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 an IPA from Wales inspired by the Snowball cocktail and an ice cream porter from the peak district, for example.
We’ve stuck to more overtly Christmassy beers here but if you want something as an alternative to champagne then check out Camden’s Beer 2019, which is an imperial brut pilsner.
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.
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Best Christmas beer
1. Anspach & Hobday - Pfeffernusse Saison - 5.5%
Fancy something a bit different? Try this festive saison from Bermondsey-based brewery Anspach & Hobday. This year the abv has been lowered to 5.5% to allow the flavours to sing.
Pfeffernusse are spiced cookies, a bit like gingerbread, so this beer has a complex blend of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper and cloves to provide festive flavours on top of the customary funky Belgian style.
2. Brew York - Fairytale Of Brew York - 4.9%
And the award for best beer name goes to…
Cracking nuts over the holiday is a quintessential pastime but why not drink your hazelnuts instead? This oatmeal milk stout is packed with the flavour of hazelnut with the sweetness of salted caramel underneath.
It’s a little thinner than most milk stouts due to the use of oat milk, but that means it’s fine for lactose-intolerant drinkers.
3. Northern Monk - Festive Star - 5.9%
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. Wiper & True - Plum Pudding - 6.9%
A sweet porter is a great alternative to dessert and this beer is a fine example, from Bristol’s Wiper and True.
It’s strong without being too boozy and still has a delicious base of rich dark malts with a slight hoppiness and the sweetness of fruit jam. However, dried fruits, lemon zest and cinnamon give it a real festive edge.
5. Anchor - Christmas Ale 2019 - 6.9%
This Christmas beer has been around since 1975 - the first holiday beer in America since Prohibition - with a different tree on the label for each release.
Anchor also changes the top secret recipe every year so no brew is the same. This edition for 2019 is darker than its predecessor with a richer and deeper flavour. It’s still very smooth though, and there are flavours of treacle, coffee, dried fruit and mixed spices.
6. 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.
7. 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. Most recently it won bronze at the International Beer Challenge 2019.
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?
8. Thornbridge - Christmas Pudding Lucaria - 4.5%
This yuletide edition of Lucaria is back for another year. It's Thornbridge’s ice cream porter, which has included strawberry and mint versions in the past.
As the name suggests, this one packs in all the flavours of a Christmas pudding, such as fruit, treacle and spices - with a nice sweet finish. You can find it in the Thornbridge Christmas case, which includes 6 cans, 8 bottles and a glass.
9. Tiny Rebel - Welcome To The Party Pal! - 6.3%
This interesting beer from Tiny Rebel is something completely different to a traditional Christmas Ale. It’s more at the fun end of the spectrum but still tastes great.
Based on the snowball cocktail, this is a hazy IPA with flavours of lemon, ice cream and a hint of coconut. The addition of oats and lactose sugar makes it very creamy and slightly sweet, still with an underlying bitterness from hops.
10. Brick - Stollen Stout - 5.8%
As the name suggests, this stout is based on the German bread traditionally eaten at Christmas, but we think you’ll like it even if you don’t like eating stollen.
It’s thick, smooth and decadent, built on a solid base layer of roasted malt. On top there are flavours of amaretto coffee, nutmeg and vanilla. There’s a sweetness thanks to the addition of lactose sugar and a fruity edge from orange and lemon peel.