Here, I’ll start: My Christmas is split into two separate family functions: one on Christmas Eve at my in-laws’ and another with my side of the family on Christmas day. I have two brothers-in-law named Robert, one on each side, both of whom are reliably down to split big bottles of the kind of stuff I wouldn’t ordinarily drink on my own.
At my in-laws’ tonight, I’m thinking about opening my last bottle of Founders Bolt Cutter 15th Anniversary Barleywine from back in 2012, and I’m also considering begging the brother-in-law on that side to open his bottle of Firestone Walker XVI. I will let you know how that goes.
Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, brother-in-law #2 is bringing a bottle of this year’s Long Ireland Black Friday Imperial Stout, which I had on tap a few weeks ago and is tasting better than any other year I’ve had. What else? I’ve been toying with the idea of opening a 2011 bottle of Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout. (Speaking of Stone, I’ve also got an Enjoy By 12.26.14 in the fridge, so that obviously needs to go…) And maybe a 2012 Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti. And, who am I kidding… I’m going to a beer store this afternoon, so this is all very likely to change.
One guarantee, though: throughout both get-togethers I’ll be equipped with a bunch of Great South Bay’s Sleigh Ryed winter ale, which is as flavorful and seasonally appropriate as it is affordable, at a jaw-dropping $8.99 per six-pack.
Now onto the more important people… Merry Christmas, everyone.
Niko Krommydas, Brooklyn Magazine Contributor
My girlfriend’s parents live in North Carolina, so we’re driving to their house for Christmas. Whenever we visit, we travel practically beer-less for the majority of our trek—until we stop at Tasty Beverage Company in Raleigh to grab liquid from Duck-Rabbit, Wicked Weed, Haw River, and more of the Tar Heel State’s best breweries. We’re only bringing one bottle from home: Niko Weisse. I made a Greek-style Berliner Weisse (brewed with cucumbers, influenced by tzatziki) with Great South Bay Brewery in June, and my girlfriend’s father still hasn’t tried it. I saved my last bottle for him. Awwww!
Meredith Heil, Brooklyn Magazine Contributor
I’m not crazy about Christmas beers, but Sixpoint’s Global Warmer is a seasonal I can really get behind. Presented in festive bright crimson can, this Imperial Red Ale is brimming with luscious, juicy hops and toasty, velvety malt. And at 7% ABV, it’s the perfect pre-dinner foundation for a spirited holiday gathering.
When I spend the holidays with my family, I always bring a good, drinkable sour to share. A lot of them think craft beer is all hops, hops, hops, so I like to wow ‘em with a tart surprise like Grimm’s infallible apple grisette, Still Life. It manages to pack a ton of character into each sip while still maintaining its refreshing approachability. Even my Mom, a Miller Lite lifer, digs it.
I don’t always eat dessert, but when I do, I pair it with a pitch black Founders Breakfast Stout. There’s nothing quite like that intense muddling of bitter coffee, toasted oatmeal and dark chocolate to make a slice of holiday pie sing. Like a well loved Christmas ornament, Breakfast Stout is my stalwart winter warmer, year after year.
Joe and Lauren Grimm of Grimm Artisanal Ales
We are in Tahoe, California this year visiting the West Coast branch of the Grimm family, so we’re drinking some great beers that we don’t have in NY. We are really enjoying Alpine Brewing Co’s Nelson, which is up there with Heady Topper as one of our favorite hoppy beers. It’s beautiful to look at, yellow and hazy to the point of being opaque, with layers of juicy, fruity, and complex hop flavors and aromas.
We also stopped by Fifty/Fifty Brewing Company here in the Tahoe area, to drink their fantastic imperial stouts. We had an Eclipse aged in High West bourbon barrels which was great, but we may have enjoyed the *non* barrel aged version even more. We’re going to do a blind tasting here where we put our Double Negative up against the Fifty-Fifty and Old Rasputin.
Mike Descarfino of Barrier Brewing Company
Being surrounded by so many friends of ours who are great local brewers, it’s hard to drink anything else, but for the holidays I like to switch it a bit. I’m usually not too high on your typical “winter warmer,” but I have a soft spot for Avery Old Jubilation. It packs a big punch at 8% ABV, complemented by hints of hazelnut and a chewy malt backbone.
