One of winter’s great pleasures is hunkering down with family and friends and enjoying dark, rich ales, either paired with hearty meals or by themselves. With each passing year, more craft brewers are releasing a wider variety of these winter warmers. And although you could happily while away the season sampling your way through these Christmas spirits, we’ve asked three of our local brewers which holiday beers they prefer, to help you wade through these heady batches of liquid goodness.
Zambo, Head Brewer at 21st Amendment Brewery - You know, there are so many massive holiday beers that my instincts are to spread the options out a little. For the potent and rich side of things, I like Belgian Strong Dark Ales such as Delirium Noël from Brouwerij Huyghe. On the lighter side, I like our Sneak Attack, it’s a Saison brewed with cardamom. Light on the palette, it has a nice spice note, but still has the higher ABV level expected at holiday parties!
Jesse Friedman, Co-Founder of Almanac Beer Co - Nothing says the holidays like Anchor's Christmas Ale. Its perfectly balanced and restrained use of spices creates a warming Wassail that in one sip transports me to a family gathering around a fireplace. It's completely drinkable and crowd pleasing too - from beer nerds to curious wine drinkers - everyone can find something to love about this ale. I especially enjoy going to parties with a magnum. Something about the big 50 ounce bottle really says "This is a celebration" and with this beer it tastes like one too. Serve at cellar temperature (like you would a red wine) so that the subtle hints of Anchor's yeast come out, accenting the spices.
Kim Sturdavant, Brewmaster at Social Kitchen & Brewery – I have two suggestions for holiday brews:
First beer: La Vermontoise Connection (Collaboration between Brasserie de Blaugies and Hill Farmstead). It's a fresh, zesty, sparkling Saison, with a texture that floats on your tongue. Sort of like drinking a fluffy cloud of citrus, spice, and grain. I'm not sure if there are still bottles floating around the city but there were a few months ago. I suggest finding someone with a stash and inviting them over for a holiday party. I'd probably drink this beer on its own, but it would be excellent with the right salad, goat cheese, or something along the lines of pickled beets.
Second beer: King Leopold Belgian Stout, Triple Voodoo. Triple Voodoo recently hired brewmaster Phil Meeker in preparation for their soon to open brewery in Dogpatch. This is his first original recipe for the company. Belgian Stout is a great style for the winter, sort of a multidimensional and spicier take on a traditional stout. There are all kinds of flavors in this one: chocolate, coffee, dark caramel, figs, and a Belgian yeast character adding a whack of fruit and spice to the finish. It's a perfect food beer (gimme some goose with this!) and I think 7% ABV is the right amount of booze to be decadent while still being able to knock back a few safely.