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Christmas is best known for its holiday spirit, and it also means that there are a lot of parties to attend. One way to make the best impression at your next gathering is by bringing an excellent beer or two.
Many breweries produce special and seasonal Christmas ales just for the holidays, and they're incredible to try as you celebrate with friends and family. The best beers for Christmas can be hard to find this time of year, so we compiled a list of the all-time favorites!
Our Top Picks
Best Overall - Great Lakes Christmas Ale
• Highly rated, award-winning
Best High-ABV - Eggenberg Samichlaus Classic Bier
• 14% Alcohol by volume
Best Splurge - Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza
• Barrel-aged for six months
1. Great Lakes Christmas Ale - Best Overall
Brothers from Ireland founded Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio. The few remaining breweries back then shut down one by one, so opening their new brewery in 1986 felt both sensible and idiotic. However, the Conway brothers were willing to take a gamble. It paid off, and their Christmas Ale is still a big hit today, even after all these years and generations.
What does it mean to drink a Christmas beer? Dark, malty, and boozy are the best ways to describe it. The Conway brothers found a winning combination with cinnamon, honey, and fresh ginger flavors. Six gold and silver medals have been awarded to this Christmas beer since 1999.
2. Tröegs Brewing Mad Elf
High-gravity Belgian Christmas ales are typical in the Belgian brewers, but they're hard to come by elsewhere. Fortunately, Tröegs Brewing in Pennsylvania produces lots of Mad Elf.
The first batch of this Belgian quadrupel was brewed in 2002 using 300 pounds of honey from the Happy Beekeeper farm. Those initial 300-pound orders have now grown to 25,000 pounds a year in volume.
At 11% ABV, this beer contains 15 IBU (International Bitterness Units). This is a burgundy beer malted with pilsner, chocolate, and Munich. Spicy Belgian yeast is brewed with Saaz and Hallertau hops in this beer. Cherry, honey, sugar, cloves, and cinnamon are added for additional flavor.
3. Three Taverns Feest Noel
The Three Taverns aim to encourage the world for a profound life experience, stimulating all family and neighbors to gather at the table and raise a glass in appreciation and cheerful celebration.
Feest Noel is joy in a glass, a spiced Christmas brew designed to elicit delight and wonder. Dark roasted malts, imported Belgian dark candy sugar, and spicy accents of cardamom, allspice, and cloves are used in this Belgian-style Quadrupel.
4. Double Mountain Brewery Fa La La La La Winter Ale
In contrast to the typical dark winter brew, the Fa La La La La Winter Ale is loaded with Centennial hops. This, in turn, imparts citrus and resinous hop quality. Pilsner and Crystal malts as a foundation provide an excellent malty backbone to the hops. It has fruity and flowery aromatics and hints of orange and rose. This brew has an ABV of 7.5% and an IBU of 85.
This brewery was founded in 2007, making it a relatively new one. They have 25,000 square feet of solar panels on their roof, making them extremely environmentally friendly. Easy-to-drink, well-aged beer bottles are what they specialize in. For recycling and refilling, they'd even prefer to get their bottles back.
5. Revolution Brewing Fistmas Red Ale
Revolution Brewing's "Fistmas" Holiday Ale is another excellent choice for the December festivities. Traditionally, Christmas beers are thick, syrupy beverages, but this one strays a little bit away from it.
Fistmas is a hoppy red ale with 6.5% ABV and 31 IBU and is brewed with ginger and orange peel. With a combination of caramel malts, citrusy hops, and ginger spice, this Christmas ale packs a flavorful punch.
A Christmas ham with some form of orange glaze is the obvious choice for a 'Fistmas' meal. This beer can handle a lot of salt and smoke because of its piney Chinook hops and the juiciness of the grains used.
6. Warped Wing Esther's Lil Secret
There are some great seasonal selections from Warped Wing Brewing in Dayton, Ohio, including a spicy amber lager called Holiday Special and a soothing doppelbock named Abominator.
Esther's Lil Secret is the brewery's best in terms of holiday beers. It is released every November, and since the recipe varies every year, they hold a "release and reveal party" to celebrate the debut of the new flavor.
It's brewed in collaboration between Warped Wing Brewing and the 90-year-old Dayton chocolate company Esther Price Candies. The 2021 variant is the Chocolate Almond Bark Brown Ale.
7. Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale
This is the first-holiday beer in the United States since the ban was lifted and was launched by Anchor Brewing in 1975. Even though each year's batch of Christmas Ale features a new, hand-drawn label and a new secret formula, Anchor's goal with each variant is to spread joy and celebrate new life.
This beer portrays a complex, nuanced tale. The delectable ale, brewed by brewmaster Tom Riley, offers seasonal tastes that appear fresh. Intriguing mulling spices follow first bittersweet chocolate flavors. In a way, the raspberry accent helps level out the other flavors.
This beer sits at 7% ABV, making it ideal for drinking after dinner. You might also serve it with something sweet like dessert. The Christmas Ale is exclusively available for purchase from November to mid-January.
8. Deschutes Brewery Jubelale
Even though Deschutes has only been open for 31 years, 2021 marks the 32nd iteration of Jubelale. That's because Jubelale was the first beer produced by this Bend, Oregon-based brewery in October 1988. Founder Gary Fish hand-bottled the beer at his modest brewpub that first year. Since then, production has increased slightly, but the formula based on classic malty English winter ales has stayed unchanged.
Jubelale is one of the Pacific Northwest's oldest seasonal beers, and it continues to draw new enthusiasts every year. This ale is brewed with a malt bill consisting of carapils and roasted barley to produce a robust malt flavor of caramel and powdered chocolate. Spice notes are made by the brewer's use of Bravo, Cascade, Delta, Tettnang, and East Kent Goldings Hops. Jubelale has an ABV of 6.7% and 65 IBUs.