When I want to break out a heavy hitter, Rochefort 10 is the perfect after dinner treat. Huge beer at over 11% but doesn’t drink like a booze bomb. Everything you can ask for in a Belgian Quad–raisin, plum, slight caramel, fig. Perfect beer to relax and take in the holidays. Even better if the bottle has a little age to it.”
I can never say no to a good German Smoked Helles and Aecht Schlenkerla is a classic which needs no introduction!
Kelly Taylor of Kelso Brewing
Sonya [his wife an business partner] is into the Anchor Christmas every year. Nice balance of holiday flavors, chocolate notes, roasty, and pine. Delicious. I love the McChuffe from Brasserie d’Achouffe . Warming, nutty, spicy, and yet effervescent. Delightful stand alone or with holiday meal.
James Case of Covenhoven
I look forward to the release of Sierra Nevada Celebration every year, and I spend many hours deliberating just what spices are inside! (Note: there are no spices.)
Ballast Point’s robust imperial porter Victory at Sea features my second favorite drink, coffee, and lifts my spirits on any cold, gloomy night.
At 12%, Brouwerij ‘t Gaverhopke’s ‘T Gaverhopke Extra is not too sweet, too boozy, or too bitter, but wonderfully, delicately balanced for those nights when you just want one beer before bed, and great to share with that special someone.”
Ben Wiley of Glorietta Baldy, Bar Great Harry, The Owl Farm & Mission Dolores
I’m bringing a couple Allagash Nancys to the table. Tasty stuff, and while not “normal” beer, it’s pretty approachable for people, I think. It’s just enough spiciness and odder notes to make it feel celebratory and holidayish.
My brother Mike (my partner in BGH, Mission, and Owl) brought some Jester King Commercial Suicide to our father’s Christmas yesterday. Awesome stuff–light ABV, so highly drinkable and kind of soda-like.”
Sarah & Giancarlo Annese of BeerUnion.com & Beer Lover’s NY
Christmas Eve dinner is the Annese family’s oldest tradition. We celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which is just what it sounds–seven different types of fish (though often there’s more). This year we’ll be opening bottles of Brooklyn Wild Streak and Local 1, The Bruery Rueuze and Ommegang Rare Vos. It’s a big, salty meal, so we like to drink bright and effervescent beers.
Basil Lee, CEO of Finback Brewing
Foolproof brewing, Revery, Russian imperial stout
It’s been such a hectic year opening the brewery and drinking all our new favorite NYC beers, I’m excited to take a few days off in Rhode Island for the holidays. It’s amazing how the smallest state has had nearly as many new breweries open as one of the biggest cities in the world. I’m excited to drink Foolproof Brewing’s Revery, a big, rich and smooth imperial stout that’s perfect for the season.
I love sours and a good one always feels like a treat. Hill Farmstead’s Civil Disobedience is wonderfully tart, oaky, lightly tannic and perfectly bretty. Given all that’s happening in the news I think it’s the perfect bottle to open.
And what holiday would be complete without some delicious, juicy IPA? I’m making the trip to Treehouse Brewing Co. and can’t wait to drink Harmony and SAP (or whatever they have on really), both awesome IPAs. SAP is stuffed full of chinook hops, which we use a lot of at Finback, and was originally brewed as a Christmas beer. Merry Christmas indeed.
Will Stephens, Founder of BeerMenus.com
While visiting our family in Westchester for the holidays, we like to break out celebratory beers. (Read: sours.) Fermented with grapes and aged in oak barrels, Captain Lawrence’s Rosso e Marrone is a tart, rich ale that’s one of our local favorites–and we always struggle to save it until Christmas. When we want to switch back to an IPA (and we always do) we’ll head to Peekskill for some of Chief’s (aka Jeff O’Neil’s) hoppy creations like NYPA. He’s the boss of dry hopping, and making the trip to the brewery means the freshest pours of this bright beer.
Laurissa Milici of Radiant Pig Beer
Year round I love me some hoppy beers. For the holidays our own Gangster Duck is not only great because the red color is dead on for Christmas, but I also love that it has the maltiness of a winter warmer but enough of a bite to satisfy hop heads like myself. But when I’m visiting family in Indiana, I gotta go with the Gumball Head from Three Floyds. It’s a light, refreshing change of pace if you’re stout-ed out. Those Amarillo hops always hit the spot too.
