Holiday Beer Fight


The holidays are in full swing and every brewery is looking to capitalize on a holiday themed beers. At our local store we grabbed beers that focused on holiday flavors and had a holiday name. The winter season brings in full-bodied heavy beers and popular styles are porters, stouts, and Belgian varieties. We tend to look for those sipping beers that keep us warm in the winter cold. The holiday beers we tried are (there’s more out there): Shriner Holiday Cheer by Spoetzl Brewery, Winter Beer 2012 by Innis & Gunn, Snowdrift Vanilla Porter by Leinenkugel’s and Winter Warmer by Harpoon Brewery. Prior to the taste test we were expecting prototypical winter beers and for the most part we got it. The holidays come with a sweet spiciness, however, one missing style which seems ridiculous is an IPA, this grassy, sometimes evergreen/spruce flavor style is the embodiment of a Christmas tree. Not sure how every brewery could miss that, but sadly they have. Never the less, the holiday themed beers were tasty, but not terribly inventive.

First up is the Shiner Holiday Cheer by Spoetzl Brewery. We were not terribly impressed with this peach flavored beer that had hardly any body and we were more convinced this was a slightly savory cider. Beers have a character of barley and we were tasting fruit. This beer would be perfect for those beer beginners looking for a sweet beer without much kick.

Pairings: Salads, fruits and sweet citrus dishes


The Winter Warmer by Harpoon Brewery is a bit of an enigma. We have nothing but love for Harpoon, and their holiday beer tastes of a grainy guava and hints of lavender. We notice the hits of cinnamon and nutmeg as they come out with sweet flavor notes. We were not warm, nor did this remind us of winter, however it was very tasty.

Pairings: Savory desserts, white meats, and light/fresh cheeses


The Winter Beer 2012 from Innis & Gunn is the beer that reminds us of bourbon. Innis & Gunn barrel age their beers and we’re getting lots of salty tobacco and beef jerky in aroma and flavor. There’s a slight sherry flavor note that hits first, followed by a full-bodied beast. At nearly 8% ABV this beer packs a punch. We might have this after dinner as a digestive.

Pairings: Warm (spiced) apple pie and any red meats


The Snowdrift Vanilla Porter by Leinenkugel Brewery takes us back to those cold days remedied by a hot cocoa or a hot toddy. This porter is winter in a bottle. Coffee and cocoa forward with a full body to back it up. This is by far the winner as this beer stands up to the cold best. The sweetness is towards the finish and suprisingly this beer clocks in at 7% ABV perfect for a few by the fire.

Pairings: Dark chocolate and red roasted meats


We were really expecting much more from holiday themed beers and will continue the search. Holidays require savory flavor profiles and lack citrus that we got from some of the taste tested beers. Stouts and porters are a good start for beers to be drunk during the winter. When it comes to pairings, a dish tastes the best when the beverage matches.

(Image Credits: Bruce Leong/Dapper Guide)