Holiday Libations

It has turned into the holiday season quite suddenly, as usual.  As if there is a time of year or season during which I do not think about beer the holidays have got me thinking about beer and how enjoyable sharing a glass of something new, or a special aged bottle from the cellar with friends and family can be.  It is a great time of year to drink something special.  Amazing Christmas offerings from world class breweries make up a long list of options as well as any overlooked category from your regular drinking line up.  Tasting beers or lining up a few drinks with a friend or relative you haven’t seen in a while is a highly enjoyable and affordable source of entertainment that can be hosted at home.  I particularly enjoy getting into styles that I do not frequent throughout the year (and some that I do); Christmas beers, Imperial Stouts and Barleywines.  The latter two on this list may have some of you wondering how a self-proclaimed beer lover could ignore such remarkable styles throughout the year.  Well they are certainly not ignored, I am more pointing towards styles that are well suited to aging and this is the time of year when I dip into the cellar to crack what has been developing over the last 6 months to several years.  Comparing vintages of repeating classics such as Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Anchor Christmas, and Sierra Bigfoot always makes for a fine evening or afternoon.  There are also numerous collector-level brews to consider adding to your cellar like Alesmith Speedway Stout or Stone Vertical Epic and if you are feeling adventurous there is a selection of numerous vintages of English strong ale from JW Lees and Gales available.  Getting into the cellar is often a momentous event well suited for the celebratory season we are in.  I also quite enjoy the exploration of overlooked styles and new seasonal offerings.  For me the most overlooked style is weizenbock.  Generally speaking I am not a fan of Weiss or Hefeweizen, however there is no denying the unparalleled quality of a beer like Schneider Aventinus.  A revisit keeps me in touch with the breadth of brewing and aware of my ever changing palate.  As for seasonal brews, the Belgian brewers have this season locked up.  As much as I love American brewing, the Belgian Christmas beers are simply the best winter brews around.  I look forward to the annual release of warming, yeasty beers that show off complexity, refinement and extreme deliciousness.  St. Bernardus Christmas Ale and De Ranke Pere Noel are two of my favorites, but I also enjoy the glass packs that combine your beer of choice with the brewery’s glass specifically designed for drinking their beer.  There is so much out there, but as long as you have what you like best in your favorite glass and have someone to share it with, you are all set for a great holiday season.

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