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10 Best Holiday Beer Buys For 2011

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Holiday beer sales require a lot more than holly leaves on six-pack packaging and snowy scenes in beer labels and commercials.

In a season filled with Beaujolais Nouveau, mulled wine, champagne punch and homemade eggnog, beer brewers have to struggle for every sale. Beer shipments that exceed 15 million barrels during the June, July and August peak months suddenly slouch toward 12 million in December and slightly less during the Thanksgiving holiday season in November, according to the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

For the beer industry, there's potential for Santa's-waistband-sized growth in those holiday numbers. For the 92% of American holiday consumers per year who've scrawled food and beverage onto their holiday shopping lists since 2004, spending on holiday cheer has risen from an average of $90.68 per person to $105.42. Depending on where holiday beer's being bought and what favorites make it into the holiday fridge, that difference is enough for an extra six-pack or two.

Brewers are well aware of this, which is why Budweiser (BUD) trots its Clydesdales through the snow between breaks in the NFL action each Sunday during the winter holiday season and Boston Beer (SAM) has its winter variety pack of Samuel Adams ready just weeks after Halloween party hosts put the last empty bottles of Octoberfest and pumpkin ales out with the recycling.

IBISWorld beer industry analyst Agata Kaczanowska anticipates the brewing industry will generate $27.6 billion in revenue this year. More than 20% of those sale ($5.6 billion) are expected to occur in November and December. IBISWorld also estimates that holiday revenue for the breweries industry will increase 6.2% from last year, compared with 1.3% year-on-year industry growth. Kaczanowska says that $324 million in additional revenue will come with a lot of help from small brewers, who are expected to produce more holiday beers.

While porters, stouts, English ales and winter warmers jostle for space on the package store shelves and battle Bordeaux and bubbly for space at the holiday table, we've come up with a list of 10 beers worthy of your consideration this holiday season:

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