With Thanksgiving behind us, most of the seasonal pumpkin beers are no longer on shelves, but there is no shortage of brews featuring cinnamon and spice as we approach Christmas and colder weather ahead.
“The biggest difference at this time of year is that people are more interested in darker and fuller beers than they would be during the summer,” said Jacob Rivera, beer buyer at Liquorama in Upland. “The specialty themed beers for Christmas really don’t drive the market, but rather the styles like stouts, porters and a lot of barrel-aged beers. But here in Southern California, people still want IPAs and other styles throughout the year.”
If you missed the annual Black Friday release of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, there’s no need to fret. There are plenty of barrel-aged, spicy and other seasonal ales from which to choose. Plus, you might still be able to find the limited-release at bottle shops around the area.
This year will bring a much-anticipated rare and highly priced seasonal beer release. Samuel Adams Utopias reportedly hits stores every two years and checks in at a remarkable 29 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). Not surprising, the price tag is pretty outrageous for this limited production of 10,000 bottles. While the 10th anniversary edition of this very unique barrel-aged American strong ale lists at around $200 a bottle, but you’ll more likely pay several times that amount if you can find it.
For the rest of us looking for holiday beers that are readily available and far more affordable, Anchor Brewing offers its annual Christmas Ale, which it has been brewing since 1975. It’s now available in six-packs and oversized magnum bottles.
Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale has been another Christmas-time beer tradition since in 1981 and is one of the earliest examples of today’s American-style IPA.
Samuel Adams offers a seemingly endless selection of holiday specials, including several that are grouped in seasonal variety packs. Old Fezziwig Ale, Chocolate Bock, Holiday Porter and Winter Lager are all in packages, and White Christmas (white ale with spices) and the limited edition Merry Maker (gingerbread milk stout) can be found separately.
Among the best of the Christmas-themed beers is an imperial stout released each summer. Santa’s Little Helper by Port Brewing in San Marcos, Calif., celebrates the brewery’s annual “Christmas in July” fundraiser. Nevertheless, both the imperial stout and the barrel-aged versions are fabulous at the holidays.
From Orange County, The Bruery recently released the eighth annual brew in its 12 days of Christmas series – Eight Maids a Milking, a milk stout with a Belgian twist. Some of the previous beers of the series are available at the Placentia taproom.
Another delicious and affordable brew is AleSmith’s winter red Yule Smith. Among the others that ring in the season are Ninkasi Sleigh’r dark double alt ale, St. Bernardus Belgian Christmas Ale, Rogue’s Santa Private Reserve, Scaldis Noel Belgian, Delirium Noel and Affligem Noel.
If it’s novelty you want, then there are plenty to fill the Christmas theme, including the, Santa’s Butt Winter Porter, Bad Elf IPA and a series themed after the “Christmas Vacation” movie.