4. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Christmas comes early here at the brewery! Big bottles of Celebration are so damn festive!
Pardon Sierra Nevada for tweeting its own horn, but when you make a holiday brew as highly anticipated as its Celebration is each year it's worth taunting the fanboys with big corked bottles of it.
From the poinsettia-laden label and its snowy winter cabin scene to a slightly caramel malt flavor hidden beneath a holiday-sized helping of Chinook, Cascade and Centennial, Celebration is a seasonal brew devoid of subtlety. Hopheads have been all over 22-ounce helpings of Sierra Nevada's holiday brew since the first batch came out of Chico, Calif., in 1981 mostly because of its big, hoppy bitterness that other holiday beers lack.
Those hops not only pop holiday beer drinkers right in the nostrils before they take a sip, but it's 6.8% ABV packs the punch on every regular IPA drinker's holiday wish list. Let your eggnog-swilling relations lap up all the cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar in sweeter holiday beers: Celebration drinkers can have a wreathload of hops to themselves this season.
3. Anchor Christmas Ale 2011
Lots of breweries have a holiday recipe or passable winter warmer, but few have the nearly 40 years of tradition behind them that Anchor's Our Special Ale brings to the holiday table.
Like a beer version of the Hess truck, Christmas Ale's recipe has varied each year since 1975. The formula is kept under wraps by Anchor's brewers in San Francisco, but we can tell you that the brew available from now through mid-January has hints of pine in the aroma and cinnamon, gingerbread, caramel and chocolate in its flavor. We won't ruin the surprise, but it's definitely more Christmas than ale, which isn't such a bad thing around this time of year.