Gone are the long, hot summer days that call our hearts to big, hoppy beers. 'Tis the season for the winter-warming of holiday ales. In this uncharacteristically cold Los Angeles December, a spicey pint or boozey snifter is just the thing to help you make merry.
Brewers have a tendency to become overzealous with spices this time of year. Our list of California beers provides alternative options if nutmeg is your kryptonite. Whether you're staying in town or on your way out, grab a bottle as a last minute stocking-stuffer, as a host gift, or as to ease family relations. Just don't let it end up in the hands of TSA or you'll have a humbug holiday.
Preparing for the end of the world? Not to worry, there's a beer for every occasion– even the Mayan Apocalypse. Prefer an international gift or need ideas for harder hooch? Check out our Belgian Christmas edition or our wishlist for spirits. And to all a good night.
Our Special Ale; Anchor Brewing Co. (San Francisco)
Spiced Beer 5.5% abv
You have to really love nutmeg to like this beer. It's the most heavily spiced seasonal we've encountered– think Yankee Candle intensity– but it's also one of the pioneering American holiday ales. The recipe is altered slightly every year, the 1.5 liter magnum bottle with built-in To/ From label will make you a very popular secret santa.
Winter Solstice; Anderson Valley Brewing Co. (Boonville)
Spiced Beer 6.9%
If you're averse to the omnipresent previously mentioned spice bombs saturating the market, Winter Solstice is an excellent alternative. Chocolate and caramel flavors are more noticeable than the allspice and cinnamon of which the label claims. Find it in a six-pack convenient for sharing and enjoy an affordable asset through the New Year.
Jubilee; Eagle Rock Brewing Co. (Eagle Rock)
Spiced Old Ale 8.1% abv
This hometown favorite offers a flavor profile packed with raisin, vanilla, and molasses minerality that will distinguish it from others choices. Head to the taproom Dec. 20th for the fugly sweater competition. A great selection if you're headed out of town and want to bring an authentic taste of L.A. with you.
You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid!; Noble Ale Works (Anaheim)
Winter Warmer with Apple Cider 9.1% abv
The presence of cider in this local beer makes it stand out. Expect cinnamon balanced by apple sweetness. Plus, there's a fun kitsch value to the label and it will make a great accompaniment to the 24 hour Christmas Story marathon you're destined to watch.
Judgement Day: Mayan Apocalypse; Lost Abbey (San Marcos)
Quadrupel 10.5% abv
Not technically a holiday beer, we had to include this ode to the end of the world. A hot and spicy version of Judgment Day, if you open a bottle on Dec. 21, at least you'll go down fighting. Empty bottle will double as a zombie braining device. At least that's our plan.
Honorable mentions: don't forget a bottle of He'Brew to raise your esteem amongst kosher friends. Santa's Little Helper from Port Brewing is the perfect choice for a quintessential winter warmer– big, dark, and boozy, or a beer by the same name brewed by Mikkeller, which is the safest stocking stuffer for the beer-lover in your life.