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Christmas/Winter Brews

Wondering which beers are taking the fancy of craft beer lovers around the country this year.

Over the weekend I sampled 3--Southern Tier's 2-Xmas; Bell's Winter white Ale and St Arnold's WeedWhacker (aka Lawnmower wheatened up). I'm not a fan of alambic brews but 2 X-Mas had that nice seasonal spice and fruit taste would would be great around the fireplace on Christmas Eve. But wouldn't be my go-to brew for steady winter sipping and no need for the fireplace in Florida, LOL. Bell's Winter White was a good wheat beer but nothing overly special that you couldn't get all year round from other brewers. I do like Bell's brews though. And WeedWhacker could do a nice job quenching one's thrist after dancing with the snow blower, just like Lawnmower did after a sweat session in the back yard when I lived in Houston. Light and refreshing, but again nothing spectacular.

What have the rest of you found?

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  1. In first for Celebration. Its about the only winter beer I pay attention to anymore.

    3 Replies
    1. re: LStaff

      I agree. Other than the traditional style Barleywine/Old Ale that I've brewed at home every year since the late '80s (and which I've blended 10% of into each successive year's brew ever since then), of the commercial holiday beers Celebration has remained a favorite... hop forward but with good malt balance balance, and no insipid spices. And it's consistently good from year to year and the bottles that survive the months beyond the holiday season are still great.

      Anchor OSA was once a favorite of mine years ago, back in the days before they started with the spice additions. That kind of ruined it for me.

      I haven't seen Lancaster Brewing's holiday beer around yet...that one is pretty good too, pretty much the opposite of Celebration in that it is lusciously malt forward, and on the darker side of the color spectrum (and a tad more ABV than Celebration)

      1. re: The Professor

        Neither am I big on OSA these days, but it has an impressive number of fans.

        We show our age by calling it OSA. I always liked that name, but even the brewery is emphasizing the "Christmas Ale" name these days.

        1. re: The Professor

          "Anchor OSA was once a favorite of mine years ago, back in the days before they started with the spice additions. That kind of ruined it for me."

          I feel the same, although I haven't tried this year's yet. Still hoping. But nothing is likely to match Celebration as far as I'm concerned.

      2. I like the weedwhacker, but i don't think your description of it being the lawnmower wheatened up is correct. The folks at St. Arnold are better able to explain the difference than me.

        From the website:
        Weedwacker is essentially a Bavarian hefeweizen. Except it isn’t. Weedwacker is exactly the same beer as Fancy Lawnmower Beer but we ferment it with Bavarian hefeweizen yeast instead of kölsch yeast.

        BTW, have you tried their Xmas Ale. I like it, but i still think:
        a. Good, but not as tasty as SN Celebration
        b. Elissa is still my favorite St. Arnold Beer

        1. Rediscovered the awesomeness of both St. Bernardus' and Affligem's Christmas beers last night. Those are hard ones to beat. Affligem in particular, wow. Rich, malty, fruity, a real classic.

          1. Sly Fox Christmas is a great balanced flavorful spiced ale.

            Anchor OSA is a mainstay for me.

            Sierra Nevada Celebration is a fantastic ipa with a hint of spice.

            I had Sierra 2x. I thought it was a winter warmer not a lambic. And it was quite nice. Its a sipper not a chugger.

            1. For me, "Winter" brews means two things:

              1: Over-the-top imperial stouts

              2: Great barleywines

              Also trying to expand my experience range with sweet belgian dark ales... but the more I sample these, the more I think I'm really looking for barleywine.

              These special "christmas ales" are okay, but give me a massive stout or barleywine anytime on a cold winter night.

              3 Replies
              1. re: TombstoneShadow

                While I agree with you, actually most of the barleywines get released in January/February.

                For me, I wait for Bigfoot every year. And Sierra has a holiday beer that it releases prior to that.

                  1. re: Jim Dorsch

                    I've got a bottle of the 2013 BF and Foghorn sitting here... waiting for a free evening for comparison.

              2. 3rd Coast Old Ale from Bells. While not a Christmas/holiday beer, it is indeed the beer to have when the weather really, really sucks.

                8 Replies
                1. re: MOREKASHA

                  In the old days (before it went year-round) Geary's Hampshire Special Ale used to be touted as only available when the weather sucks.

                  1. re: MOREKASHA

                    3rd coast is a barleywine, yes? winter to the bone.

                    1. re: TombstoneShadow

                      I guess so, though they call it an old ale. What with all the style gender bending going on, I'm not sure of what anything is anymore. The other day I heard of a goze/weiss beer. What's next a wit/stout? Either way, I like it and with the cold N snow today in NYC, it's time for my first one of the season.

                      1. re: MOREKASHA

                        Gender bending indeed...with the BJCP 'guidelines' confusing things even more.

                        Historically, Barleywine IS (or should be) "old ale". The term 'Barleywine' was evidently an invention of the folks at Bass, not even coming into use until the late 19th or early 20th century. Old Ales were around long before that. Basically brewed to be strong and meant for extended 'keeping' before consumption.

                        The whole idea of 'old ale' was that is was very well aged, developing a slightly lactic character. Often, the stuff that masquerades as 'Old Ale' nowadays isn't very old at all.

                        1. re: The Professor

                          Yes it's produced seasonally so how old can it be at time of release?

                          BUT... the best product is age-worthy as many posters have noted...

                          1. re: TombstoneShadow

                            Last night I opened a bottle of Gales' Old Ale. At least 15 years old, maybe even a bit older. Sadly, it was waaaay past its prime.

                            1. re: MOREKASHA

                              Isn't all this age-worthy beer (belgian ales, barleywines, imperial this and that....)... all produced in both draft barrels and bottles?

                              So the purpose of the draft would be for current drinking, and the bottles be more appropriate for aging?

                        2. re: MOREKASHA

                          Gose isn't really new fangled style gender bender. Just starting to get some notoriety in the craft beer circles.


                    2. If it ever makes it here in 12 oz bottles, I can add Lagunitas Sucks to my favorite holiday time beers.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: LStaff

                        extremely tiny allocations in NoVA

                        1. re: Jim Dorsch

                          To get people hooked before the 32 oz Sucks starts shipping? ;-)

                        2. After trying a bunch of Christmas Beers last night here a are 3 of my Favorites.
                          Brasserie d'Achouffe N'Ice Chouffe
                          Spicy with Peppery, Coriander, Orange and Caramel notes.
                          Dry and Strong 10%. A bit too fizzy at first but a very minor flaw.
                          Regenboog 't Smisje Kerst
                          Amber Color. Caramel, Dry Fruits and warm Spices. Rich Malt with a little bit of Sour tang. Really multilayered and at 11% a sipper.
                          Mikkeller Santas Little Helper
                          Cocoa, Toast, Spices and Anise are the Flavors that really stood out for me. Slightly Bitter and Dry finish. 10.5%

                          1. I always look forward to Delirium Noel (belgian strong dark ale) and Alesmith YuleSmith - Winter (imperial red). Going to AleSmith today to fill a couple of growlers. If I spend Xmas in Portland with family there, we always share a bottle of The Abyss (awesome imperial stout).

                            Merry Xmas to all!