Although the growth of craft beer has slowed its pace over the past several years, the number of breweries and options is mind blowing. The Brewers Association reports there were 9,500 breweries operating in the U.S. in 2022. In 1983 there were just 49.
Just as the U.S. craft beer market has exploded with growth over the past two decades, so has the variety and number of choices. The market for holiday beers tells that story and the December season has plenty of Christmas inspired to tempt you.
Yes, there are the tried and true familiar options like Great Lakes Christmas Ale and Sam Adams Winter Lager. But there are many other seasonal craft beers to warm up with that play on the best flavors the holidays usher in this time of year.
Here’s a look at my 12 beers of Christmas for 2022 that have made it to local store shelves. They are 12 worthy seasonal craft beers to try as you celebrate the season and your incredible foresight in planning ahead…or your amazing procrastination and the holiday stress it has ultimately brought on.
Regardless, you deserve a little something special.
Duvel - Limited Edition Collection
Each year, a variety of international artists unveil their most creative designs based on the Duvel glass for the Duvel collection. This year Duvel chose FAKE, an Amsterdam street artist, who made an international name for himself with his work Supernurse — an ode to healthcare staff in the coronavirus pandemic. It’s hard to find one, but if you do, know it’s a collectors’ item. And then there’s the beer itself — a big Belgian beer steeped in history and tradition. The original yeast strain, which was selected in the 1920s, originates from Scotland. This is a beverage steeped in tradition just like the city it hails from and this box set with two beers and the glass is a terrific gift for both you and someone else on your list.
Esther’s Lil’ Secret
In 1952 Esther Price’s first store opened in Dayton and today Dayton’s Warped Wing brewery pays tribute with a different flavor annually. This year it’s Carmel Pecan Scotch Ale with Highlander Grogg from Boston Stoker. It’s a sweet treat in a can with deep Ohio roots. And if you stop by a Warped Wing location and need a last minute gift they have a premium gift set with a tin tacker, T-shirt of your choice, $10 Warped Wing gift card, koozie and a sticker for $45 with a value of $55, or get it for $30 without the tin tacker. Pick it up in person at one of Warped Wing’s three locations and grab some smoked wings or a sandwich while you’re there. And if you haven’t heard a fourth location will be opening in spring of next year in Huber Heights. The location will feature a large taproom, outdoor biergarten warehouse and production space, private event space with a small pilot brewing system and a food menu focused on smoked foods similar to the Springboro and Mason taprooms. It will seat 127 in the main taproom, 48 in the event space and 104 in the outdoor biergarten.
It’s a Beaut
This rich, decadent pecan and toffee stout honoring the Chevy Chase classic “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is a treat and the can art is fantastic. For those looking to skip the booze they are offering a limited release of a non-alcoholic coffee and strawberry stout called Bake Up Call. There’s also a dry January Survival beer kit featuring 12 unique non-alcoholic beers, two of each, to help you make better choices in January.
Deck the Hills
This English-style holiday ale is malty and rich with sweet and semi bitter flavors that compliment and don’t overpower. If you don’t like roasted malt stay away from this one, but if you do, you’ve found your beer. They offer shipping on the website for beer and merchandise. Orders must be placed by 9 p.m. on Dec. 19 to guarantee their arrival by Christmas. There’s a Deck the Hills shirt based on the artwork by Bryn Perrott on the can that is super fun and perfect for the holidays.
Gouden Carolus Noël
Brouwerij Het Anker
Let’s travel over the river and through the woods to Belgium for our next beer. It has an 88 out of 100 on Beer Advocate, which is very good. The first review on the page proclaims, “Not just one of the best Christmas beers ever, but one of the best beers ever. I now realize I need to revisit the St. Bernardus Christmas brew to see where that stacks up against probably my favorite beer of the year so far (and it is November). Great balance, flavors and the licorice and clove combo just draws me in personally like a moth to a flame.” Those are some seriously strong feelings about this beer. I can’t say I like it that much, but I do really like it and recommend it. The bottle is showy and it makes for an affordable host or hostess gift for the next week of parties you could potentially be going to, but is affordable and won’t break the bank.
This 5.2% German Style Kolsch is brewed with real cranberry juice resulting in a can that is tart, sweet and bright with a satisfying mix of the hoppy beer and the sweetness of the cranberry. It’s the lighter beer yin to the heavy, bossy yang of Esther’s Lil’ Secret. It’s relatively light and a nice way to delight and celebrate in the holiday season without going too big.
La Chouffe Discovery Pack
Brasserie D’ Achouffe
La Chouffe beer is mostly produced in the Achouffe brewery, in the province of Luxemburg. The identity of the brand is a gnome, because there are a lot of elves and goblins in the Bellgian Ardennes, according to the brand. If you’ve never had this beer you are in for a treat. It’s known for its zesty blonde, but I love the hoppy Houblon Chouffe the best with its bitter flavor that screams to be paid attention to. This is a great gift pack to purchase for the beer lover in your life this holiday season.
We love this beer’s poetic purpose and description: “as the days get shorter, we look for a light that shines through the night. Fruity, refreshing and glistening, an Aurora Beer-ialis of sorts, Quite Brite is just right.” This 5% Belgian wheat ale is fruity and smooth and a nice option to follow one of the big beers on the list with.
Columbus Brewing Co.
This one wins with the name and graphic alone. This Santa is a 7.8% spiced holiday ale brewed with centennial hops, ginger, orange peel and cinnamon. It’s a fantastic winter warmer steeped in the flavors of December nostalgia that is pitch perfect for this time of year.
MadTree Brewing Co.
This spiced Scottish ale brings ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and a breeze of cinnamon with a sweetness that is as special as thundersnow — it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it must be savored. It’s a big beer at 8.5%, but it’s the holidays so treat yourself! Right now MadTree is running a special in their online store featuring 20 percent off all MadTree gift cards. So if you love their beer, or if you really want a treat, get a card and head to their new bar and restaurant, Alcove, in Over the Rhine which is exceptional both in the curated surroundings and in the farm to table menu which seems to hit every right note when I’ve been there (www.madtreebrewing.com/alcove)
Salted Caramel Coffee Ale
Moeller Brew Barn
This is a great holiday breakfast beer or a good way to wrap up the meal. Its caramel packs a sugary punch that is balanced by the roasted coffee for a savory sweet win with this 5.3% pale ale. Grab a draft beer in person at the new downtown Dayton location at 416 E. 1st St. It’s an impressive building with plenty of space to get seated and a nice big menu filled with American comfort food that has plenty to consider before making your final decision.
White Russian Nitro
Left Hand Brewing Co.
Again, these brewers are clever with their descriptions. “Abide with The Nitro, or White Russian Nitro, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. White Russian Nitro is takin’ er super smooth for all us craft beer drinkers out there. There’s a beverage here that’s for strikes and gutters; ups and downs. And, I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that. With coffee, vanilla and notes of chocolate, this is a beer that really ties it all together. But, well, that’s just, like, our opinion, man.”
It ties the room together and is a holiday must have. As the Dude would say, “careful man, there’s a beverage here!”
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