[Jan. 6, 2017]–For those not up on their religion, the actual 12 Days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and run to January 5, making today Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, or Three Kings’ Day. So it seems like a good time to revisit the 12 Beers of Christmas 2016.
For those not up on their 12 Beers of Christmas, I drank and wrote my way through 12 holiday beers or winter warmers for the fifth consecutive year, so what is now a collection of 60 different beers can be individually linked to below.
These are all reviews, after a fashion: I try to keep the subjective tasting notes to a minimum while serving up context about the beers and whatever else seems to fit the moment or happens to strike my fancy. My hope is that it’s mostly fun and entertaining, at least mildly enlightening, and lastly a kind of critical or buying guide. Readers, naturally, use it (or ignore it) as they will.
I began as always with the Anchor Special Ale, the only repeat in the bunch because it’s kind of the grandaddy (or Santa Claus) of holiday beers in the U.S., and does change up its recipe each year, if incrementally. I started on December 13 this year and would have made it 12 straight days if weather hadn’t kept me in the house one night with no suitable beers in the larder. I didn’t necessarily finish the write-ups on the same nights I drank the beers, but considering the ABVs of some of them that should be forgivable.
The Scaldis Noël Premium was easily the ABV champ this year, coming in at a feisty 12% and 13%, since we had two different vintages. The Dieu du Ciel Solstice d’hiver was the runner-up and the only other double digit heavyweight at 10.2%. The Anchor held down the low end at 6.5%, which actually represented a hike for the Anchor beer after many years of towing the line, so to speak, at 5.5%.
What struck me this year were the two 7% beers from Norway, the Haandbryggeriet Nissefar and the Ægir Bryggeri Julebrygg, both seemingly stronger, packed as they were with flavor. They were among my favorites, but then this was pretty much a bumper crop, with the sole exception of the Blaugies La Moneuse Special Winter Ale. It’s possible we just had a bum bottle of this one, but none of the members of that night’s tasting panel particularly enjoyed its rough-edge quality.
I would happily drink any of these beers again (even La Moneuse, for that matter). But if someone asked what bottles they should buy for me, I’d zero in on the Spencer Trappist Holiday Ale and the Allagash Hibernal Fluxus 2016. Neither are easy to find, so there’s that gauntlet down, and both are fairly pricey, another incentive to be gifted by these two.
Right before I started this year Paste Magazine came out with its online ranking of 104 Christmas beers, holiday ales, winter warmers and put the Scaldis right at the top. As noted in the post, I went for the Premium version, and it is a lid-lifter that probably demands somewhat more attention then we actually gave it right before (and during) our Christmas dinner. It’s not a beer to be consumed passively, or alone.
I bought all the beers but two this season, requesting the New Belgium and Great Lakes ales from the breweries as they’re unavailable in Vermont, and that’s where I was shopping this year. So the list was again heavy on imports from the Shelton Brothers Inc. The pity of my splurging is that I see so many favorites from years past that I can’t really afford to repeat—the Gouden Carolus Noël and the Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux most notably.
There were a few beers that didn’t make the list but went down nicely anyway: The Kerkom Winterkoninkske and N’ice Chouffe, as well as Anchor’s 2014 holdover and the annual must-haves from Sierra Nevada and Deschutes Brewery.
Thanks to readers, to the beer moderators at reddit for the holiday indulgence, and to those who passed the links on, particularly Susie Confort Ostaseski and Anthony Pioppi on Facebook. Couldn’t do it without you all. I have a feeling we’re going to need some good beers in 2017, so here’s to it!
The 12 Beers of Christmas
1 Anchor Our Special Ale 2016
2 Great Lakes Christmas Ale
3 New Belgium Anne-Françoise Spiced Imperial Dark Ale
4 Spencer Trappist Holiday Ale
5 Le Trou Du Diable La Grivoise De Noël
6 Blaugies La Moneuse Special Winter Ale
7 Aegir Bryggeri Julebrygg
8 Dieu du Ciel Solstice d’hiver
9 Haandbryggeriet Nissefar
10 Allagash Hibernal Fluxus 2016
11 Kerstmutske Christmas Nightcap
12 Scaldis Noël Premium
1 Anchor Our Special Ale 2015
2 Jewbelation 19
3 Warsteiner Winter Special Edition
4 Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy
5 Magic Hat Feast of Fools
6 Page 24 Bière de Noël
7 AleSmith Double Red India Pale Ale
8 Smuttynose Smistletoe
9 Wychwood Bah Humbug Christmas Ale
10 Ridgeway Lump of Coal
11 De Ranke Père Nöel
12 The Bruery 8 Maids-a-Milking
12 Beers of Christmas 2015 Reprise
1 Anchor Our Special Ale 2014
2 Harpoon UFO Gingerland
3 Hanukkah, Chanukah Pass the Beer
4 Guinness The 1759
5 Samuel Adams Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout
6 Elysian Bifrost Winter Ale
7 Ommegang Adoration Dark Winter Ale
8 Deschutes Jubelale
9 Petrus Winter #9 Ale
10 3 Sheeps Ewephoria
11 Baladin Nöel
12 St. Bernardus Christmas Ale
12 Beers of Christmas 2014 Reprise
1 Anchor Our Special Ale 2013
2 Troëg’s The Mad Elf Ale
3 Victory’s Winter Cheers
4 Magic Hat’s G-Thing
5 10 Barrel Brewing Pray for Snow
6 Corsendonk Christmas Ale
7 Mahr’s Bräu Christmas Bock
8 Sixpoint Global Warmer
9 Nöel des Géants
10 Mikkeller Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas
11 Harpoon Winter Warmer
12 Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux
12 Beers of Christmas 2013 Reprise
1 Anchor Our Special Ale 2012
2 Nogne Ø Winter Ale
3 Samuel Adams Winter Lager
4 Southern Tier 2XMAS
5 St. Feuillien Cuvée de Noël
6 Delirium Noël
7 Newcastle Winter IPA
8 Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza
9 Gouden Carolus Noël
10 Otter Creek Winter Red Ale
11 Magic Hat Wooly
12 Element Winter Ion