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.
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.
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.
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.
Esther’s Lil’ Secret
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.