christmas
Anchor Christmas Ale – San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing has been making this 7-percent seasonal since 1975. A benchmark of winter-holiday seasonals, this ale delivers a bold array of flavors including Christmas cookie, nutmeg and caramel.
On the Sixth Day of Christmas
Bells Christmas Ale – Brewed in the Scotch Ale tradition this 7.5 percent seasonal sits on a flavor foundation of caramel and malts. It’s not a spicy-laden winter beer, as many on this list are.
On the Seventh Day of Christmas
Sycamore Barrel Aged Christmas Cookie Winter Ale – What’s not to like about an 8.1-percent ale that tastes like a Christmas cookie dunked in bourbon? This is the first year this Charlotte, SC brewery has produced the barrel-aged version of Christmas Cookie Winter Ale.
On the Eighth Day of Christmas
Avery Old Jubilation Ale – Another winter beer in the English-style, this ale is 8.3 percent ABV. Avery uses five malts to give this ale its big malt-forward flavor. You may pick up some caramel and fruit on the tongue, as well.
On the Ninth Day of Christmas
Dark Horse 4 Elf Winter Ale – Bred in Michigan, this 8.75-percent ABV winter warmer takes aim at palates relishing a traditional spicy winter brew. It’s spice on the nose and spice forward on the tongue with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice mingling with hints of fruit and caramel.
On the Tenth Day of Christmas
Hardywood Gingerbread Stout – It’s about time a stout broke into this list. Here we have one boasting an ABV number of 9.2 percent. It’s ginger spiciness is joined by notes of cinnamon, vanilla, honey and chocolate. Hardywood calls Richmond, VA home.
On the Eleventh Day of Christmas
Peticolas Wintervention – Based in Dallas, TX, Peticolas Brewing creates its 10-percent ABV winter ale with nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger supplied by Pendery’s World of Spices just down the street. This is a full-bodied ale for sipping fireside.
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
Victory Merry Monkey – Another 10 percenter, this Belgian-style ale offers taste notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cranberry and orange peel. It’s label says it all, “And to all a good night.”
Russ is a long-time bourbon and craft-beer drinker who also produces the BEER2WHISKEY channel on YouTube.