Your Beermonger: Christmas Ale Extravaganza!

by ARLnow.com November 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm 4,515 50 Comments

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

There is a subset of beer fans out there who really, really like Christmas Ales. Cinnamon and nutmeg abound in holiday-themed beers packaged with festive labels that often go out of their way to twist the season. The problem is that far too many Christmas Ales are too heavy with the yuletide spicy cheer. So which holiday beer do you pick for your celebration? Here are some of my favorites:

Schlafly Christmas Ale: The alternative to the more popular spicy Christmas Ales out there. Much the same way as Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale avoids the trap of going too spicy (which makes it the best out there in my opinion), their Christmas Ale gives you all the holiday spice you need as a secondary player to the excellent beer that those spices happen to appear in. This one never lasts very long, so if you see it jump on it quick.

Sierra Nevada Celebration: A favorite of mine, Celebration bucks the trend by simply being a delightful Fresh Hop Ale rather than a spicy mess. Easy going with punchy, earthy hop aromas and flavors, Celebration is good, popular, and readily available.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale: This Belgian treat eschews the medicinal, herby flavors of other Biere de Noel by simply being a delicious, slightly malty Belgian Ale with a strong, clean banana yeasty note from its bottle conditioning.

Troeg’s Mad Elf: A big Barleywine brewed with honey and cherries, Mad Elf is 11% of insanity. Not only delicious, but improves with age.

Blue Mountain Brewery Long Winter’s Nap: This Virginia brewery’s seasonal release is a rich Blonde Tripelbock whose smoothness belies its 10% ABV. With enough malt, but not so much that it’s too cloying or rich. A real treat.

Port City Tidings: Starting to run low already, so jump on it quick. This holiday offering from Alexandria’s Port City Brewery is a Belgian-style Blonde Ale that uses local Maryland wildflower honey and Virginia wheat. The spices in Tidings aren’t exactly what you’d expect either; there’s cardamom, coriander, grains of paradise, and fresh ginger. This year’s Tidings strikes an even better balance between the richness from the honey and its spices.

There is no shortage of Christmas offerings out there — which ones do you look forward to the most?

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net, and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Community discussion guidelines: Our sponsored columns are written by members of the local business community. While we encourage a robust and open discussion, we ask that all reviews of the businesses — good or bad — be directed to another venue, like Yelp. The comments section is intended for a conversation about the topic of the article.

  • MrMeow

    Why don’t they have gingerbread or peppermint bark flavored beers? Or for my fellow Jews, why not Potato latke flavored beer?

    • Chris

      There are a few Gingerbread beers out there, and a handful featuring mint (though not exactly a candy cane beer that I’m aware of). Potato beer is something I’ve been thinking about….

      I think that beyond Celebration, the xmas ales don’t do it for me. Luckily, stout season is also upon us!

      • Aaron

        A number of brewers offer mint stouts, which often seem to appear at this time of year. Stone has one out that sounds very interesting, and I recall having a quite good one from Magic Hat last year. Dogfish Head created a raspberry-mint stout “Black and Red” last year but that one wasn’t particularly Christmassy.

        • FrenchyB

          Interesting that you mentioned Magic Hat – I’ve enjoyed most of their seasonal beers, but can’t stand #9. I guess that’s the one that pays the bills, though.

          • SHLady

            The one that I cannot stand from Magic Hat is Wacko. Don’t drink that.

          • Deadite

            Agreed. #9 and Blue Moon are girly beers.

          • Captain_Obvious

            no they’re not.

        • Mrmeow

          I don’t think a mint stout would taste good unless it was a dry stout like Guinness. I think if you could stick peppermint patty flavor into guinness it would be incredible.

          • CW

            Peppermint extract plus guinness…one drop at a time…do the experiment and take one for the team

      • Mrmeow

        Not sure how well it would go down, but a roast beef/aus jus flavored beer?

    • SteamboatWillie

      Is that a parody post about latke flavored beer? Because that sounds really unappealing.

      I like pizza and hamburgers, but not as beer flavors.

      • Glebe Roader

        Consider the source, it’s n-steve.

        • SteamboatWillie

          Bwahaha – he also posted on an earlier version of this column professing his love for an apple flavored beer from Blue Moon. This of course followed a nauseating number of prior postings about pretentious Arlington beer drinking snobs not appreciating PBR and ruining his fun by overpaying for their ridiculous craft beers.

          Comedy gold.

          • Mrmeow

            That would not be me you are describing. I won’t touch Blue Moon. It’s the only beer that makes me sick.

          • SteamboatWillie

            That new search feature is. . . . awesome:


            From the link above:

            Blue Moon Caramel Apple Spiced Ale: This new seasonal from MillerCoors’ infamous “faux Craft” label uses apple juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and caramel malts to create a brownish Ale that targets both Pumpkin Ale drinkers and cider fans.

            novasteve September 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm
            That apple beer sounds good. I wish there were more banana beer options. Do they still even have De Troch banana?

