Style: Strong ale
The Christmas tree farms a short drive from this brewery aren't open for business yet, but harvest at the nearby hop farms waits for no man... no matter how corpulent, jolly or laden with toys. From its collage-style label by Oregon artist Kaycee Anseth Townsend made up of art from previous Jubelale labels to its fruity mocha flavor, Jubelale wraps itself in the season as snugly as possible. Caramel, coffee, chocolate, cherry and mild citrus come together in a mulled-wine porter with just enough spice to top it off. It's hoppier than most holiday beers, but that's to be expected in Jubelale's neck of the woods. 3. Full Sail Wassail
Style: English Strong Ale This brewery along the Columbia River Gorge has been brewing its Holiday Wassail since 1988, but you can forgive them for bringing it out early. If there's new snow on Mount Hood, there's going to be Wassail. This year's Wassail edition blends caramel and dark chocolate malts to give it a deep mahogany color. Meanwhile, European noble hops and Pacific Northwest aroma hops give it a citrusy, slightly bitter finish that's the hallmark of the region's holiday beers. 2. Redhook Winterhook
Style: Winter warmer The Craft Brew Alliance's ( BREW) Redhook Brewery has been cranking out different versions of Winterhook for 28 years, but the basic premise has remained: Make a beer as cozy as a blanket. This year's rich caramel body and malty backbone are balanced with a bold but not exceedingly bitter hoppy finish. Like any good winter warmer, Winterhook has some kick at 6% and a bit of bite from its Centennial, Cascade and Zeuss hops. Its brick-red color and mix of caramel, gingerbread and Munich malt flavor make it as serene as a first snowfall, though. 1. Troegs Mad Elf
Style: Belgian dark strong If you knew you could make someone's favorite holiday gift every year without fail, you'd make sure it was on shelves by mid-October, too. Mad Elf's swirly cartoon-elf label hides a ruby red brew that sits like a holiday wine and sparkles like Rudolph's nose when poured. Its flavor is a bit less seasonally appropriate and combines the best elements of Belgian and German styles to do Pennsylvania's traditional and craft-brewing communities proud. The Saaz and Hallerstrau hops are bold without delivering an IPA-style bite, while the pilsner, munich and chocolate malts provide the smoothness of a stout or dark bock. The core of its sweet, strong taste comes from a mix of honey and cherries that's Christmas-candy sweet without overdoing it. At 11% ABV, Mad Elf kicks like a reindeer, so it might be best to save it until you have time for that warm winter's nap. -- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.