Favorite beers to take the pain out of reindeer/pedestrian collisions over the holidays.

It’s the holiday season once again and I’m already suffering from the Holi-daze.

Holi-Daze (n): Confused & anxious behavior exhibited between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, associated with family gatherings, extensive travels, enormous meals, unwarranted advice, excruciating Christmas song radio play, long checkout lines, and overall yuletide yada yada yada.

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus, and he LOVES beer! Think about it, who other than a beer bellied, heavily-bearded, red-nosed, jolly fat guy, who lives in an arctic climate with flying reindeer and elves, and insists on spreading goodwill and cheer during the holiday season, could be responsible for such great seasonal beer offerings! Okay, so take away the below-freezing temperatures, reindeer, and elves and I just described every brewer, beer-geek, and heavier hipster I know……but I WANT TO BELIEVE!

I have selections for the hap-hap happiest of Clark Griswolds among us, to the Bah-Humbugging Scrooges who can’t wait for the season to be over. I have recommendations that’ll have you running down snow filled streets screaming “Merry Christmas East Falls” like a frantic George Bailey crying over ZsuZsu’s petals. Yes, dear reader, I even have a beer that will have you smiling a crooked, toothy grin like that of a Grinch who just stole the Roast Beast!

So, my noble readers, whether you celebrate Xmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or a Festivus for the rest of us, here are some worthy beers to help celebrate, cope, or forget about the holiday season.

Just be careful when you pop the tops, I don’t want anyone shooting their eye out!

Tröegs Mad Elf
Hershey, Pennsylvania

  • Big hints of cherry, raw honey, and cocoa with notes of cinnamon, clove, & allspice
  • Warming, medium bodied, ruby-colored, American made, Belgian-style strong dark ale
  • ABV 11%
  • IBU 15

Nothing says the holidays like that 1st sip of this local, seasonal favorite. Mad Elf has many imitators and is ranked at the top of many experts’ seasonal beer lists, proof again, that another local brewery is killing the beer game! This elf DOES NOT STAY ON THE SHELF, so if you see it, BUY IT…and brag about the fact that you were one of the good boys or girls that was rewarded this year for good beer karma!

This ale pairs great with a holiday supper of honey-glazed ham, roasted fennel, or candied yams. One can also enjoy this before dinner, pairing it with a nice cheese board, featuring a complimentary dried-cherry/cranberry infused blue cheese or a contrasting aged cheddar surrounded by figs, dates, & roasted chestnuts. Mad Elf is a decadent dessert all by itself, but if you want to be extra naughty, try it with a light cherry sorbet or big slice of a rich chocolate cake.

Sam Adams Winter Lager
Boston, Massachusetts

  • Aromas & flavors of rich caramel, orange, and ginger
  • Malty, light-medium bodied, reddish brown, spiced wheat Bock lager
  • ABV 5.6%
  • IBU 22

Jim Koch at Sam Adams was brewing “craft” beers before it was cool, and despite being a larger operation, Sam Adams, is still consistently producing awesome beers. This beer is a great starter beer to expose that visiting relative to craft beers or, because it’s widely available, a great pick-up when visiting those relatives that live in a “beer-desert”.

This beer pairs great with a holiday roasted turkey or duck alongside some charred brussel sprouts with bacon. If you’re not into cooking, try it with some Thai takeout — the ginger and orange flavors in the beer pair amazingly with such fare. If you are imbibing after dinner, this beer perfectly complements homemade gingerbread cookies or carrot cake.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Cleveland, Ohio

  • Hints of honey, cinnamon, and ginger
  • Smooth, amber/orange, medium-bodied, spiced-herb winter warmer ale
  • ABV 7.5%
  • IBU 30

Great Lakes has been making this seasonal favorite for 25 years, and for good reason, this beer is AWESOME! This Christmas Ale is similar to Tröegs Mad Elf, but with one HUGE difference, the ABV is significantly less. Simply put, this means you can enjoy more of these beers before telling your family how much you love them and promptly falling into the Christmas tree. This beer also pairs great with roasted veggies, fowl, sweet seasonal desserts, and especially ugly Christmas sweaters.Hardywood Christmas Morning
Richmond, Virginia

  • Hints of gingerbread and honey with rich coffee notes
  • Smooth, full-bodied, deep chestnut/black colored, gingerbread/coffee Milk Stout
  • ABV 9.2%
  • IBU 55

This beer is great for breakfast, YES YOU HEARD ME…BREAKFAST. Whether you were up late imbibing the night before and need a little hair of the dog, or you are simply exhausted after an all-nighter of last minute wrapping, Hardywood has your Christmas Morning covered with this delightful stout.

This craft is deeply conditioned with Mexican Chiapas coffee beans from Black Hand Coffee Co., a local roaster close to the brewery, adding a comforting caffeinated nuance alongside hints of gingerbread. I love this beer alongside fresh hot cinnamon rolls or a Mexican/Tex-mex inspired migas breakfast. This beer also works as a great after-dinner beer, complimenting sweeter seasonal deserts, like gingerbread cookies.

Yards Poor Richards Tavern Spruce
Philadelphia, PA

  • Aromas of spruce and hints of minty spruce & roasted barley
  • Historical, smooth, medium-bodied, local, spiced amber ale
  • ABV 5%
  • IBU 22

It doesn’t get more Holi-cray than drinking a Christmas tree, and with Poor Richards that is exactly what the imbiber is doing!!! Yards re-envisions yet another founding father’s beer recipe to perfection, tweaking Benjamin Franklin’s original recipe, which called for barley, molasses and essence of spruce. Yards sources blue spruce clippings from a local organic farm, Indian Orchards, and steeps them in the kettle to create this amazing brew.

This beer pairs great with Asian cuisine, the spruce intermingling amazingly well with ginger. This craft is also a superb beer for marinating, I highly recommend using it as a base for grilled/roasted pork, the spruce perfectly complements a rosemary-roasted pork loin. So, go on out and enjoy some of what I like to call “Liquid-XMAS”!

Wishing you & yours the very best this Holiday season,

JK

P.S. Every time a beer clings an angel gets their wings!!! WAY TO GO CLARENCE!