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.

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