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Falalala....it's Christmas Beer time again.

Oktoberfest has come and passed again. I realize, as much as I love this time of year, I am not a Marzen fan for the most part. Spaten and HB still has the best Oktoberfest. The Pumpkin Ales are now past (Southern Tier's Pumkin is truly king here).....and now it is time for the Christmas Beers.

My favorite, and it results in a yearly pilgrammage to their brewery is the Great Lakes Christmas Ale (I live in Pittsburgh so not too far) and just found it a almost gasping $65/case at beer distributor locally. But it is my favorite and likely will buy 2-3 cases for gifts and parties between now and Christmas.

I also have gotten some Goose Island's Christmas Ale. Really good. Also have tried a 6 pack of Anderson Valley's Winter Solstice Ale. Also good. (I like this style over Marzen, not saying better but a personal preference).

What are your favorite Holiday specific beers? Also, like Sierra's Celebration Ale. But want to try some different ones this year so looking for your recommendations?

If you haven't, you must try the Great Lakes Christmas Ale. It is the best of the best. IMO of course.

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  1. Stille Nacht by De Dolle is my favorite. I also like N'Ice Chouffe, Gouden Carolus Christmas, Delirium Noel and St Bernardus Christmas too.

    1. I love the Anchor Steam Christmas Ales, and I also like the Winter Solstice. I'm also partial to Harpoon's Winter Warmer, although I haven't had it in a few years.
      I tend to buy more porters, stouts and barleywines around Christmas, so will likely pick up some Bell's beers, (Porter, Kalamazoo and Expedition Stout), and some larger format beers from Three Floyd's Alpha Klaus or Behemoth Barleywine.
      Oddly, I didn't care for the Goose Island Christmas Ale. The one I had lacked body, and tasted more like a harvest ale to me. I'll have to try it again.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Shaggy

        I am anxious to try Karbach's Yule shoot Your Eye Out but have not made it to Spec's to pick some up. They describe it as a generously spiced black ale.

      2. Yesterday was the official start to Celebration season for me. I just prefer hops as a spice so I have no need/desire for any others.

        7 Replies
        1. re: LStaff

          Couldn't have said it better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          1. re: LStaff

            Not knocking it, but in your opinion, is Celebration really better than most IPA's? I keep hearing about how people wait for this beer to come out, and I have to be honest, I would never buy it over many other well made IPA's. Just curious, I feel like I'm missing something.

            1. re: Shaggy

              It's pretty good if you like Sierra Nevada's IPAs in general. It's a lot like Torpedo. They don't add any extra spices from what I can detect. In my opinion Big Foot is generally more interesting and it varies from year to year.

              1. re: Shaggy

                How many better IPA's were there 31 years ago when this first came out, or better yet how many did this inspire

                1. re: niquejim

                  Absolutely, it's an important beer, and a good beer. Like I said, it's just not a beer that I look forward to like a lot of people, and I wonder if I'm missing something.

                  1. re: Shaggy

                    Sometimes nostalgia is as, or more important than being new and flashy. The only thing you are probably missing is the memories

                2. re: Shaggy

                  I am one of those people who waits all year for it and actually I have been kind of wondering whether it is just a psychological thing, so I've been trying to kind of compare it to some of the other IPAs I have at home. So far I still like it better than Goose Island and oddly much better than Torpedo, which seems kind of harsh in comparison. I also notice that the Ithaca Flower Power and all the Southern Tiers are way hoppier, but I don't think that's a bad thing. I would say I might like the Lagunitas almost the same as Celebration.

                  I still feel like Celebration is the winner. But maybe it is just too big a part of my own Christmas tradition for me to feel differently.

              2. Scaldis Noel, Noel de Silenrieux, and Samichlaus are my favorites. Dig the St Bernardus Xmas as well.

                1. Has anyone tried hop whiskey yet?

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: chuckl

                    That's a thing? Two things that I love.

                    1. re: Shaggy

                      I've had it. It's really good. charbay also makes one out of Black Bear Stout.

                      1. re: chuckl

                        Did you tried the white or aged one? (Or both?)

                        1. re: eethan

                          I tried both and preferred the barrel aged. I haven't tried the S from big bear stout yet

                          1. re: chuckl

                            Did you notice any difference in the hop characteristic? I was wondering if it would suffer from the ageing, but it sounds like it's still there?

                            1. re: eethan

                              Due to the distlling process, I wouldnt expect the hop flavors to fade. Marko, the distiller, told me he thinks the flavor improves in the bottle over time, though I can't verify that personally.

