Look to your California breweries to remind you of the season's offerings. These five selections (from north to south) include more spicey Winter Warmers and hoppy holiday one-offs. And a dark horse that will remind you that if you can't believe in Santa you can believe in the magic of a well-built beer to inspire and delight. May your bougainvilleas be merry and your sunsets be bright.
Lager brewed with spices (Winter Warmer); 6%
Moylan's hails from a California land so distant to our own that they have their own colloquialisms which are hella good. This example of the umbrella style "Winter Warmer" is a bottom-fermenting lager to which they have added curacao, mace, cinnamon, coriander, and white pepper. Mostly the spice profile screams cinnamon, but what we really loved about this beer is its easy drinkability during a season that produces some of the biggest, strongest beers of the year.
4. Fireside Chat, 21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco)
Ale brewed with spices (Winter Warmer); 7.9%
So comforting is 21st Amendment's Fireside Chat that we can't help but throw on stretchy pants and kick up our feet at first sight of it nestled in the fridge. Released in October, this top-fermenting ale brewed with spices and cocoa nibs is somewhat richer and smoother than the previous Winter Warmer. It's also nearing the end of its seasonal circulation, so grab a six-pack and join us in contemplating what rousing yuletide conversation the label's FDR could possibly be in the midst of with one of Santa's elves.
3. The Ghost of Jacob Barley, Collaboration Noble Ale Works (Anaheim)
American Strong Ale brewed with coffee (Winter Warmer); 9.6%
Coffee and cinnamon enrich this fantastic collaboration between Anaheim's Noble Ale Works and Long Beach's Beachwood BBQ and Brewing. With coffee from Portola Coffee Lab in Costa Mesa it is a truly regional production. Brewed for the OC Brew Ho Ho holiday beer fest, its suggestions of dark chocolate and plum make this special beer more complex than any typical Winter Warmer. This may be our favorite holiday beer, so if you're leaving town make sure this bottle is on your table representing SoCal.