News Column

Salud! Christmas Beers that Even a Grinch Can Love

Dec 11, 2012

Andy Downing

Christmas Beers

This Christmas Eve many families will set out milk and cookies as a special treat for Santa Claus. In that spirit, why not treat yourself to a little something special as well?

Every year, a number of holiday-themed beers hit the store shelves, ranging from mildly spiced ales to big, boldly flavored porters. But where to begin?

To answer that question, we reached out to Star Liquor Department Manager Adam Casey, who helped us break down this year's seasonal offerings. Rather than simply picking some random favorites, however, we challenged Casey to pair the beers with a classic holiday movie. Here's what he came up with.

The Traditionalist: "Miracle on 34th Street"

"For traditional styles, I tried to think about what is traditional with Christmas beers," said Casey. "In summertime you get a lot of shandy beers where it's light and you add lemon to it. In the winter you want the polar opposite. You want something that has some weight to it and a little spice -- something that will warm you from the toes up."

For fans of these more traditional styles, Casey selected a trio of beers, including Goose Island Christmas Ale ("It's long been one of my favorite Christmas beers because it's dark and spicy but still relatively approachable."), Delirium Noel ("It's got some spice to it, and it's definitely not weak. It's got 10% alcohol, so it will definitely catch up with you.") and Mikkeller's Santa's Little Helper, which he described as a brew that says Christmas right down to its holiday-themed label. "It's something you can drink while you're sitting looking at your Christmas tree," he said.

The Experimental Drinker: "Nightmare Before Christmas"

"There are some real beauties in this world right now," said Casey. "I think in the world of craft beer these days the bar is set pretty high to be different and unusual. (Breweries) want to put out stuff that attracts attention -- even if it's just attention that says, 'Man, that's weird.'"

Casey's first offering in this category is the Bruery's 5 Golden Rings, the latest in its "12 Days of Christmas" series (each year, the brewery produces a brew based on the classic holiday tune, and the series is now in its fifth year). "It's a Belgian-style golden ale brewed with pineapple juice and spices," said Casey. "It seems that Belgian golden ales...tend to blend really well with stronger fruit flavors, and it's actually a darn tasty beer."

Next up is Three Floyds' Alpha Klaus, a dark, hop-laden porter Casey described as having "nice depth." Then there's Peculiar Yule from Norwegian brewery Nøgne Ø, which Casey said is built to resemble Scandinavian glogg, a traditional spiced wine. "The Nøgne people are not screwing around," he continued. "That's probably the easiest way to say it."

The Holiday Hater: "Bad Santa"

If you're not a fan Christmas, there are still a number of seasonal beers well-suited to Wisconsin's brisk temperatures. As Casey noted, "Winters are long here in Wisconsin. It's not just Christmastime."

First up is Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, a dark amber with some fruity notes that Casey described as "a lot of fun to drink." In a similar vein is Capital Brewery's Winter Skål. "It's not necessarily spicy, but it has a lot of character," said Casey. "It's one of those beers you can pick up in November or February and be equally happy with it."

Finally there's Ridgeway Brewing's Lump of Coal. "It's actually a pretty Christmas-y beer," said Casey of the robust stout. "But what the hell? If you don't care about Christmas you probably deserve to get a lump of coal."

Source: (c)2012 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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