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The Beer Diaries

Holiday Guide

If it’s beer you’re choosing to help enjoy and/or endure serious familial interfacing come the high holiday season, we’ve got a few helpful suggestions for you. First hint – brewers tend to up the octane at the first sign of waning temperatures. Just sayin’.


What's Inside

Here are the beers in this guide. Click a link below to read the full beer review.

  • Fuller’s Vintage Ale

    Reviewed by on December 17, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Fullers Vintage Ale 2014-landscape

    Fuller Smith & Turner is an English (you don’t say) brewer, and their Vintage Ale is released in fall every year, but for some reason I always associate it with Christmas parties and this festive time of the year.  2014 marks its 18th birthday, and with a pan-Atlantic hop schedule – Goldings from England, and […]

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  • Parallel 49 Black Christmas CDA

    Reviewed by on December 16, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Parallel 49 Black Christmas CDA-landscape

    Black Christmas is Parallel 49’s anti-Christmas offering, pretty much just a straight-up Cascadian Dark Ale – they proclaim to care not a whit about catering to Santa, so let’s see if they follow through on their promises. This 341ml bottle pours a clear (I think), very dark brown colour, with prominent basal cola highlights, and […]

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  • Big Sky Biere de Noël

    Reviewed by on December 15, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Big Sky Biere de Noel-landscape

    Biere de Noël is Big Sky Brewing’s holiday seasonal offering, a Belgian strong ale, which is quite appropriate for this time of year.  I quite like the label depiction of an elf kicking back on the day after Christmas, with a glass of this in hand. This 355ml bottle pours a clear, medium bronzed amber […]

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  • Wäls Tropical Christmas Saison

    Reviewed by on December 12, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Wals Tropical Christmas Saison-landscape

    Cervejaria Wäls is a brewery from Belo Horizonte, a large metro area in the interior of Brazil – here, they have appropriated Christmas themed beers by taking a Belgian-style saison, raising the ABV, and providing figs and raisins to the mix, which I’m guessing adds up to and/or justifies the ‘Tropical’ moniker. This 330ml bottle […]

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  • New Belgium Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale

    Reviewed by on December 11, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    New Belgium Frambozen-landscape2

    Fast on the heels of the Accumulation winter beer from this brewery, we now have a fruity Christmas offering, if the wreath on the label is to be taken with any amount of gravitas. This 12oz bottle pours a clear, very bright red brick amber hue, with three fingers of puffy, loosely foamy, and moderately […]

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  • Bridge Road Fat Man Red Suit Big Sack

    Reviewed by on December 10, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Bridge Road Fat Man Red Suit Big Sack-landscape

    Bridge Road is a craft brewery situated in Beechworth, Victoria, Australia, a town a few hundred miles inland from Melbourne.  I can’t imagine that they get a lot of typical winter weather there, but they do seem to possess the spirit of the season, and ‘Fat Man Red Suit Big Sack’ is a great name […]

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  • Nøgne Ø God Advent

    Reviewed by on December 8, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Nøgne Ø - God Advent-landscape

    God Advent (‘good Advent’, in English), is an offering from these big-beer loving Norwegians, and is meant to celebrate the highs and the lows of the winter/holiday season, as described on the label.  It is an appropriately named brew for day 1 of the 2014 Craft Beer Advent calendar, available in Western Canada. This 250ml […]

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  • Port Santa’s Little Helper

    Reviewed by on December 5, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Port Brewing Santas Little Helper-landscape

    Port Brewing is an outfit from San Diego County, California, and Santa’s Little Helper is their offering to replace the milk and cookies that the big guy must be getting tired of by now, right?  Oh, and it’s a Bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout! This 12.7oz, caged and corked bottle pours a solid, light-destroying black abyss, […]

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  • Townsite Blackberry Festivale

    Reviewed by on December 1, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Townsite Blackberry Festivale-landscape

