Hophead: Jingle Beers

I bid farewell to 2008 by, like Ricky Bobby, thanking little baby Jesus for giving us specialty holiday brews. What better way to soothe the white-knuckle stress of shopping, the friction of family gatherings and the frustration of assembling crappy toys than with a high-ABV beer?

Jonathan Shikes at our sister paper in the Mile High City put together a slide show of "10 Holiday Beers To Help You Forget 2008." I was particularly fond of Anchor Steam Christmas Ale, a dark warmer so thick you can almost chew it. It's just a tad sweet and not overwhelmingly spiced, but that subtle difference was enough to get Lady Hophead (normally not a fan of dark beers) to enjoy it. Sierra Nevada's Celebration was nice too, similar in taste to the company's famed pale ale but with enough floral spices to give it a festive flavor.

Here are a few other holiday beers I recommend.

Holiday Cheer, Shiner
If you're having guests who aren't into complex, malty Belgians, this crisp beer is a real crowd-pleaser. You can't miss the peach and apricot notes, but they aren't too sweet or overwhelming.

Delirium Noel, Brouwerij Huyghe
A big, bad Belgian. Complex, dark and a whopping 10% ABV that is dangerously hard to detect. I didn't pick up on many of the typical flavors associated with other Christmas beers, but it was a bit sweet with some clove flavor.

Noel Des Geants, Brasserie Des Legendes
I got this Belgian in a beer of the month subscription last year, but haven't found it since. It was complex, with a subtle fruity, raisiny and nutty flavor, but more bitter than typical holiday beers and nicely malty. It would sneak up on you too, at 8.5% ABV without a bit of alcohol flavor.

--Jesse Hughey