A highlight of the holiday season is the release of Christmas beers. They begin to appear in beer coolers in November and include winter warmers and malty, complex seasonals artfully accented with fruits and spices. Some are tried-and-true favorites that have been around for decades while others are new to the scene. All are sure to make your winter just a little brighter.
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An Austrian doppelbock from Schloss Eggenberg, Samichlaus is an iconic Christmas beer that captivates beer enthusiasts every year. It's not the easiest to find, but you will not be disappointed when it crosses your path. Brewed on one day each December, it rests for 10 months to gain the ideal complexity of roasted malt, caramel, and prunes. The flavor is even more pronounced because it's bottled at a wine-worthy 14 percent ABV.
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Whether it's Christmas Eve or the coldest night in January, a bottle of Winter Welcome Ale (at 6 percent ABV) from Samuel Smith is a toasty treat. It's the perfect example of a winter warmer, with its rich maltiness perfectly balanced out by floral hops and inviting fruit and spice notes. If you can't find this beer, look for the brewery's oatmeal stout or nut brown ale, both of which are cozy fireside brews, too.
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Avery's Old Jubilation Ale is, quite simply, a delicious beer. The winter warmer is an English-style ale that uses no adjuncts for extra flavor. Instead, the magic is the result of five specialty malts that come together in perfect harmony. It's a malty, heavy 8.3 percent ABV brew with an inviting taste that includes figs, raisins, and toasted caramel to encompass the flavors of the season.
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In the U.S., this beer is found under the name Scaldis Noël and elsewhere it's Bush Noël. No matter what the label says, it's a 12 percent ABV brew and a taste of a classic Belgian winter warmer. The dark ale has made an annual appearance since its release in 1991, entrancing beer aficionados with a warm, full malt accented by brown sugar and banana. To make it even more intriguing, it finishes off with bitter hops.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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For a seasonal without all the extra spice, turn to Bell's Christmas Ale. It's as warming as any other and simply a masterfully brewed Scotch ale bottled at 7.5 percent ABV. You'll enjoy toffee, warm bread, and dark fruit flavors against an almost smoky, oakiness that melts in your mouth. It's the ideal beer to experience on a snowy night.
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When you've been outside all day and need to take a chill out of your bones, Breckenridge Brewery has a Christmas ale that will fix you right up. The easy-drinking winter warmer is easy to find in beer coolers, too. Encased in the 7.1 percent ABV beer, caramel, chocolate, and roasted malts are accented with a cozy spice that will surely make it a new favorite.
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If IPAs are your thing, crack open a bottle of Celebration Ale and enjoy the hoppiest of holiday beers. Sierra Nevada has been brewing this seasonal since 1981 and it remains a hit with its familiar citrus and pine notes. At 62 IBUs, to say that it's bitter is an understatement, but that's exactly why fans come back to it every year.
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Share your love of beer with family and friends during the holidays with something really special. The Belgian-inspired quadrupel ale from Colorado's Elevation Beer Co. is a perfect example and it comes elegantly dressed in a 750mL Champagne-style bottle. False Summit (11 percent ABV) is aged in used bourbon barrels, which adds a whiskey nuance to the caramel-laced oakiness. The flavors mellow and develop as it warms, so be sure to let it rest for a bit.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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While many winter warmers lean toward dark, rich malts, Odell Brewing's Isolation Ale takes a medium-bodied approach. The balance of sweet malt and crisp hops is perfect and offers drinkers a softer seasonal that's doesn't sacrifice flavor. At 6.1 percent ABV, it's very drinkable, and there is a nice bitterness that wakes up the palate. It can easily become one that you seek out each year.
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Fruit beers are not reserved for summer and Schlafly's latest seasonal puts the holiday spirit in a berrylicious brew. The Merry Berry Ale (6.0 percent ABV) is made from a medley of blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries against a wheat malt background. With its lemon and vanilla notes, it's simply a bright and cheerful beer that anyone can enjoy.