    Townsite Brewing is situated in Powell River, British Columbia, which is well up the Sunshine Coast from Vancouver.  The town is apparently overrun with blackberries, and they even have a festival in late summer to celebrate them.  Now, they’ve released a ‘FestiveAle’ to go along with this holiday season, or at least that’s when they […]

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  • Russell Naughty & Spiced Porter

    Reviewed by on November 28, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Russell Naughty & Spiced Porter-landscape

    Russell Brewing comes to us from Surrey in suburban Vancouver, BC, and this is their holiday seasonal ale – made with various spices, aged on (not in, on) oak, with a few vanilla beans added for good measure. This 650ml bottle pours a solid near-black, with thorough cola highlights, and two chubby fingers of puffy, […]

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  • Le Trou Du Diable La Grivoise De Noël

    Reviewed by on November 27, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    LTDD La Grivoise de Noel-landscape

    Le Trou du Diable is a brewery from Shawinigan, Quebec, who take their name from a local cave formation – the “Devil’s Hole”, in English.  La Grivoise is their Christmas ale, which falls along their typically cheeky pattern for naming their beers – here, perhaps it is time for a wee bit of the ol’ […]

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  • Samichlaus Classic

    Reviewed by on November 26, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Samichlaus Classic-landscape

    Samichlaus (Santa Claus in English) is produced once a year, on December 6, and then aged for 10 months, to be released the following winter.  It is made in the style of a very strong doppelbock, and was once considered the strongest beer in the world.  Since surpassed, they have resorted to calling it ‘the […]

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  • Our Special Ale 2014 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

    Reviewed by on November 25, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Anchor Christmas Ale 2014-landscape

    San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing has released their Christmas Ale every year since 1975, always with a different recipe, and always with a different tree depicted on the label – this year, it’s the Sequoiadendron giganteum representing California, which I would imagine to be the basis for one kick-ass Christmas Tree setup. This 12oz bottle pours […]

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  • Ninkasi Sleigh’r Dark Doüble Alt Ale

    Reviewed by on November 24, 2014 in Holiday Guide
    Ninkasi Sleighr-landscape

    As we roll into American Thanksgiving week, the Christmas brews are starting to take over the beer store shelves, including this one from Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing.  Nice combination of odes – the traditional holidays, esoteric German beer styles, and heavy metal. Oh, and I do loves me some thoroughly unnecessary umlauts! This 22oz bottle pours […]

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  • Moylan’s White Christmas Spiced Winter Lager

    Reviewed by on December 24, 2013 in Holiday Guide
    Moylans White Christmas Spiced Winter Lager-landscape

    The winter holiday seasonal from Moylan’s, which purports to be a dark lager, well-dosed with a litany of spices, including, interestingly, mace, as well as a sort of witbier twist.  Always a bit weird to see a Christmas offering from the Golden State, but since they have a stellar record of making good beer, I’m […]

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  • Huyghe Delirium Noël

    Reviewed by on December 23, 2013 in Holiday Guide
    Huyghe Delirium Noël-landscape

    Christmas time, Christmas beer. Easy choice, encased in a shiny foil capped faux-ceramic bottle, with Santa leading a team of pink elephants on a spacey (in more than one way) flight away from Earth.  The label for this offering also varies from market to market between ‘Delirium Christmas’, and the native French ‘Delirium Noël’. This […]

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  • Evil Twin Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room

    Reviewed by on December 5, 2013 in Holiday Guide
    Evil Twin Christmas Eve

    The name of this beer is somewhat intriguing, as it suggests exhilaration and mild depression, two conflicting emotions on an already heightened  rollercoaster of seasonal to and fro. At first pop of the cap of this 330ml bottle, I stupidly assumed this would be like any other imperial stout out there, and sit there quietly […]

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  • Ticinese Bad Attitude Rudolph

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Bad Attitude Rudolph

    A nice way to finish this western Canadian, central-Europe beer-sourced Craft Beer Advent calendar ordeal off, what with a rabid-appearing cartoon reindeer greeting me first thing on Christmas Eve morn, and now again right after a shortened work day. This 330m stubby bottle pours a hazy dark bronzed amber hue, with two fingers of densely […]

