The best Christmas beer: the ultimate Christmas ales, revealed
UPDATED: Festive tipples to sip by the fire.
It’s the time of year for festive cheer. And today we’re saying cheers to all the Christmas beers out there. We all like a drink or two over the holiday season and breweries around the world treat us with some amazing seasonal brews.
Traditional Christmas ales are rich, dark and spiced and we have plenty of those here. Colder weather and murky evenings call for beers that will warm your cockles and make your cheeks rosy.
However, the rise of craft beer means there are also some interesting alternatives. Below you'll find a Bristol beer inspired by a plum pudding and a smooth chocolatey stout inspired by Christmas in Germany, for example.
Most of these beers are only made during the Christmas season so grab them while you can. The darker, stronger ones will also age well so why not drink one this year and see how it changes in flavour come next Christmas.
Remember to upvote your favourite Christmas beer.
Best Christmas beer
1. Orbit Beers - Joly Saint Nico - 4.8%
We’ve never seen a Christmas lager before, so we just had to try this from Orbit. Joly Saint Nico is a spiced version of the brewery’s core range Kolsch sticking at a drinkable 4.8%.
It doesn’t look any different to normal but added spices give it that wintery warmth. Importantly, the nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice are delicately balanced to avoid being overpowering.
2. Amundsen - Barrel Aged Upside Down Christmas Cake 2022 - 11.5%
In the ‘Go big or go home’ ultimatum, Norway’s Amundsen categorically does the former with this beer unequivocal proof of that.
Big in every possible way, this barrel aged imperial stout is intensely boozy with bourbon coming in strong followed by strong notes of chopped nuts, cinnamon, maple syrup, chocolate and vanilla.
Not a Christmas beer for the faint hearted and this is just one of many Christmas beers from Amundsen.
3. Northern Monk - Festive Star - 5.2%
Instead of brewing an entirely new beer, Yorkshire’s Northern Monk makes a Christmassy version of its mocha porter called Northern Star.
This festive twist on the core range brew has added chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla notes. If you like your beer dark, delectable and sweet but without too much spice, this is the one for you.
4. Vocation - May Contain Sixpence - 12.5%
Christmas pudding aficionados will not want to miss this corker of a special edition from Vocation. This big imperial stout comes in at a hefty 12.5% and while it’s suitably boozy, it’s also packed with rich flavour.
As advertised on the can, think dried fruits, brown sugar, spices and it’s already tempting but the extra element of blended it with Brandy barrel aged imperial Kirsch really sets this impy apart. Indulgent, complex and downright delicious.
5. Epochal - Christmas Day - 6%
If you prefer something lighter in colour, then this stock pale ale inspired by 19th-century Scottish brewing tradition is a really interesting tipple to sample this year.
While it might be plain in appearance, the aptly named beer has plenty of flavour starting off with a light and funky acidity followed by a zing thanks to the clementines it was fermented with along with a blend of spices bringing a quintessential Christmassy flavour.
6. Elusive Brewing - Mince Pie Barleywine - 9%
Nothing says Christmas snack like a mince pie and Elusive has made the iconic bakery treat into a barleywine, the most traditional of Christmas beer styles.
This solidly boozy 9% abv barleywine has additions of orange, lemon and mixed spices give it that recognisable mince pie flavour, with the malts providing oodles of dried fruit. A real treat, whether it’s a night cap or otherwise and Elusive’s Lebkuchen Stout is back for 2022, too.
7. Wiper & True - Plum Pudding - 6.6%
Plum Pudding is a regular on this list but Wiper & True has a new recipe for 2022 which includes lemon peel and cinnamon and a nice fresh hop aroma.
The major change this year is a switch from predominantly prunes in the mix to plums, cherries and blackcurrants. The result is still rich, toasty and smooth but with a perfectly balanced jammy tartness from the fruit.
A real delight that will pair nicely with all manner of Christmas food.
8. Anspach & Hobday - The Pfeffernüsse Stout - 6%
Anspach & Hobday used to make a Pfeffernüsse Saison but that has now been replaced with this stout version.
On top of a smooth chocolatey stout, you get the flavours of the famous German Christmas biscuit with a range of spices to excite the palate, mainly cinnamon and ginger.
9. Simple Things Fermentations - Belgian Christmas - 7.4%
If you’re adjunct adverse, or possibly even allergic to the kinds of ingredients used to make a lot of Christmas beers, then Simple Things Fermentations has you covered.
This traditional Belgian number offers up plenty of Christmas flavours with a masterful blend of a malts and iconic Belgian yeast esters. This flavoursome beer is packed with notes of figs, clove, banana, fruit cake and plenty more.
10. Brew York - Dreams of Brew York - 6.5%
Brew York has a selection of Christmas beers again this year and this sour makes for an unusual seasonal tipple. It’s a festive twist on one of the brewery's most popular sours, combining cranberry and cherry with the warming addition of cinnamon.
Proof that Christmas beers don’t have to be porters, stouts or barleywines but you can also look out for BA Nightmare of Brew York, a peanut, pecan, maple and vanilla Imperial Milk Stout aged for 12 months in bourbon barrels.
11. Arbor Ales - Pannetone - 5.2%
Those wanting something a bit lighter should try this seasonal Pale Ale from Bristol’s Arbor Ales. Recreating the flavour of the Italian sweet bread is achieved with raisins and the zest of lemons and clementines.
It’s zingy and bitter but vanilla brings cakey sweetness to balance things out. And the best thing? It comes in Abor’s tall boy pint cans.
12. Runaway Brewery - Gingerbread Stout - 6.2%
Fans of gingerbread houses at Christmas can drink one in liquid form while building one thanks to Runaway Brewery and this stout which hides its 6.2% abv well.
It’s not a milk stout so isn’t overly sweet but it’s full bodied and nicely creamy in texture still and a combination of root ginger, mace, cloves and cinnamon make it suitably seasonal.
13. Leffe - Winter - 6.6%
How about a festive edition of a classic Belgian beer? It’s a deep amber colour and produces a thick foamy head. Leffe sticks with the usual 6.6% abv but it’s worryingly easy to sink a bottle.
This beer has more subtle flavours compared to many so is a great place to start if you’re new to Christmas ales. It still has a distinctive Belgian style at its core, but with enough fruit and spice to make it festive.
A 6L Perfect Draft keg of Leffe - Winter, is also available from Beer Hawk.
14. Harvey’s - Christmas Ale - 7.5%
Harvey’s has won no less than 25 awards for this true classic of a Christmas ale in a barleywine style. And for 2022, it’s now in larger 500ml bottles to get you feeling merry.
It’s a deep mahogany and smells a little like red wine. If you’re looking for something rich, this is like Christmas pudding in a glass - spices, biscuit, dried fruits and booze. What more could you want?
- Why not treat a friend to one of the best beer subscription boxes this Christmas?