Draught Diversions: 6 Beers of Christmas Past & Present (2017)

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Just like Thanksgiving, Christmas is a time for gathering with family and enjoying a hearty meal. I’ve written about Christmas beers on my other blog in the past, so I’ll touch on some over here at The Tap Takeover. Many breweries brew Winter Ales (darker, maltier beers that often have some kind of cinnamon/nutmeg spic component) while still others brew Christmas Ales, specifically. Today’s post of half-dozen beers, I’ll touch on six I try to have every Christmas/Winter along listing a few I’ve enjoyed. I’ll do another post focusing on Christmas/Winter beers I’m hoping to try this year.

I’ve mentioned Great Lakes Brewing company in past Draught Diversions in the past for their variety of beers. One of their big seasonal brews (maybe their most prominent) is the Christmas Ale which I’ve been enjoying every Christmas for the past few years. I felt like I hit jackpot a couple of years back when a local growler filling station had a keg of this. Where many winter ales have cinnamon as a prominent spice, Great Lakes adds honey to balance the spice for a beer that is great to enjoy while trimming the Christmas Tree, wrapping presents, or gathering with friends on cold winter nights.

One of the best beers in Samuel Adams/Boston Beer’s annual line up is the classic Christmas / Winter Ale, Old Fezziwig Ale. With cinnamon and ginger playing together in the rich malt, Fezziwig is a beer people have been begging Jim Koch to release in six packs for years. Alas, the beer is available annually in the Winter Classics variety pack along with stalwarts Boston Lager and Winter Lager and usually some kind of bock, most often a Chocolate Bock. More than any beer in the Samuel Adams lineup, I really wish they hadn’t changed the label for this beer and kept our top-hatted friend (pictured above) on the label rather than just the “icon” of a top hat.

I’ve found myself writing about Tröegs in a lot of these posts, for good reason. The independent brewing brothers craft wonderful beers and a highlight every year is the Belgian Strong Dark Ale brewed with Honey and Cherries known the world ‘round as Mad Elf. This is one of the beers that helped to put Tröegs on the map years ago. Every year around Christmas, somebody at one of the many parties I’m at (family and friends alike) has at least a six pack of this one to share. One year, one of my uncles brought the giant 101 ml bottle to Christmas Eve and we all had to finish it. That isn’t a complaint, but I think I appreciate the beer now more than I have in the past.

As long as I can remember drinking and enjoying beer, Harpoon Winter Warmer has been around and I’ve been enjoying at least a six pack every holiday season. This one is similar to Old Fezziwig, though not quite as malty. One year, around Christmas time, we had a anniversary party for my in-laws. When stocking up on the liquor for the party, the liquor store mischarged me for Winter Warmer, I paid the six-pack price for the whole case. In any event, there’s a lot of nostalgia for me around this beer. This is one case of a label change I do like.

A classic Belgian Christmas beer I had for the first time on Christmas Day 2016, but one that I’ll be sure to have this year and in the future is Delirium Noël / Christmas.  Huyghe Brewery in Belgium, which brews most of the beers under the Delirium brand is immediately recognizable from its pink elephant mascot. The Christmas beer is a Strong Dark Belgian Ale  brewed for the first time in 2000 from what I can tell on their Web site. This is beer is filled with spices and hints of stone fruits like plums and cherries, which mixes so wonderfully with the Belgian yeasts. This was one of the most flavorful Christmas beers I had when I first tried it Christmas 2016. Either that or I was so accustomed to the American beers and Delirium Noël / Christmas with its stark Belgian character gave me something different that I immediately considered a favorite.

Last, and certainly not least, is the granddaddy of all American Christmas beers, Anchor’s Merry Christmas & Happy New Year beer. The first holiday beer in Craft Brewing, Anchor first brewed a version of this beer in 1975, a year after I was born, so this one is almost as old as me. I think I’ve had about 6 or 7 versions of the beer, either in six packs or grabbing a bottle at the Wegman’s near me in their “Craft Your Own Six Pack.” I enjoyed last year’s so much, I’ll have to get a six pack this year.

On my next post (this Thursday) I’ll ponder six Christmas / Winter beers I hope to try this year or early next year.

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