          • Mrmeow

            Saying something sounds good is the same as professing one’s love for something? I can assure you’ve I’ve never tried that Blue Moon beer before,s o i can’t possibly love something I’ve never tried.

          • Deadite

            SteamboatWillie with the killshot.

  • Lee Highway

    Great Lakes Christmas Ale. Hard to find around here but very good.

    • CW

      Drank it a few days ago, completely agree.

    • TheBeermonger

      Came and went brutally quick. Heads up: another (smaller) run is coming in the next week or so. It’ll go even quicker unfortunately. Tasty stuff, but to put it out there like it’s readily available felt like trolling to me.

    • 350sbc

      Yep! I found a 6-pack of it in DC on Friday. The key is to call all the stores, beginning in Georgetown.

  • Arash

    Sam Adams came out with a Gingerbread stout. Call Merry Mischief.

    • TheBeermonger

      Haven’t tried it yet. Curious to.

  • Deadite

    Harpoon Winter Warmer.

    • MrMeow

      Bleech, it tastes like hairspray.

      • Deadite

        ^^Aren’t you the guy who just asked for gingerbread and peppermint flavored beers?

        • Mrmeow

          Yes. I want a beer that tastes like gingerbread or peppermint bark, not hairspray.

          • Deadite

            Brush your teeth then drink a beer. See how good it tastes.

  • Sam

    This was mentioned in an earlier post as well but Long Winter’s Nap is Blue Mountain Brewery and not Devils Backbone.

    • 350sbc

      Yep. The article needs to be fixed.

    • Fixed

    • TheBeermonger

      Yeah, my bad. I mix those two up when typing far too often.

  • Brian

    Thirsty Dog Christmas Ale is BY.FAR.THE.BEST. Great Lakes Christmas Ale is also fantastic. But Thirsty Dog is the best you can find anywhere.

    • SteamboatWillie

      Yeah, I thought Great Lakes would be mentioned for sure. That seems to be one of those that makes the cut on almost every list.

      • Frito Pie

        Arrowine may not carry it))

      • TheBeermonger

        Got four cases (no one got a lot, it seems) and it sold out in an afternoon. Felt unfair to mention it with such little supply and with it being (as far as I know) gone. I mentioned in reply to another comment that there will be more coming, but we’ll only see maybe 2 cases out of that shipment. Lots of demand, little supply, alas.

    • hoser

      Agreed on Thirsty Dog. Have yet to find it out here. I assume you are from Ohio, so if you get a chance while back north, try to find the Winter Warmer by The Brew Kettle (out of Strongsville). It is what Great Lakes’ Christmas Ale is on a good day. Probably the best Christmas-style that I’ve ever had.

      Other faves of mine right now are Lancaster’s Winter Warmer, Devil’s Backbone’s Kilt Flasher (though not really a Chistmas beer), and I was surprised to find that I really liked Shiner’s Cheer last year. Haven’t had it this year yet, though.

  • SteamboatWillie

    I had the Long Winter’s Nap last weekend and enjoyed it. The taste is not that boozy, considering the high ABV.

    Here’s a plug for Arrowine having a rep from Blue Mountain at the store tomorrow from 1-4 for a tasting. According to one promotional email, Long Winter’s Nap will be on the menu.

    • TheBeermonger

      True and true. Thank you, sir.

  • CourthouseChris

    Delirium Noel!

    • TheBeermonger

      Have it, like it.

  • Frito Pie

    I’m a huge fan of Cabin Fever – nice and malty but not too sweet, which is quite a trick considering its ABV is through the roof. I found it at Screwtop Wine Bar last week…

    • malaka

      I like it too..but it’s hardly “through the roof” at 6.25% ABV

  • Quoth the Raven

    Jubelale from Deschutes. Too bad you can’t get it out east.

    • TheBeermonger

      They really have little reason not to be here at this point. They’re plenty big enough.

  • bert

    If anyone happens to visit Richmond this time of year or knows someone, get some Hardywood Brewery Gingerbread Stout. It’s one of only a handful of beers ever to receive 100pts from Beer Advocate. It’s a small brewery with small production, so get it while you can.

    • TheBeermonger

      That is one I’m dying to try. I’m holding out on the Sam Adams Gingerbread Stout because I want to try this first.

  • malaka

    Old Jubilation from Avery – no spices just a really good blend of about 6 different malts.
    I’ enjoying the Schafly for the first time this year and always look forward to the Celebration from Sierra. Anchor usuallly make a christmas ale…..it’s a different recipe each year- often over spiced but sometimes pretty good. Have not seen any of this year’s yet…..

    • TheBeermonger

      It’s out there. I’ve got a couple of the magnum bottles at Arrowine now. Haven’t tried this years’ yet so I can’t speak to it. I’m starting to like their pricing for that beer less with each passing year. Fine for a grocery store or chain who doesn’t have to make that much off of their beer, but not for me.

  • fm110

    For a darker beer, Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter tastes awesome! I found some at Harris Teeter.


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