9. Eggenberg Samichlaus Classic Bier - Best High ABV
The world's most potent brew has been reborn! A Christmas beer that is only brewed on the 6th of December every year. Before bottling, Samichlaus is allowed to rest for 10 months—this is perhaps one of the rarest beers in the world.
Nutty, brown sugar and caramel flavors mingle with raisin-like fruits as well as wood and tobacco notes in this barley wine. Pair it with hearty dishes and sweet treats like chocolates, or sip it on its own as a digestif after a meal.
10. Sierra Nevada Brewing Celebration Ale
Few beers are as closely associated with the festive season as Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. This fresh hop IPA was initially produced in 1981. The formula has remained unchanged for over 40 years, giving lively citrus and pine notes with a crisp hop bitterness that fits the frigid winter environment.
Celebration Ale is brewed with fresh Chinook, Centennial, and Cascade hops from the Northwest's hop farms. While hoppy with solid citrus and pine aromas, this beer for Christmas is beautifully balanced with a gently sweet foundation of caramelized two-row pale malt. It has an ABV of 6.8% and 65 IBU. Because it is a fresh hop beer, it is best to drink it as soon as possible.
11. Great Divide Hibernation Ale
While most beers here are holiday-themed, Christmas day is only the start of a lengthy winter. Afterward, much of the country will face months of freezing weather. Colorado residents understand this better than most. Well, Great Divide Brewing in Denver has released a delicious beer to help people get through the long, harsh winter.
As an English-style old ale, Hibernation Ale's malty sweetness and 8.7% alcohol content will keep you warm on the coldest of nights. It has been brewed since 1995 and has garnered several awards along the way. Just be sure to stock up on enough cans of this traditional English type so you can enjoy it as a Christmas Eve nightcap far into spring.
12. Bell's Brewery Christmas Ale
Bell's brewery is most recognized for its classic beers, some of which helped to develop the genres in the first place. Their Christmas Ale has undergone a major revamp in recent years. The beer's ABV was raised from 5.5% to 7.5% to better suit the consumer's needs for cozy holiday drinks.
This rich, malty Scotch Ale has hints of caramel and a toasty finish, making it a classic. It's sure to brighten the holidays, or at the very least, make it a little easier to deal with. Friends and family members are great companies to enjoy this beverage!
13. Victory Brewing Winter Cheers
Hefeweizen, or wheat beers, may not immediately spring to mind when considering classic winter and holiday beer varieties. However, Victory's Winter Cheers Hazy Wheat Ale stands out because of it!
Winter Cheers' gentle clove flavor comes from the Bavarian Weizen ale yeast, generating banana-like esters and clove-like phenols. This is one of its unique qualities because many Christmas beers are usually spiced.
At 6.7% ABV, the beer is heavier than other hefeweizens. Its bubbliness and harmony of fruity and spicy yeast aromas make it a great companion beverage for the holiday season. The addition of Citra hops offers a huge American feel to the brew. After a few sips of this flavorful Pennsylvania wheat brew, you'll be convinced that hefeweizen is an excellent beer for Christmas.
14. Carlsberg Tuborg Julebryg
Over the years, this dark pilsner has become an important reminder that Christmas is coming. The first Friday in November is known as 'J-day' in Denmark, and it is a national day of celebration. Carlsberg staff drive around in a truck to pubs and cafes to commemorate the beginning of the holiday season, singing the traditional Tuborg Christmas brew song and giving out free beer.
Lager, münchener, and caramel malts make this beer, which is bottom-fermented with English licorice. Caramel, cereal, licorice, and blackcurrant aromas fill the dark-golden brew's nose. It is especially good with Christmas meals. You may also serve it with smoked fish, grilled or fried herring, smoked ham, pork roast, or roast duck.
15. Jolly Pumpkin Noel De Calabaza - Best Splurge
With Noel de Calabaza, the sour ale pioneers at Michigan's Jolly Pumpkin put their unique spin on the classic flavors of Christmas beers. They created a Belgian dark strong ale, which many Belgian brewers release as a seasonal beer. Then they aged it in oak barrels for six months before adding the Jolly Pumpkin mixed-fermentation procedure.
The flavors are nicely blended and layered because it ages for half a year. It has a quality of rich malty mahogany with hops, fruits, and spice. Candied nuts, sugar plums, spicy fruitcakes, and truffles are among the other flavor hints.
16. Brasserie Dubuisson Scaldis Noël
The Scaldis Noël was created in response to consumer requests for a beer that would enhance the holidays' festivities. Since its release in 1991, it has been the popular choice for those looking to add a little sparkle to the Christmas spirit.
Malts, hops, candy sugar, and water are exclusively used in the brewing process of the Scaldis Noel. The alcohol content is 12.5% in this filtered, top-fermented beer. Copper-colored beer with a rich, rounded flavor is the result of using caramel malts in the brewing process. The well-chosen hops in this brew give the Scaldis Noel its fruity taste and delicate hop smells.
17. Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Many people enjoy Sam Adams Winter Lager—one of the most common beers for Christmas. Like Octoberfest, it's also likely one of the first holiday beers many people have tried. Many Christmas beers on this list have higher alcohol content. Still, Winter Lager has a lower ABV at only 5.6%.
The comforting malt flavors and festive spices make it an ideal choice for a casual holiday party or watching Christmas movies or football games on a cold December afternoon. The brewery uses ginger, cinnamon, and orange peel to give their Winter Lager a festive feel.
It can be a chore to find the best Christmas beer to enjoy and share with your family and friends, so we hope this list makes your winter holidays a little bit better. Let us know in the comments which beer for Christmas you have tried!