DAYTON EATS: 12 frothy beverages to help ring in the holidays

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

In “The Winter’s Tale,” William Shakespeare wrote, “for a quart of ale is a dish for a king.”

Shakespeare was right — some beers can actually be quite the meal for both kings and queens. Thick, hearty and big flavored they are filling and warm imparting the flavors of winter and the holiday season.

The holiday season is ripe with specialty beers for the picking. Many stores have cashed in on the craze with Advent calendars flying off shelves at major retailers like Costco and Aldi. BrewDog, which has a brewery in Columbus, offered a 24-can holiday calendar for $90 and a 12 non-alcoholic “near beer” options for Christmas ($40) which sold out in record time.

Each year around the holidays there seem to be more and more options rolled out by breweries across the country including Ohio which means there’s a lot to taste.

You may have missed out on an advent calendar, but you can always pick up a few six packs or make some mixed six packs for multiple people out of cans worthy of seeking out.

Store shelves are stocked with the seasonal offerings you would expect to see like Great Lakes Christmas Ale and Sam Adams Winter Lager, but there are many others of note to help herald the holidays that are fitting for the cold weather this week and beyond. Here’s my list of 12 seasonal craft beers of Christmas for 2021 that have made it to local store shelves.

Chocolate Dunkel


Unlike the big chocolate ABV punch that KBS Stout packs (read below), this new winter seasonal lager brewed with cacao nibs comes in at a more manageable 5.5%. It’s smooth, drinkable and a solid beer for family get-togethers where you want more than one but want to maintain composure around your weird relatives.

Citra Noel

Columbus Brewing Company

I love this beer. So much so that it’s the only repeat on my list. Last year after it showed up in cans for the first time I wrote, “the flavors in this hoppy red ale oscillate and vary like bells ringing. It goes from a bitter, bright high thanks to the Citra hops to a toasty malty low and back again.” This is a really nice sipper that doesn’t overwhelm and helps deliver light citrus flavors.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Delirium Noël

Brouwerij Huyghe

This 10% reddish brown Belgian Ale is like drinking a fruit cake. Banana, pears, grapes, fig, apricot finished with a spicy wash of clove. This is a sweet and zesty treat that says ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy New Year’ and all of the holiday greetings in between. It also gets the award this year for best packaging. The brewery, which was founded in 1654, came out with a box this year featuring two bottles with their namesake pink elephants as well as a tulip beer flute featuring the same. It’s a beautiful gift packaged up ready to give.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Esther’s Lil’ Secret

Warped Wing

In 1952 Esther Price’s first store opened in Dayton and today Dayton’s Warped Wing brewery pays tribute with a different flavor each year. This year it’s Chocolate Almond Bark Brown Ale last year it was Double Fudge Cream Stout. It’s chocolatey goodness with Ohio roots. This comes in packs of four, or you can try to find a 12.7 oz. single bottle of this dark brown gold that’s been aged in in bourbon barrels for a punch of additional deep flavors.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Ohio City Oatmeal Stout

This roasty toasty delicious beer from Cleveland is a toasty, smoky dark campfire with chocolatey roots firmly planted in the Earth. At 5.4% it’s an easy sipper that will warm you without leaving your internal fire burning. This has been around a while taking a gold medal from the World Beer Championships. It’s an oldy but goody and worthy of a revisit.

The Finish Long Drink

The Long Drink Company

This can is for the non-beer drinker in your life, but the one that longs to fit in with a boozy can of their very own. “Long Drink” is a top selling category of alcoholic beverage in Finland that goes back to the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki. The story goes that the country, poor and still reeling from the devastation of WWII wanted the barrage of tourists they were expecting to be able to get drinks quickly and feel the hospitality, and this drink made with grapefruit, juniper berries and gin was born. This canned delight is refreshing and a fantastic option to pop open when you don’t feel like bartending for yourself or for guests.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Holly Days IPA

MadTree Brewing Company

Over the river and through the woods to the beer fridge goes this merry and bright option brewed out of Cincinnati with spruce tree tips. It has strong notes of pine with an undercurrent of rich caramel and vanilla. Right now MadTree is running a special in their online store featuring a $60 gift card for $50 or a $100 gift card for $120. Even better, for $1 you can plant a tree with your online order.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Jubilee Hoppy Holiday Extra IPA

Braxton Brewing Co.

Jubilee is a limited edition release brewed right across the river from Cincinnati in Covington, Kentucky. The double dry hopped extra IPA is an 8% offering bursting with pine, citrus and tropical flavors that are sure to add some extra light to you and the celebration.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

KBS Cinnamon Vanilla Cocoa Stout

Founders Brewing Co.

This imperial stout made with coffee, cinnamon, vanilla extract and cocoa nibs aged in oak bourbon barrels comes in at a whopping 12% ABV. It’s a limited release for the holidays and a take on the brewery’s well known KBS Stout they brew all year long brewed with coffee and chocolate. It is a deep, deep, rich warm dive into silky sumptuous flavors that conjure up a winter fire and a first snow. It’s potent but delicious.

Pimp My Sleigh

Fat Head’s Brewery

This Belgian-style Christmas Ale is another big beer clocking in at 10.5% ABV with good roasted malt and notes of honey and fig. The brewery offers a lighter Holly Jolly Christmas Ale at 7.5%, but the pimped out sleigh option is where it’s at in terms of flavor.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Santa Clausthaler


This is the beer for the person in your life that doesn’t mind the teeniest amount of alcohol, but doesn’t want a lot and wants to manage calories when drinking. Bottled and brewed in Germany, the Clausthaler line of beer is a good option when you’re looking for the flavor, but want to stay away from the booze. There aren’t a ton of good “near beers” for the holiday, but this brew has Santa on the label and looks quite festive.

Winter Warmer

The Brew Kettle

The recipe for this 8.2% ABV spiced Christmas Ale involves cinnamon, ginger, orange and lemon peel and a “sleigh load of honey.” It made it to cans in 2019 and has continued to do robust sales for Brew Kettle. The Maple Bourbon Barrel Aged winter warmer is bigger at 10% with beer aged for four months in bourbon barrels. Both are very solid choices to sip on this holiday season.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Share info about your menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of exciting outdoor spaces, new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.

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