Last week, I had a few suggestions for beers to share with your family over the holidays, as well as some to share with the high school buddies you’re sure to cross paths with in your hometown. Whether that hometown is near or far, chances are decent you’ll also have a party or two to attend. There’s often a social expectation to bring something to share with both the hosts and guests, or just a host gift as thanks for the invite. Either way, you’ll want to impress.
For the party
If the purpose is to bring a beer to share with your fellow party-goers, make it fancy and bring a four-pack of Dogfish Head’s Pennsylvania Tuxedo (12-oz. bottles). Like Black Husky’s estimable Sproose (also a good choice, if in a more intimately shareable 22-oz. bottle), Pennsylvania Tuxedo is a pale ale gussied up with spruce tips for extra resiny goodness.
The Bruery brews beers that deliver a certain classy thoughtfulness, and in large-format bottles that make for solid host gifts. Its Mash and Vanilla (750mL bottle) is a big, sweet barleywine that’ll drink great now or months down the road. Also in the category of rich and cellarable, this year’s blend of Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin (500mL bottle) continues the tradition of a 100-point Russian imperial stout that North Coast Brewing has been making for almost 20 years now.
Darkness is the annual Russian imperial stout from Minnesota’s Surly Brewing, and that’d make a lavish gift indeed. More acquirable but no less enjoyable is Damien (750mL bottle), a black ale made from a second mash run of what’s left over from brewing Darkness. This is one to drink fresh.
If your party host is a wine person, make it clear you know how to bridge the divide with some beers with a wine-like heritage. New Belgium’s Le Terroir (22-oz. bottle) is an excellent dry-hopped sour ale with a name that brings viticulture to mind. And from across the Atlantic, three sour beers (all in 750mL bottles) from Dutch brewer Rodenbach should make your gift the star of the show. Vintage 2014 is a two-year old, single-barrel Flanders red, with no added fruit but plenty of rich, tart flavor. Caractère Rouge is given another six months of age on cherries, raspberries, and cranberries. And then there’s Alexander, a blended ale aged on cherries, which was just this year brewed for the first time since 2000.
Sometimes, the holidays are just a little more than you want to deal with. Family, friends, parties, gift-wrapping, treacherous roads — maybe you’re out of the house, maybe you’re hunkered down. These are the beers you bring with you to the party, but don’t tell anyone you stuck into a snowbank out on the patio. These are the beers you stash at home and drink in the peace and quiet of your own space.
I found some Bruery Hottenroth Berliner weisse (750mL bottle) out there, and even though it has a May bottling date, it should still be an exceptional low-alcohol quencher. You won’t be knocked out till New Year’s if, oops, you happen to polish this one off on your own. Same with a six-pack of Anderson Valley’s fall/winter seasonal Blood Orange Gose (12-oz. cans); the hefty dose of citrus will remind you the sun is out there somewhere. Crack a couple restorative cans.
Winter Skål (12-oz. bottles) is essential December, one of the Capital brews I return to regularly every year. Full of malty warmth but not too strong, it’s as close to a winter session beer as winter beers get. From the land of a whole different “Skol,” Surly Brewing will give you all the hops you need to balance Winter Skål’s malt in the form of Abrasive (an oatmeal imperial IPA), Todd the Axe Man (a West Coast-style IPA) and, the freshest on the shelf of the three, its hallmark Furious IPA (all 16-oz. cans).
But hey, who am I to judge if you want something just a pinch stronger? So long as you travel safe, what’s the harm in a Founders Breakfast Stout (12-oz. bottles) when no one’s looking? This heavy-hitting Michigan brewer gets a lot of hype for KBS, its bourbon barrel-aged breakfast stout, but the base beer is no slouch, without the chase. You may have to get a little luckier to snag a bottle of Bourbon Barrel Lunatic or Stovepipe (both 500mL bottles) from Green Bay’s Hinterland, but they’re worth it. The former is a rich barrel-aged stout; the latter is a stout of a different recipe, barrel-aged with Luna Roasters’ coffee. There aren’t a lot of either in the market, but I found both on shelves at multiple bottle shops.
Shop smart, travel safely, drink well, and enjoy the holidays in whatever way you see fit.