12 Beers of Christmas 2017 Reprise

Trio (2)

Gauging by the dynamic trio of beers shown above, the time has come to dive into the 2018 edition of the 12 Beers of Christmas. And here I haven’t even recapped last year’s effort yet!

Well, that’s the way it was with 12 Beers of Christmas 2017, a roller-coaster affair afflicted and disrupted by my upper respiratory affliction. But when all was said and done my initial review of the series, of Anchor’s Our Special Ale, managed to win the year’s Best Beer Review award from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.

While very pleasing, it does set a daunting precedent and suggests that there’s nowhere to go but down. However, there’s always the compensation of actually drinking 12 more interesting beers, not to be sneezed at, especially if I can avoid another cold.

As noted in years past, the Anchor ale is the only beer that gets a repeat appearance, out of a sense of fealty for its historic importance and because it changes its recipe each year. Both the Sierra Nevada and Deschutes beers deserve a near-equal nod for their constancy and longevity and I wouldn’t want to go through the holidays without either. Their recipes are largely unchanging however, so I’ll stick with previous nods to Celebration Ale and Jubelale. (Interestingly, these meat of the order brews are all batting at about the same ABV average: Jubelale at 6.7%, Celebration at 6.8%, Anchor’s at 6.9%.)

Jubelale2018Jubelale does change its label each year, calling on the creative skills of artists local to the brewery’s Bend, Oregon headquarters. This year the owners of the employee-owned brewery did the artwork themselves at an outdoor 30th anniversary celebration, armed with brushes, paint water guns, paint-filled water balloons and paint-smeared clothes and limbs to create an abstract expressionist work Pollack might have envied.

But, to recap 2017, the 12 beers tried brought the total over the last six years to 72, all linked to below. It was a pretty good crop all in all, despite one gusher (Saison Saint Médard Cuvée de Noël) and one unknowingly purchased AB product (sacrilege!), the Birra del Borgo 25 Dodici.

Eight of the beers were at or over 8% ABV, raising the average to 7.7%. The outliers were the Rogue Yellow Snow Pilsner at the 5.5% low end and the Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper, not so little, at the 9.9% high end.

I don’t need high ABVs to appreciate a beer, but it stands to reason that high-octane offerings will have greater depth and complexity that, if all the elements are working together well, will result in a memorable beer. That was certainly the case with the Port Brewing beer and Lost Abbey’s Gnoel de Abbey (8.5%).

There was also the delightful one-off of the Game of Thrones Winter Is Here entry from Ommegang. And the pleasant surprise of the Upslope Christmas Ale, the one beer I requested from a brewer last year. As it turned out, it was my favorite. As with Christmas itself, there’s a lot of serendipity at work.

The grand roundup:

The 12 Beers of Christmas



12 beers

1 Anchor Our Special Ale 2017 
2 Rogue Yellow Snow Pilsner 
3 Baird Jubilation Ale 
4 Thiriez Bière de Noël 
5 Saison Saint Médard Cuvée de Noël 
6 Ommegang Winter Is Here 
7 Birra del Borgo 25 Dodici
8 Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper
9 Lost Abbey Gnoel de Abbey
10 Nøgne Ø Special Holiday Ale
11 Upslope Christmas Ale
12 Mikkeller Ris a la M’ale


12 snow (2)

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
12 Beers of Christmas 2016 Reprise


The 12 Beers of Christmas 2015

The 12 Beers of Christmas 2015

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


The 12 Beers of Christmas 2014

The 12 Beers of Christmas 2014

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


12 Beers of Christmas 2013

12 Beers of Christmas 2013

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


st fforest

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

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