As the weather grows colder and the holidays call for great cheer, brewers release winter warmers and their special Christmas beer.
Usually, these brews are made strong enough to chase an evening’s chill. They’re often as dark as the prolonged nights that lead into the winter solstice. Sometimes they’re spiced, like holiday baked goodies.
But they’re always meant to be festive.
The tradition traces back hundreds of years to brewers across northern Europe. It eventually migrated to the United States, but for decades after Prohibition, specials brewed to mark the holidays practically disappeared.
Modern U.S. microbreweries revived the practice. Anchor Brewing of San Francisco has made its holiday Our Special Ale since 1975; each year the brewery changes the formula (sometimes slightly, sometimes radically) as well as the image of an evergreen tree that’s depicted on bottle labels.
Several Alabama brewers keep the holiday brewing tradition alive, in some cases working winter warmers and Santa suds into their seasonally changing portfolios.
Belgian-style abbey ales, originally developed by Trappist monks, are popular choices here for winter seasonals. The monks brewed distinct styles of increasing strength, enkel (single), dubbel, tripel, and quadruple, most of which are represented in the list below.
But even if you don’t order a holiday brew, stay in the spirit with something that’s similarly big-boned and powerful. Cheers!