“I begged Dwight and Jim to give me Erin for Secret Santa. And I decided to give Erin the 12 days of Christmas. Is it my fault that the first eight days is basically 30 birds?” If you recognize that Andy Bernard quote, chances are you share our affinity for Christmas episodes of The Office. Fictional character or not, he’s right that geese and piping pipers aren’t exactly easy to put a bow on. Instead, we recommend ringing in the holidays with something your true love may appreciate a little more—beer.
Let’s dive right in with the gift that keeps on giving. The Brewers Collective will be opening the doors to their Bay Shore brewery in the next couple weeks (story coming soon), but you can join the skeleton army right now. Membership perks include 12 bombers a year, enrollment in the exclusive mug club, access to a secret tap line and events, first dibs on new releases and more.
But if you’re looking to give ready-to-drink beer this year, here’s what you should look for: the 12 beers of Christmas.
1. Pennsylvania Tuxedo, Dogfish Head
Do you know what a Pennsylvania Tuxedo is? No? Neither did we, but it’s apparently a plaid flannel “uniform” hunters sometimes wear. Think of it as the southern cousin of the Canadian tuxedo. It’s also a seasonal beer from Dogfish Head, home of many strange and experimental brews. They describe it as a pale ale infused with hand picked spruce tips. We would just call it a Christmas tree in a glass.
2. Christmas Ale, Bell’s Brewery
Bells Christmas Ale seems like an obvious choice, but we didn’t just select this beer because of the name. It’s a Scottish ale that’s earthy, herbal and smooth. We’d say it’s the perfect beer for this time of year—a little hoppy but not too bitter, malty but not overly heavy and they print a Christmas tree on every cap. Nice touch. Plus the malt that gives it so much flavor and body is grown right on Bells own farm, which we think is pretty neat.
3. Orval Belgian Pale Ale, Orval Brewery
Drinking an Orval Belgian Pale Ale is a totally different experience in America. As the name suggests, the beer is brewed in Belgium and uses a souring yeast strain. By the time bottles reach us, they’re usually about a year old and the yeast has had time to work its magic and transform the flavor. Orval is usually a little funky and can be aged several years while it continues to evolve. We recommend picking up two bottles: one to try this holiday season and one to save and enjoy next year.
4. Nine Ladies Dancing, The Bruery
The Bruery has an annual holiday release totally in the spirit of this list. This is their ninth year and the beer is appropriately named Nine Ladies Dancing. We bet you can guess the names of the previous eight. Nine Ladies Dancing is an American strong ale with coffee, cacao and vanilla. A limited amount of this is brewed and then it’s gone, so get it while you can. Fun fact: A Partridge in a Pear Tree, the first in the series, has become something of a white whale among beer collectors with bottles selling for hundreds of dollars.
5. Devils Whisper, Barrage Brewing
Devils Whisper is a cappuccino tiramisu porter by Barrage Brewing—need we say more? Growler fills of this dessert inspired beer can be purchased right from the brewery in Farmingdale. While you’re there, we recommend also sampling Tribal Cow, a coconut milk stout, and Yada Yada Yada, a brown ale with chocolate, peanuts and caramel.
6. Money IPA, Barrier Brewing Co.
We’d just love to get some money for Christmas. Barrier Money, that is. Almost as good as the real thing, this is by far one of our favorite local IPAs. Perfect for when you need a break from all the rich dark beers. It’s easy to find, relatively inexpensive and now even comes in cans.
7. Old Rasputin, North Coast Brewing Company
Alicia’s all time favorite winter (and occasionally summer) beer is Old Rasputin by North Coast, a Russian Imperial Stout. It’s rich yet oddly easy drinking, with notes of coffee, cocoa and a slight bitterness. If you want to treat yourself, or someone else, a barrel-aged version is also available.
8. Bling Pig, Russian River Brewing Company
And one of Kevin’s all time favorite beers is Russian River Blind Pig. We’ll admit, this is the one beer on the list that won’t be easy to find. It’s brewed in California and rarely makes it’s way to the east coast. When it does, it’s more likely you’ll find it on draft at a craft beer bar than on the shelf of your local bevy. But Christmas is a time for miracles, so we’ll be on the lookout for a taste of this illusive IPA.
9. Zin Saison, Transmitter Brewing
Join us tonight at @coolvinesjerseycity for the release of CV1 a collaboration saison brewed with CoolVines. It's a mixed culture, bottle-conditioned saison that's been aged for one year in white wine barrels from @redhookwinery Brewed specifically to be food-friendly and approachable, with soft oaky flavors and a little tartness. #barrelaged #saison #getsome #jerseycity
You don’t normally think of Zinfandel and beer going together—and rightfully so—but Transmitter Brewing in Long Island City makes the unlikely pair work. The brewery is known for their small batch farmhouse ales and H1 is a standout. Also known as “Zin Saison”, the ale is fermented in oak with Zinfandel grapes added to the secondary. The result is a fruity, woody brew with definite crossover appeal.
10. Vliet, Threes Brewing
Vliet by Threes Brewery of Brooklyn is hard to pronounce but so easy to drink. A light pilsner that’s full of flavor, we bet even family members who “don’t like craft beer” will get into this one. Plus it compliments a meal without being overwhelming or too filling.
11. I Feel the Universe, Finback Brewery
I Feel the Universe is a passion fruit gose brewed by Finback Brewery in Queens. It’s slightly sour, fruity and downright refreshing. Sure, a light thirst quencher doesn’t exactly scream December, but don’t judge a book by its cover (or a beer by it’s multicolored can). We can tell you on good authority that this is an ideal beer to crack open after spending a day hanging lights and trimming the tree.
12. Anchor Christmas Ale, Anchor Brewing
We wrap up the list with Anchor Christmas Ale, a rich beer with notes of caramel, chocolate and nuts—or so we’ve been told. Though Anchor releases their Christmas Ale annually, they use a different recipe (and label) every year. We recently cracked open our 2015 bottle and really enjoyed it, so we are looking forward to getting our hands on this years version. The best part is that the beer comes in a magnum bottle, so it’s perfect to share with friends and family—or save until they all finally leave.