Remember when you were a kid and you ate that potpourri your grandmother left on the coffee table? That’s how most Christmas beers taste. Oh, it was fun for a while, and some Christmas beers are actually quite tasty, but most taste like hand soap. That’s why more and more discerning beer drinkers are steering clear of the holiday-themed suds in favor of hearty seasonal offerings and the great news is that you don’t have to stray very far to find some excellent variations. Columbus is holding it down, all year long.
Columbus Brewing Company’s Citra Noel
Let’s say you’re an unapologetic hop head. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, you want that sharp bite of citrus smacking you in the schnozz sip after sip. Moreover, you don’t like those hefty imperial beers that seem to pop up in the cooler months. Well, wrap your lips around Columbus Brewing Company’s Citra Noel. This ruddy-hued ale is loaded with Citra hops. It’s got a crisp, bright flavor that is nicely balanced by the malt. CBC’s released this in six packs all over town.
Mastermind Imperial Stout
While there’s nothing wrong with drinking stouts all year, most people tend to reserve them for winter imbibing. This is particularly true of those big, dark, Russian Imperial stouts. These beers are great for enjoying in the winter because they’re delicious if you serve at room temperature. You just pick up on more of the flavors, which are abundant. Sideswipe offers a great opportunity in the form of their seasonal Mastermind Imperial Stout. This is a big, 11% ABV, brew that asserts flavors of bitter chocolate, coffee, maybe a bit of tobacco, and a tiny hint of black licorice—all typical flavor profiles found in any beer using these dark malts. Why sets Mastermind apart is that it packs a healthy dose of hops, which provides a finish that is a bit cleaner than you normally find in this style.
Once you’ve sampled that, you can then try the Coffee Mastermind, which doubles down on the natural coffee notes imparted by the malt with a bracing jolt of java. The best part of this beer is that the instant the aromas of coffee waft out of the glass as you move in for a sip. Sideswipe bottle these in convenient 22 ounce bombers that easily slide into a Christmas stocking.
Seventh Son’s Oubliette
Speaking of big stouts, Seventh Son’s Oubliette is not one you’d soon forget (see what we did there, French students?). This hefty Imperial Stout is deep, dark, and rich. It has a pretty good residual sugar content, which imparts a flavor akin to chocolate covered cherries. This makes the beer perfect for the holidays. It also stands up with any of those super-hyped imperial stouts some brewers in other parts of the country force people to wait in line for. The corked, 750ml bottle has that classy, “you shouldn’t have” look to it, making it a welcome addition to any holiday party.
If big stouts aren’t your thing, Land Grant delivers the goods with a smooth, and quaff-able oatmeal-raisin stout known as Beard Crumbs. This qualifies as Land Grant’s official holiday offering. This is a fairly straightforward oatmeal stout which is infused with caramelized raisins to give it just a little kick in the festive direction. At 7.3%, you’d never call this a session beer, but it’s the kind of stout that goes down without a fuss.
Elevator’s Winter Warmer
The 2016 holiday season features a limited release from Elevator Brewing Company. Elevator’s done a great job with barrel aging for a long time now, and they gave their classic Winter Warmer a year long nap in bourbon barrels. Now, we started off this list denouncing typical holiday beers, and Elevator’s Winter Warmer is definitely a traditional, holiday-spiced beer, but this variation aged on bourbon is worth your while if you can get your hands on it. The oak and the boozy bourbon notes just take this beer to another level. Floating around are 750ml bottles. You might need to work out a trade with somebody who grabbed up an extra bottle at the release party, but if you like bourbon, you can’t go wrong.
We could go on, but this is a short list. Think of it as a place to start, and then expand your search into the beers beyond. We have some great brewers in Columbus, and just because somebody isn’t on this list doesn’t mean they deserve a lump of coal for Christmas.