The pink elephants on the Delirium
Noel label are typical of the
capricious spirit of Christmas beer.
Although specially brewed Christmas beers have been a tradition in Denmark, Belgium and Scandinavia for centuries, it was not too many years ago in America that if you mentioned “beer” and “Christmas” in the same sentence, it probably conjured images of your beer-drinking uncle sitting in the easy chair in the corner. Well THAT certainly has changed. These days, failure to have on hand one of the many amazing seasonal and holiday beers that are available could probably be considered a major faux pas as a holiday host. The term “Christmas Beer” means something a little more specific in each of the northern European countries that created them, but they all have a few things in common. To stand up to the cold and the season’s heartier foods, they are often brewed with the years late-harvest grains to be intentionally higher in alcohol, and will often embody more of the brewers creativity and playfulness. Styles and character will range from the fairly conventional to all-out flavor riots of nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolatiness, and fruit, but the beer is crafted with the season in mind, so they tend to be flamboyant and expressive. And in spite of the capricious labels featuring naughty elves and pink elephants, it’s interesting to note that we in fact probably owe the existence of these beers to the Christian monks at abbeys throughout Europe who developed and refined these beer-making methods as far back as the 1300′s. But never mind the history of these beers, think about the present. The Christmas present. Many of these beers are in more festively labeled wine-bottle sized bottles, and make great gifts. We don’t recommend getting too carried away with the wrapping though; the beer lover in your life will probably waste no time cracking the bottle and offering to share it with you. We’ve featured about half of the Christmas and winter beers we have on hand below, contact us if you’re looking for one you don’t see. If it’s available in Michigan, we probably have it.
Scaldis Noël (also marketed as Bush de Noël) was born in 1991 to satisfy consumers seeking a hearty beer for the Christmas and New Year celebrations. Made exclusively from malt, hops, candy sugar and water, Scaldis Noël is a high fermentation, filtered beer and has an alcohol volume of 12%. The substantial use of caramel malt gives it a coppery red colour and an exceptional roundness. Particularly carefully studied hopping gives this beer a consistent, fruity flavour with a delicately hopped aroma. A limited edition beverage, Scaldis Noël is an indispensable reference among the end-of-year beers.
BELGIUM 750ML $19.99 ABV 12%
|Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper 2008
Santa’s Little Helper is a dark, strong Belgian ale, lightly spiced with sweet orange peel, coriander seeds, cinnamon and cocoa. This year’s version is recognized by less sweetness than the 2007 version, a fresh hop bite, balanced by the sweetnes from the coriander and orange peel and a big bold body. Enjoy now or keep it in the cellar for many years to come.
BELGIUM 750ML $15.99 ABV 11%
|Ølfabrikken Winter Porter
Bottom fermented porter made with Danish honey and matured for four months before bottling. Unpasteurized and unfiltered. Hefty and creamy. Roast malt, chocolate, hint of red fruit, and some spice rounded out with a chocolatey vanilla nose.
DENMARK 750ML $12.99 ABV 11%
|La Choulette de Noël
Stronger, fuller flavored version of the classic bière de garde. The New York Times anointed this beer the ultimate bière de garde, and rightly so. It’s a rich, rare treat from one of France’s old guard craft breweries. Be there or be square.
FRANCE 750ML $11.99 ABV 7%
|Canaster Winterscotch Ale
“One used to praise their beer, which was called Canaster, it was drink and food, even for a long trip” ~ Petrus Van Nuffel, 1908,about the beer of the Carmelite convent of Aalst. Red brown with broken white heavy head. Mainly fruity in the nose, nice balance of sweet and sour in the mouth, long dry burnt bitter aftertaste.
BELGIUM 750ML $13.49 ABV 9.5%
|Gulden Draak Vintage Ale 2009
This barley wine blends in well with and in stews and specifically in Ghent or Flemish beef stew. It also comes into its own in sauces that accompany red meat, especially in a bordelaise. It is also eminently suited for desserts, especially pure chocolate desserts. Hint : why not substitute the whiskey in your Irish Coffee with this delicious beer! Dark with a caramel-coloured head; burnt malt and coffee; very full body with hints of chocolate and caramel. Bitter-sweet, very long finish This beer can be cellared for years imparting new rich flavours!
BELGIUM 750ML $14.99 ABV 7.5%
|Bamberger Mahr’s Brau Christmas Bock
Pours clear amber with an off-white head which dissipates slowly leaving thick lacing. Honey bread, light chestnut and toffee with a hint of florals and hop bitterness at the end to balance it out. Lighter and fruitier than most other Christmas beers.
GERMANY 500ML $6.99 ABV 6%
|Nøgne Ø/Jolly Pumpkin Special Holiday Ale
This is the second release of Special Holiday Ale, which was first brewed in San Diego in 2008. Each brew is following the same recipe, including Michigan chestnuts, white sage from southern California and Norwegian juniper berries, but differences in brewing and aging practices produce different beers. Cheers to being different! Skål!
NORWAY 500ML $11.99 AV 8.5%
Dense in flavor, warm and velvety, with bitter bark and hop and nutmeg/gingerbread spiciness. A bit sweeter and fruitier than many “Chistmas” beers, presenting some raisin in its invigorating palate and crisp finish. Pink elephants may or not appear upon consumption.
BELGIUM 750ML $12.99 ABV 10%
|St-Feuillien Cuvée de Noël
This beer has a generous head – compact and firm. Its slightly brown colour is the result of the roasted barley. It has a dark ruby brown colour and a very intense aroma. The aromatic herbs and spices used greatly enhance its delicious smell. Full-bodied with a smoothness that is the result of the synergy of caramelised malts, carefully controlled fermentation and long cold storage.
BELGIUM 750ML $12.49 ABV 9%
|Bell’s Christmas Ale
Bell’s Christmas Ale doesn’t contain any spices: all of the dry, toasted notes & subtle toffee flavors come from the 100% Michigan-grown barley, custom malted by Briess Malting, while a blend of hops from Michigan & the Pacific Northwest lend earthy, herbal aromas.
MICHIGAN 6PK/12OZ $11.99 ABV 5.5%
|Bell’s Winter White Ale
Taking its cues from Belgian-style white ales, Bell’s Winter White Ale offers a lighter yet abundantly flavorful alternative to the traditional heavy winter warmers. Fermented with a Belgian ale yeast, this blend of barley & wheat malts yields a mixture of clove and fruity aromas, all without the use of any spices. Deliberately brewed to retain a cloudy appearance, Bell’s Winter White Ale is a beer for embracing winter.
MICHIGAN 6PK/12OZ $10.99 ABV 5%
|Point St. Benedicts Winter Ale
St. Benedict of Nursia lived in the late 5th to early 6th centuries. Legend has it while living in solitude, he was befriended by a raven that later saved his life. He is most remembered for writing the Rule of St. Benedict that, among other virtues, teaches humility. Inspired by this Rule we humbly offer St. Benedict’s Winter Ale, a hand-crafted ale using generous amounts of dark roasted malts and the finest noble hops for a robust warming flavor.
WISCONSIN 6PK/12OZ $6.99 ABV 6.2%