There are Christmas beers and then there are Christmas gift beers and the distinction is important. Christmas beers are seasonal cold weather brews often with festive names like Eight Maids a Milking (which is in fact the name of a Milk Stout from The Bruery and part of their 12 Days of Christmas series). Christmas gift beers are big hardy presentations that scream “seasons greetings” even if their names don't quite bring Rudolph or other late December heroes to mind. These are my top three Christmas gift recommendations.
Alesmith's Decadence is an annual treat from the San Diego based microbrewery.
Originally brewed in 2005 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the company, it has been produced every year since, typically in a different and unique style. This year's Decadence is a Belgian style Amber that is yeasty yet crisp with floral aromas and hints of honey in the finish. The best part is that it's a fantastic package. The 750 ml bottle is topped in gold foil. It's such a gifty bottle that it doesn't need wrapping, just a bow.
Brooklyn Brewery's Black Ops is one of the delights of the season. If it existed that is.
The brewery's whimsical copy denies the existence of this beer, but every year somehow, some way, this incredible bourbon barrel aged stout finds its way to retailers shelves. It is deep, rich, and phenomenally complex. Overtones of toffee, vanilla and smoke mingle across the palate. The beer also has an impressive look, a 750 ml bottle nearly all in black.
Another barrel aged winner is from the Tildonk Belgium based Hof Ten Dormaal.
In fact, they have several winners. Their Barrel Aged Project matures their blonde and dark ales in various aromatic woods. The current batch features beer aged in barrels that once housed Bruichladdich, muscatel or grappa. The packaging on these beers takes it up a level. They are in gorgeous blue boxes; again all you need is a bow.
I know from firsthand experience how a great beer can make an ideal gift. During my days at Bedford Cheese Shop, on consecutive years I drew avid beer drinkers in our secret Santa gift program. Both were guys who had recently arrived from the Pacific Northwest with little clue about the New York City beer scene. Each year I got the same gift, a bottle of the superb Brooklyn Local 1 and Local 2 since they were brewed down the street from the cheese shop. Both are Belgian strong ales. 1 is light and crisp and almost cidery. 2 is rich and floral with honey-like overtones at the finish. It turned both guys on to the idea that there was great brewing going on the in the Northeast and each thanked me by buying extra rounds whenever we hung out. It was--in the very best way--the gift that kept giving.
Martin Johnson is a beer buyer and merchandising manager for Westside Market East Village in New York City.When not selling or drinking beer he writes about jazz and beer for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate, beer for Eater and about a variety of cultural and culinary topics for The Root.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.