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.