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  • Brùton St. Renna

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Bruton St. Renna

    Here we have an upstart Italian microbrewery, from a region between Florence and Pisa, and their Christmas Ale, it would seem, produced with honey and unspecified spices. The name is likely a play on the Italian word for gift (strenna), and the the word for reindeer (renna), as the sub-title is ‘la birra delle renne’, […]

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  • Trappistes Rochefort 8

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Rochefort 8 Christmas

    A sturdy Belgian-style bomber of this purported nectar of the gods, replete with a hearty image of Santa Claus beaming from the otherwise standard label.  It sure is nice to be able to try these Trappist offerings without an indeterminate trip to the brewery itself, eh? This 750ml bottle pours a cloudy, very dark golden […]

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  • X-Mas Hop

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    De Molen X-Mas Hop

    A De Molen product that has apparently been shipped to Canada as part of a Craft Beer Advent calendar.  Wow, a label from this brewery that I don’t need Google Translate in order to figure out. Huh. This 330ml bottle pours a hazy, muddled dark golden hue, with three fingers of puffy, foamy, and bulbous […]

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  • Fort Garry St. Nick’s Oaked Spiced Porter

    Reviewed by on December 4, 2013 in Holiday Guide
    Ft. Garry St. Nick's Oaked Spiced Porter

    Hot on the heels of the big fat guy’s arrival here in the great white north, as well as everywhere else on the planet, apparently, comes the latest in this brewery’s Brewmaster Series. Spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and all-spice, and then aged on oak chips. How homebrew-friendly! And SPICEtastically OAKstravagant! (That’s a label thing.) This […]

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  • The Bruery 5 Golden Rings

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    The Bruery 5 Golden Rings

    Part 5 of a very cool idea for a decade-plus spanning holiday release series. Made with pineapple juice and the cake-friendly spices of cinnamon, allspice and ginger. This 750ml bottle pours a hazy, solid medium golden amber hue, with three fingers of foamy, puffy off-white head, which leaves some broad, random specks of spattered lace […]

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  • Pike Auld Acquaintance Hoppy Holiday Ale

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Pike Auld Acquaintance

    Auld Acquaintance is Pike’s holiday ale, made with additions of orange peel, coriander, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The label reminds me of a now-tired Denis Leary rant about Santa Claus not being on the list of acceptable images to be on his beer bottle. This 650ml bottle pours a slightly hazy, medium copper colour, with one […]

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  • Baird Jubilation Ale

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Baird Jubilation Ale

    A celebratory tipple, I assume, for the winter season, one from which we here in certain parts of North America have been experiencing a mite bit longer than this has been available. This 633ml bottle pours a hazy dark burnt amber colour, with two fingers of creamy, bubbly off-white head, which leaves a low seaward […]

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  • Deschutes Jubelale

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Deschutes Jubelale

    Deschutes Brewery puts this winter ale out in the late fall Pacific NW time, with updated label artwork every year. The 25th anniversary bottle depicts a group of (presumably) caroling musicians gathered around a glowing, sunflower-esque street lamp. This 12oz bottle pours a clear, rusty orange brick hue, with two fingers of tightly foamy, somewhat […]

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  • Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2012

    Reviewed by on December 3, 2013 in Holiday Guide
    Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

    Sierra Nevada has been making this an annual winter offering since 1981, using the first fresh hops of the attendant growing season, in order to convey the big pine and citrus notes that west coast American IPAs have become renowned for, and, I suppose, to reflect two of the strongest Yuletide essences, at least to […]

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  • Parallel 49 Ugly Sweater

    Reviewed by on December 2, 2013 in Holiday Guide
    Parallel 49 Ugly Sweater

    Arriving in a 341ml bottle this is just an awesome idea for a Christmas-themed offering – the label appears to be a hillbilly Conan O’Brien, resplendent in his worst holiday pullover. This beer pours a deep, dark, darned-near black hue, with sexy ruby cola highlights when duly back-lit, and two solid fingers of broadly bubbly, […]

