Christmas is over, but that doesn't mean you can't still indulge in some of the treats that the holidays provide. One worth quaffing well into the winter is Noel de Calabaza ($15) from Jolly Pumpkin Brewing. It's a Belgian style Christmas ale that is aged in oak barrels with a deep mahogany appearance and a light, slightly tart zing. Add in some sugar plums and fig and along with a 9% ABV sticker you can make the holidays last long into the new year.
We are all for some variety when it comes barrel aged beers, and so are the folks at Widmer Brewing. They've expanded on their already successful annual release of Barrel Aged Brrrbon Ale to include a Ginger Barrel Aged Brrrbon ($10) in 2013. This limited edition treat came about when fresh chopped ginger was added to a few select Kentucky bourbon barrels of Barrel Aged Brrrbon. The outcome is a very interesting and unique winter warmer, with notes of oak, vanilla, caramel, but most importantly, tons of ginger.
Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean hop lovers need to take a break from palate challenging beers. While most Christmas brews are sweet and festive, Three Floyds Brewing offers up Alpha Klaus ($12), a hopped up holiday Porter. The cousin of their hoppy pale ale Alpha King is brewed with English chocolate malt, Mexican sugar and a nice variety of festive American hops. So if you like your holiday beers hop forward with a nice dry chocolatey finish, Alpha Klaus has been gift wrapped just for you.
Way back in the Middle Ages, during the holidays, spices, instead of hops, were added to beer to add flavor. That tradition reemerged in the 1900's, and is the inspiration behind many holiday beers on the market today. Great Lakes Christmas Ale ($12) is one of many in a crowded market, but manages to separate itself with its unique recipe and flavor profile. Christmas Ale is brewed with honey and spiced with fresh ginger and cinnamon, providing a tasty gift that belongs under the tree of every craft beer enthusiast.
For shoppers, Black Friday means waking up early and standing in line awaiting the best bargains on Christmas gifts. For beer dorks, there may be lines and even some early wake up calls, but it's not bargains we pursue, it's Bourbon County. Bourbon County Barleywine ($20) is one of the newest offerings in an already famous line of barrel aged beers released by Goose Island brewing. The first four packs will hit store shelves on Black Friday, and those lucky enough to purchase some will be treated to a 12.1% English-style Barleywine aged in the third-use barrels that were once home to Kentucky bourbon and then Bourbon County Stout.