2. 12 Dogs Of Christmas Ale
Thirsty Dog Brewing
, Akron, Ohio
This brewery really carries the dog theme to the far end of the spectrum and labels its beers with images that look as if they were taken from a school secretary's motivational calendar, but please don't let that deter you from the pure taste of wonderful inside this bottle.
Its 12 Dogs of Christmas is a deceptively complex winter warmer whose cocoa-and-molasses maltiness is only a base for an impressive array of spices. Lots of honey, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon are just about all that's preventing this smooth, sugary package from being overly sweet. That 8.3% alcohol doesn't show up until the end of your sip and doesn't stick around long enough to make your regret it. It's holiday ale's equivalent of a gingerbread house: It looks fairly benign and simple on its surface, but requires a great deal of time and skill to make well. If we were those dogs, we wouldn't leave the label, either.