No moment in L.A. feels more wintry than the flash flood warnings issued for a Pineapple Express weather system dumping much-needed precipitation on our parched metropolis. It’s a time to hunker down and hang with people you really like. Decorate the tree, spin the dreidel, or just sit back and enjoy the time off work with a pint in hand.
Considering your commute will be twice as long in the rain, why not throw on that obnoxious Christmas station and dream up what beer you’re going to down the moment you get home. In case you need a few ideas, browse our very own L.A. County winter seasonals list, from traditional to unusual, for ideas.
5. Vanilla Porter, Angel City Brewery (Downtown)
Ale brewed with vanilla beans; 6.5%
Not too spicy, not too smoky, this drinkable beer is a crowd-pleasing party six-pack suitable to guests with a wide array of palates. If you buy bottles for home consumption, we heartily recommend you pair the porter with a classic Christmas film like Die Hard or Gremlins. Though widely available in bottles, it’s at its best poured directly from the Arts District brewery.
4. Ham Porter, Highland Park Brewery (Highland Park)
Ale brewed with ham; 5.3%
It’s nice to see one of this year’s new breweries confident enough to showcase a seasonal beer. Then you discover their winter release, available on tap now at the York Boulevard brewery, was brewed with a whole ham. Shocking? Yes. Appalling? Kinda. Worth a try? Absolutely. The medium-bodied beer has a nice smoky aroma and a little underlying salt with every sip. If you’re going to risk opening a brewery in a city built on restrictive diets (this beer is not vegan), why not go whole hog?
3. Jubilee, Eagle Rock Brewery (Glassell Park)
Ale brewed with spices; 8.1%
This festive, bronze-hued beer boasts a traditional bill of spices — cinnamon, nutmeg, clove — but with a clever banana addition. Jubilee straddles a sophisticated line, balancing complexity with subtlety and well-hidden alcohol. Not easily achieved in a genre of beer that can be as overbearing and chintzy as a Michael’s craft store on holiday clearance. Sip this one in a tulip glass and find peace and clarity during the holiday season.
2. Back Home Gingerbread Stout, Golden Road Brewing Co. (Glendale)
Ginger dominates this smörgåsbord of spices, retaining some of the root’s signature heat. You’ll get molasses and brown sugar flavors, with noticeable toasted chocolate malt sweetness from the four-pack of 16 oz. cans. There are a lot of elements to love in this beer: the seasonable quantity of booze, the aftertaste which will leave you ready for mistletoe, but that ginger kick is what makes this beer the ultimate stomach-settling hair of the dog. If it didn’t get you pie-eyed all over again.
1. Magnificat, Monkish Brewing Co. (Torrance)
Belgian strong ale; 10.1%
This beautiful 750 mL bottle from the South Bay brewery gets our pick for best host gift this season. Not only does the large-format bottle and elegant label make an impact, but the mahogany ale inside will satisfy winter warmer cravings and enliven your spirit. For the true beer lover gift set, buy the 2014 and 2013 release (both available for purchase) and treat your host to a vertical tasting. Just make sure you haven’t left the party when it’s poured.