Chris Balla, Beverage Director at Mile End
I’ll be working at our Brooklyn restaurant for our yearly Chinese Christmas dinner, and I’d like to say I’ll be drinking some cheap beer and whiskey with coworkers at the end of the day. But knowing me I’ll probably end up indulging in some of the fancier stuff we have in-house for the holiday—Freigeist’s Geisterzug Gose, Harvey’s Christmas Ale or 2011 del Ducato Krampus Riserva Strepponi—if we have any left. I mean, it’s the holidays: go luxe or go home!
Greg Doroski, brewmaster of Threes Brewing
The Bière de Garde style just screams Christmas, and BFM’s Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is one of my favorites. Malty, vinous, and tart, it’s a great aperitif and pairs well with roasted meat.
Rich Buceta, Founder and Brewmaster at Singlecut Brewing
My wife and I took a mini road trip up north recently and of course I stocked up on some hard to source beers. I’ve saved a few for the Xmas break: Dieu du Ciel Aphrodisiac is just about my favorite chocolate/vanilla/dessert stout. Perfect balance of ingredients, and drinking this again will remind me of the great time I had at their brewpub. Alchemist Focal Banger–what can I say that hasn’t been said about Kimmich’s beers? I marvel at each of his creations. And Alchemist Crusher–a 10% IIPA from Alchemist. ‘Nuff said.
Brian Winget, Beer Manager at Barcade New York
I stash a few bottles that I’ve particularly enjoyed over the course of each year specifically for Christmas Eve. Traditionally, I open one bottle of Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout from 2010 alongside the latest release. I’ll also have something sour for my parents and aunt (The Bruery’s Atomic Kangarue and Allagash’s Nancy), something rich and malty for my stout-loving cousins (this year’s The Bruery’s Black Tuesday and Dogfish Head’s Olde School 2012), and a few vintage bottles I’ve been looking for an excuse to crack open to see how they’re developing (Flying Dog’s Horn Dog ’07 and Westvleteren XII ’12).
Joshua M. Bernstein, Author of The Complete Beer Course
Like every good Jewish boy I’ll be eating Chinese food with friends, so we’re going to pound plenty of dumplings and plenty of pilsners—Two Roads’ Ol’ Factory Pils sounds about right for the latter. Afterward, I’ll switch to cans of Evil Twin’s Molotov Lite double IPA or perhaps the bottle of Deschutes’ The Abyss I have stashed in my closet.
Patrick Morse, Brewmaster of Flagship Brewing Company
I’ll be drinking Flagship’s Wee Heavy with family and friends. It’s our winter seasonal, currently our highest rated beer, and it’s something I’m really proud to share with my loved ones. Also, no Christmas goes by without some of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale. It’s tradition. Also, this year, I’ll be drinking Farnum Hill Extra Dry Cider. It’s my favorite hard cider, and a gift from my assistant brewer, Noah Demaris.
Anthony Accardi, Co-Owner and Brewer of Transmitter Brewing
I’m looking forward to sitting back and sharing some Transmitter with family that may not have had it yet. I’m heading to Philly for a few days and I’ll be heading to Tired Hands for sure. We always leave a Rochefort 10 and an oatmeal cookie out for Santa, so I’ll finish what he doesn’t.
Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery
I’ll be drinking Brooklyn Hand & Seal, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye, Traditional Eggnog in the David Wondrich Style, and copious amounts of water!
Jimmy Carbone, owner of Jimmy’s No. 43 and Founder of the Good Beer Seal
I’ll bring a smorgasbord of different beer styles and breweries for the family to try. For those who have been naughty, I’ll drink for them—how about The Bruery’s Smoking Wood. For those who have been nice, I’ll give them a growler of Other Half’s Indian Ladder Farmstead Stout to find out what all the hype’s about. For those on my list, we’ll share Barrier Brewing’s Evil Giant rye IPA. It’s one of my favorite IPAs and worthy of being introduced to friends. What am I checking for twice? Evil Twin’s Lil’ B imperial porter. I’m dying to have another bottle!
Patrick Allen, Brewmaster of Keg & Lantern Brewing Company
On Christmas I usually start off with the always delicious and piney Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA followed up by a black IPA, like Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack. After dinner the more intense large-format bottles come out of the cellar. This year it’ll be Beachwood BBQ’s Full Malted Jacket and a Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops from 2010.