Christmas, a most magical and wonderful time of the year – when you will undoubtedly eat too much, drink too much, and watch way too much Christmas TV. It is also winter time, with short days, long evenings and thankfully brewers internationally have been making seasonal specials just for this time of year. But lets not forget the other great beers that are available year round and not just for christmas. I’m going to bring you through 12 Craft Beers of Christmas among which you will find some great examples of what I feel are some great beers for this time of the year. There is a truly international feel to these beers, and most importantly they are all available in Ireland. Usually through your local independent off licence. Some are of course available in the Supermarkets.
With it being winter, I love a nice dark malty beer. Its the perfect balance of warm comforting malt with the bitterness we expect from beer. Traditionally porters, and stouts are drank during winter months, and in my house, this is no exception.
Lets start with the dark stuff. Like the short winters days. Something special about these beers. Don’t be fooled though – Special, but not elusive. All these beers are readily available in your local independent off licence.
1: Founders – Porter – Michigan USA 6.50% 355ml
I know what you’re going to say here. An American porter. Not just any porter, this is quite simply one of the best porters on the planet. Its not just me who loves it, but thousands of Beer nuts on ratebeer and beer advocate. But why should you drink this? This pours dark, very dark, with only a hint of light getting through, but once you stick your nose over the glass, that malty aroma mixed with chocolate and nuts will grab you. Thankfully those flavours are present when you take a sip,but there is more, hints of coffee as you swallow this.
2: O’Hara’s – Leann Follain Whiskey Barrel Aged Edition – Carlow – Ireland – 8.5% 750ml
Ah an Irish one, not just any Irish Stout, but this is a special version of O’Hara’s superb Leann Follain Extra Stout that has been aged in whiskey casks for 90 days. This is a big bottle and plenty to share with your friends. The already excellent stout picks up unmistakable vanilla notes in the cask. Bringing that whiskey edge to an excellent beer. I’d had this with last years christmas dinner, and it may very well appear there again this year.
3: Dungarvan Brewing – Coffee & Oatmeal Stout – Dungarvan – Ireland – 4.7% 500ml
This winter seasonal was first made in 2012, a perfect marriage of Badger & Dodo Roasted Coffee, with Flahavans Oats to produce a delicious Stout. This is a full bodied stout which has the lovely counterbalance of the oats versus the bitterness of the beer. Faint hints of chocolate, lead away to an earthy coffee flavoured finish.
Ales / Pale Ales / IPA
4: Brewdog – Hoppy Christmas – Ellon – Scotland – 7.2% 330ml
Those scamps at Brewdog bring back the Single Hop Pale Ale, Simcoe, again for 2014, here you have an amazing aroma of sweet citrus fruits, with a hint of papaya and pineapple. This is a great beer, and fresh it is superb for christmas. Treat with care though at that ABV!
5: Sierra Nevada – Celebration 2014 – Chico, California, USA – 6.8% 355ml
Pioneers of Craft Beer – recognisable the world over – here we have a seasonal that has reappeared every year since 1981. Celebration ale is a big American Style IPA. This is a big bold intense beer. Very Hoppy, with pine needles in the aroma, due to the hops, this is a great beer to have with your Roast Turkey
6: Mikkeller – To From Via – Copenhagen – Denmark – 8% 330ml & 750ml
Nomadic brewers Mikkeller have made a great spiced ale here, the label is great too – its a gift tag so its really handy to use if you’re gifting this to someone. This is a nice spiced beer, familiar christmas spices speckle the aroma and taste – really enjoyable.
7: White Gypsy – Yul Ol – Templemore – Ireland – 6% 500ml
Tipperary Based White Gypsy, have brought us a fantastic Christmas Ale, brewed especially for the season each year. Specialising in Belgian Style beers it is no surprise this is a finely balanced Belgian Spiced Ale, really would go great with christmas dinner, the cheese board, or just on its own. The warmth of the alcohol and spices sooth the cold winter away.
8: 3 Monts Flanders Ale – Flanders – France – 8.5% 750ml
A Biere De Garde from France, this is a lovely golden ale – nice fruity aromas, not hoppy, but nice toasted malt aroma. This is a nicely carbonated ale that often gets overlooked as its French. Best matched with a hearty meal. Really is a treat and really enjoyable.
Lagers and Pilsners
9: Jack Cody’s – Puck Pilsner – Drogheda – Ireland – 4.5% 500ml
Going back to the popular style of Lager / pilsner, after all the majority of people drink this style. So you’ll have to accommodate some of your guests. Jack Cody launched earlier this year with Puck and Its a lovely crisp beer which isn’t too heavily carbonated – which can be a problem with lager. Really enjoyable and a good introduction to a craft lager.
10: Camden Town Brewery – Hells – Camden, London – UK – 330ml (Bottle & Can)
A traditional German style lager – brewed in London. Delivers exactly what you want from a lager. Easy Drinking, refreshing and a crisp morish dryness. Really is a good lager you will be glad of having for when visitors call in.
So thats 10, but lets not forget about the Designated Drivers that will be unfortunately not able to have a drink – but there is choices at hand for them
11: Brewdog – Nanny State – Ellon – Scotland – UK – 0.5% 330ml
Brewed to the EU definition of Non alcoholic beverages of 0.5% they have managed to great a load of hoppiness into a beer that is essentially non alcoholic. Tastes quite refreshing – a little thin compared to the real thing obviously – but a viable alternative for those who want to feel like they’re having a drink.
12: Erdinger – Alkoholfrei – Germany – 0.5% 500ml
This is one of the best of the alcohol free beers as it doesn’t have that pang some of them have – plus its made by Erdinger so you know you’ll be getting a good quality product.
Obviously this list isn’t comprehensive – but these are the beers that will be in my house this christmas. Get out there and buy them just to try something new. Remember to support your local independent off licence who will be more than happy to help you.
From IPAs, to Stouts, to everything in between. Wayne is a passionate advocate for Craft Beer and Cider in Ireland. He regularly features in online publications and podcasts, as well as writing with his wife on www.irishbeersnob.com. Wayne’s aim is to kick down the doors of convention surrounding Craft Beer and Cider by writing in a no nonsense style. Drawing on his experiences of many different beers he is going to bring you on a journey that you’ll be asking yourself, why didn’t I join this revolution sooner?