Still looking for a good beer to share with your family this weekend? We have some suggestions.
If you want something classic, pick up a big bottle of St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. It’s a holiday version of the classic Abt 12 quadrupel. A little spice adds a gingery heat to the beer, which complements the usual fruitcake notes of fig and dry cherries. There’s a nutty sweetness mid-palate, but a very dry, sharp finish.
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, you can pick up a bottle of Santa’s Private Reserve from Rogue Brewing. It’s been completely remade for 2017 – which is why they sent us a free sample. What was once a basic red ale has been transformed into a strong Belgian dark ale with added cherries and raspberries. Upfront, I got a strong chemical smell, a hallmark of bad fruit, but tank god it dissipated as the beer breathed. The fruit here is the star. Sour dark cherries and bright red raspberries add a tart contrast to the dark, roasted flavors, bringing to mind a fruity stout more than a Belgian ale.
For a more sedate crowd, there’s Sandy Paws from Heater Allen, a Baltic porter-ish lager. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau won’t actually let them use the term Baltic Porter on the label, but that’s what it is. It’s robust with a deep roasted flavor from tons of toasted malt. But the body is unbelievably clean. Every sip finishes like a refreshing sip of mountain spring water.
If you want to get a little rowdy, try Santa’s Woody from Laurelwood. Both the name and the beer itself strain the limits of good taste. This is an intense bourbon barrel aged barley wine. The alcohol announces itself on the nose – burning the nostrils. The flavor is all salted caramels eaten off a stave of whiskey soaked wood. You can taste the sweet oak, the char, the booze. It’s bold, but lacks polish, which might be exactly what you want.