Classic signs that Christmas is right around the corner: Carols play on the radio, a deluge of holiday romance plots hit the screen, and Peaks & Pints suggests a to-go flight of Christmas-themed beers on Veterans Day. You see, ours is a country divided between head-in-the-clouds idealists and stick-in-the-mud realists. Of course, we are referring to people who love to celebrate Christmas early and others who only want to hear a bell jingle, jangle, or rock, two days beginning Dec. 24. Peaks & Pints falls into the early holiday crowd. Good news! Santa’s reindeers delivered Christmas beers to Peaks this week. Throw a heavy jacket across your shoulders and make your way to our craft beer bar, bottle shop and restaurant in Tacoma’s Proctor District to pick up a to-go flight of Christmas beers — a flight we call Peaks and Pints Pilot Program: Novembermas On The Fly.
Abita Christmas Ale
5.5% ABV, 40 IBU
Abita Brewing’s Christmas Ale changes recipes every year with brown ale taking the reins in 2019. It’s not your typical brown ale and might be even closer to a “hoppy red ale.” Brewed with 10 types of malted barley, Christmas Ale is hopped and dry-hopped with Columbus, Cascade, Centennial, and Amarillo for orange and citrus, some caramel, and toffee on the nose. The flavor follows the nose with solid bitterness, more orange, some pine, caramel along with some toffee.
6.7 ABV, 65 IBU
Deschutes Brewery‘s former head brewer John Harris originally brewed Jubelale for Christmas and modeled it after an English strong ale or winter warmer. He brewed that first batch on October 26, 1988, and according to the brewing log, it contained pale malt, caramel malt, chocolate malt, and dextrin malt, and the hops used were Galena, Cascade, “Wills” (assuming Willamette), and Tettnanger in the hop back. Starting gravity was 1.065, and the resulting alcohol was 6.25 percent by volume. The Bend, Oregon brewery has been producing the robust and malty but approachable Jubelale winter festive ale every year since. Its spicy-malt flavor, cocoa, dried fruit and toffee notes ignite cozy warmth on the taste buds — perfect for any number of winter pastimes, like making toys.
7.1% ABV, 48 IBU
Black Raven Brewing’s Festivus holiday strong pale is named after “A Festivus for the Rest of Us,” created by Seinfeld character Frank Costanza who thought the holidays became to be too much: too much buying, too much stress, too much glitz. Costanza’s Festivus holiday included a Festivus pole, feats of strength and the ritual airing of grievances. Black Raven’s Festivus includes oodles of cranberries, citrus fruit peels like orange and Buddha’s hand, and a seasonal blend of spices.
7.6% ABV, 85 IBU
T’is the season for a big, malty hop bomb. … Double Mountain Brewery loads their annual holiday brew up with enough Centennials to fill Santa’s toy bag. Brewed with Gambrinus Organic Pilsner and Munich malt, imported crystal malts and Centennial hops, this winter ale pours a beautifully, burnt orange and huge fluffy head. Aroma hints at the spiciness that follows in the taste. The spice isn’t overwhelming, but complementary to the malt and hop profiles. Expect lingering savory flavors, with a slick and creamy body.
8.3% AB, 33 IBU
Rogue Ales has tagged a subhead to this year’s version of Santa’s Private Reserve: Kringle Krusher. The strong ale is brewed with natural vanilla flavors then aged on rum oak barrel chips. The rum ball-inspired beer’s can show Santa catching Krampus stealing his beloved rum balls where he offers Krampus a choice: either give them back, or wrestle for them. “Krampus, blinded by the allure of the delicious sweets, chose to face Santa in the ring,” states Kringle Krusher hype. “A poor choice, as not even a full minute into the fight, Santa knocked Krampus down and landed a devastating elbow drop. Krampus, writhing in pain, conceded the match and handed over the rum balls. The elbow drop, forever known as the Kringle Krusher, and Santa’s love for the confection are the inspiration for this year’s Santa’s Private Reserve.”
8.5% ABV, 60 IBU
What’s the difference between a Christmas beer and a winter beer? Well, the labels for Christmas beers are usually red and green, while winter beer labels tend to be blue and white. As far as style goes, though, there’s not much to differentiate them. In fact, neither is even an official beer style. It’s fair to say Silver City Brewery’s Old Scrooge Christmas Ale is a Christmas beer. Besides its red and green label and Scrooge reference, “Christmas” is actually in its name. The English barleywine is bound to delight the palate with notes of apple, cherry and apricot.
9.2% ABV, 50 IBU
A Christmas beer with pirate skull and crossbones donning the bottle? This one is for you, Jack Skellington! George and Jane Hancock founded the ma-and-pa Maritime Pacific Brewing Company in an old transmission shop in 1990 in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. In 1997 they opened the Jolly Roger Taproom named, as they say, “in honor of our most popular holiday brew”: Jolly Roger Christmas Ale. A beer fridge staple, Jolly Roger English strong ale combines rich malt character with a blend of fresh Northwest Chinook, Amarillo and Cascade hops.
10% ABV, 28 IBU
All the self-restraint of day-to-day life, the emphasis on physical and fiscal fitness — forget it. These four weeks of holiday celebration are just not like the other 48; you have to approach them with “dog years” math. One holiday week really takes the toll of seven on your body. Obviously, such a pace is exhausting, and you’ll need extra supplies for stamina. So go ahead, enjoy a Brouwerij St. Bernardus Christmas Ale — and if Jenny Craig doesn’t like it, let her do your shopping. While there are plenty of great imported beers, especially from Belgium, this Belgian quadrupel consistently ranks in the top five Christmas beers of all time. It’s meant for sipping: strong, complex and thick with molasses sweetness, apricots and mint. Indulge.
10% ABV, 50 IBU
Evil Twin Brewing‘s Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room imperial stout has an intense black color topped by a fine beige head. The nose is complex with molasses, sweet milk, chocolate, vanilla and licorice, but also notes of espresso in a perfect balance. On the tongue, we get roasted malt, bitter coffee, earthy hops, grape and licorice flavors with a subtle chocolate finish.
10.6% ABV, 94 IBU
Heathen Brewing’s Reindeer Tears is a bourbon barrel-aged American barleywine. It pours cloudy rosé copper with a cream-colored pillow of fine foam that reduces after a minute or so. The nose is brown sugar, burnt orange, wheat, bourbon and citrus. The Tears begins with smooth malts molasses, a bit of toffee followed by caramel. As it warms sweet dark fruity esters appear. As the Tears rolls the bourbon, booze and light spicy oak note along with blunted aged pine hops and spicy wintertime cookies cut perfectly into the thick bodacious sweetness.
Evil Twin Even More Xmas
A solid Evil twin imperial stout — not overly sweet and not loaded with adjuncts. Just a small batch of a big, roasty, carefully crafted imperial stout with heavy coffee notes and a whisper of chocolate.