As we continue the trudge through the holiday season, two things are certain; there will be exactly zero parking spaces within a square mile of where you’re trying to shop, and once you're home, you’re going to need a drink to be able to maintain any semblance of peace or joy.
'Tis the season for sleigh-bells and mistletoe but hallelujah, it’s also the season for belly-warming ales, porters and stouts. We’ve picked out five locally-crafted Holiday beers that will help you keep the memory of the time you didn’t find that Teddy Ruxpin under the Christmas tree repressed. Or at the very least, they’ll help you navigate those awkward family parties.
Since opening its doors in 2008, The Bruery has been a beacon for creativity and experimentation for craft breweries across the country. Now in the seventh year of their 12 Days/Years of Christmas series, the company took a step back from the envelope pushing—2 Turtle Doves was brewed with cocoa nibs and toasted pecans and 2012’s 5 Golden Rings was made with pineapple—to present an elegant and traditional Belgian quad. 7 Swans-A-Swimming is brewed to style, meaning that The Bruery, known for producing delicious ales interjected with innovation, took their best swing at producing a Belgian quad with nothing but water, malt, yeast hops and a bit of Belgian dark candy sugar. The result is a full-bodied dessert ale, that’s as sweet as it is traditional. We suggest finding a few other carolers to share with before diving into this hefty holiday brew.
Where we found it: Whole Foods, 6550 E. Pacific Coast Highway
Five Wee Heavy Bells
Named after the famous bells that adorn the Mission de Alcala in San Diego, Karl Strauss’ fifth installment in their “12 days” holiday ales series combines a Scotch ale and Scotch-soaked American oak chips to create an ale that will awaken your inner Ron Burgundy. Like the other beers in this San Diego-inspired series, there is nothing wee in the alcohol department about Five Wee Heavy Bells. Weighing in at a robust 9.5 percent alcohol by volume, Five Wee Heavy Bells is designed to be enjoyed now, or placed in a cellar to be enjoyed with the Ghost of Christmas Future. This malt-rich ale is smooth despite its burly alcohol content and provides a warm finish, a welcome feeling on those cold winter nights. Stay classy, San Diego.
Where we found it: Stearns Liquor, 4360 E. Stearns Street
Santa’s Little Helper
Port Brewing’s Santa’s Little Helper is the quintessential after-dinner beer. In fact, the San Diego-based brewery recommends on its site that you pair it with leftover fruit cake or sugar cookies. Since 1997, this brewery has been pumping out award-winning beers that eventually won it the Great American Beer Festival’s Small Brewery of the Year Award a decade later. Santa’s Little Helper is no exception; the flavor profile focuses on dark cocoa and coffee beans but also has an element of hops—oh, and it isn’t shy about the booze that lies behind the cute label depicting a beer and reindeer having a cold one at the neighborhood elf bar. Santa’s Little Helper is big and strong enough to pull Santa’s sleigh all by itself (10% ABV) but we recommend you take the Rudolph route and find some friends to help you work through this one.
Where we found it: Bevmo, 6521 Pacific Coast Highway
Black Market Brewing Co.
Temecula is known for its wine, but if Black Market Brewing Company has anything to say about it, this sleepy Inland Empire city will soon be on the craft beer map, too. What started out as a one barrel brewing system on a tight budget, the company’s brews can now be found far outside the radius of wine country, including Public Beer and Wine bottle shop right here in Downtown. Black Market’s Holiday 2014, their second installment in this series, makes a great stocking stuffer for lovers of dark beers and hops. This Cascadian dark style ale (Triple Black IPA) is brewed with Citra, Mosaic and other experimental hops to give this ale a nice malty and hoppy blend. Since it’s the season for giving, we hope Holiday 2014 (11.2 % ABV) will find you among thirsty friends when you pop this bottle. Pick it up at the bottle shop at Public, or stay a while and try some of their other seasonal brews on their 12 rotating craft taps.
Where we found it: Public Beer and Wine Shop, 121 West 4th Street
Enjoy By 12.26.14
Some of the beers mentioned on this list were built to last a very long time. While cellaring a brew and waiting for it to condition in the bottle can be fun, Stone Brewing Co. caters to a much more impatient crowd. Its Enjoy By series was created to do the opposite of cellar, it’s meant to not last. Like the dropping of the ball on New Year’s Eve, this double IPA waits for nobody. The expiration date brazenly stamped on the front of the bottle, Stone demands that you drink this crisp, fresh and at 9.4%, surprisingly sessionable double IPA. They’ve decked the halls with citrus and floral notes for this very hoppy holiday beer that will help you bring a little more cheer to the festivities this year. But hurry, you have less than five days and the clock is a tickin’.
Where we found it: Eddie’s Market, 2444 E. 4th Street
The holidays can be draining, but we hope these five locally-crafted ales will guide you through the night like the illuminated nose of an outcast reindeer and deliver you to the intersection of holiday cheer and holiday beer.
Happy Holidays from the Post!