                              1. re: chuckl

                                Thanks -- I had a try of the white whiskey, and it is good. It's not quite what I expected. I (and my wife) both noted its origins as IPA are very clear, but I found a strong flavour of fermentation that I didn't expect, sort of like a brandy (which, on reflection is not too surprising). In the end, it's quite complex and interesting. I'm not sure I'd want to pay full price for it, though.

                  2. I'm waiting for my local shop to get this year's Anchor Steam. Eagerly awaiting it! It's different every year so I don't know what to expect, exactly. It's a yearly tradition - the one seasonal beer about which I truly care.

                    I haven't seen the Great Lakes here yet but will keep an eye out for it.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: eepi

                      I believe it's called Anchor Christmas. Anchor Steam is the style of one of their beers.

                      1. re: chuckl

                        Anchor has, at various times, referred to their seasonal beer as "Our Special Ale" and "Christmas Ale" and, for the TTB label approval, calls it "Merry Christmas".

                        They also used the "Anchor Steam" terminology a few years back on the Christmas Ale's table tent design - http://i.imgur.com/xxR5y.jpg

                      2. re: eepi

                        This thread reminded me of how Anchor's Christmas offering has been a part of my Holiday season every year since I had my first in 1987. Not much else about Christmas is interesting to me at this point, and after the past three weeks around here, it's weird to be openly "cheery" about anything. Nonetheless, I sincerely look forward to the annual tasting of that first six pack.

                        1. re: MGZ

                          What I have found with Anchor's Christmas beer is that on some years it is ready to drink, but on other years it requires at least one or two years' aging, preferably in the refrigerator. It really depends on how strong the spices are.

                      3. Okay so far I have collected for the holidays:
                        Great Lakes Christmas Ale (IMO the best or at least my fav)
                        Goose Island
                        Anderson Valley Winter Solstice

                        Southern Tier Christmas Ale (since I love their Pumkin Ale and others)
                        And some large bottles of:
                        Delirum Noel
                        Goulden Carolus Christmas
                        Cosendork Christmas Ale
                        Rogue's Santa's Private Reserve
                        Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (awesome)
                        Petrus Winter Beer

                        So far.......

                        1. Anderson Valley Winter Solstice is our favorite, never tried the Great Lakes Christmas Ale and will have to try to find some.

                          1. Not really a Christmas beer but a great winter seasonal...Pyramid Snowcap. Richer than a porter but different than a stout.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: jpc8015

                              That's along the lines of an old ale. A great one that is now gone was Wild Goose Snow Goose out of MD. Also, year-round these days is Geary's Hampshire Special from Maine.

                              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                Good to know. Old ale is not a style that I have experienced much of. Knowing that I enjoy Snowcap I will search out some old ales to try...or I may just need to brew one myself.

                                1. re: jpc8015

                                  You won't find very many _true_ 'old ales' out there. There are strong beers that call themselves that, but 'Old Ale' traditionally is ale that has been vatted (aged) for a long period of time...like year or more.

                                  These days the trend is to rush production and drink many beers "young" (even stronger beers that in the past would be put aside to age). But a well made, long aged beer is truly a thing of beauty.

                                  Some breweries are beginning to revive the traditional practice of long aging. Properly done, the effect on the brew is profound (and delicious).

                                  1. re: The Professor

                                    I guess I will just have to brew one myself and see how it goes.

                            2. Thanks guys. I picked up a six pack of Sam Adams White Christmas and I really love the spiciness.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: GraydonCarter

                                I like that as well. I tried the new variety pack over the weekend, and wasn't impressed with the Holiday Porter or Chocolate Bock, and I've never enjoyed the Old Fezziwig, but the Winters are good. I am a big fan of Sam Adams, but these didn't hit the mark in my opinion.

                                1. re: Shaggy

                                  Mr. Rat also tried the variety pack and his clear pick was the White Christmas also. That's the one he went out and bought a whole six-pack of.

                              2. I just tried this years Santas Little Helper Russian Imperial Stout from Port Brewing on draft and its very good, with lots of chocolate and coffee notes. I can imagine this being delicious with chocolates and dessert or with vanilla ice cream as a beer float.

                                1. I really liked Troegs Mad Elf, thought it's been a few years since I was anywhere near PA at this time of year. Anyone had it recently? Still good?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: newJJD

                                    Still as good as ever. I prefer it on draught as opposed to bottle.

                                  2. Favorite (winter) holiday specific beers... I have to go with the richer winter beers and there's nothing better than a great stout or barleywine in the wintertime.

                                    Specific selection varies so much by what part of the country you're in...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: TombstoneShadow

                                      Fortunately, most of us will see Sierra Nevada Bigfoot soon.