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  • Mikkeller Hoppy Lovin’ Christmas

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Mikkeller Hoppy Lovin' Christmas

    A 330ml bottle, with some weird reindeer feeding time artwork on the label. Made with ginger and pine spruce tips. This beer pours a mostly clear, medium golden yellow hue, with two fingers of tightly foamy, somewhat creamy off-white head, which leaves a decent array of specked painted lace around the glass as it slowly […]

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  • St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

    This appears to be along the lines of this brewery’s ABT 12 offering, but gussied up even further with some nice seasonal spices. An imposing, yet lovingly festive 750ml bottle. The beer itself pours a muddy, sediment-strewn orangish brown hue, with one finger of thickly foamy, soapy beige head, which leaves some sparse specks of […]

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  • Thiriez Biere De Noel

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Thiriez Biere de Noel

    If you do a bit of searching you’ll discover a number of Bieres De Noel from a variety of breweries. This particular version was made by Brasserie Thirez, a French brewery located in a region of Flanders located a few miles from Belgium. A unique version is produced each year, so let’s discuss 2012’s edition. […]

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  • Wychwood Bah Humbug

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Wychwood Bah Humbug

    A relatively long-standing Christmas offering from this Oxfordshire brewery. Nice label – the Dickensian yuletide imagery is pretty spot-on. This beer pours an attractive medium amber hue, with two fingers of creamy, puffy off-white head, which leaves some thin webbed lace in its slowly-receding wake. It smells of biscuit and caramel malt, and a very […]

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  • Ducato Krampus

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Ducato Krampus

    This seasonal offering comes to us in a 750ml squat sparkling Champagne-esque bottle. Strange devil/saint dualism imagery on the front label. How is this Christmas/Holiday-related, you might be wondering? Well, the back label, in Italian, tells the story of the European alpine region legend of a demonic anti-Santa character (the Krampus), who roams the streets […]

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  • Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper 2012

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper

    A lovely Christmas wrapping paper striped label, on a 750ml red foil capped bottle, gives more than a simple clues as to what we are in for here. Mikkeller has produced this particular offering for a few years now, slightly altering the recipe from year to year. The current offering boasts Northern Brewer, Hallertau, and […]

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  • Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve Ale

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Rogue Santa

    A prototypical 22oz bottle, the label replete with a hefty stein-hoisting Ol’ Saint Nick, striking the pose of all of Rogue’s marketing images, that of a raised-fist, ‘power to the people’ thing. With its additional white snowflakes, the whole thing glows in the dark, just as the ‘Snowflakes Glisten’ proclamation indicates. Rather kitschy, and cool […]

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  • Mikkeller Fra Til Via (From To Via)

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Mikkeller-Fra-Til-Via

    This beer comes to us in a 750ml gold-foil capped bottle, apparently a new version for this year. The label is essentially a reproduction of those tiny to/from stickers everybody uses for Christmas gifts. This beer pours a rather aggressively foamy nature, of the dense bubbly mocha sort, with an underlying solid black hue, and […]

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  • Mikkeller Red/White Christmas Ale

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Mikkeller Red/White

    This hoppy, spiced ale comes in a rather impressive 1.5L bottle, with some nice red and white (of course) snowfall imagery on the label. The ‘red’ and ‘white’ of the name refer to the blending of an English-style red ale, with a Belgian-style white beer. Another interesting pairing for this nomadic Danish brewer. What we […]

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  • De Ranke Pere Noel

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    De Ranke Pere Noel

    This is an interesting entry as a holiday or Christmas ale as it doesn’t follow the usual characteristics of being big, malty and sweet and instead fairly closely follows the Belgian Strong Pale Ale style. These are sometimes also called Golden Ales, due to their appearance, but don’t be fooled; they can be powerful and […]

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  • La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux

    As far as I can tell this is a holiday beer since the character on the bottle is wearing the uniform of one of Santa’s Elves; he’s also giving my logo a bit of an eye, so I’m not sure what to think. In spite of this I still drank the beer. It’s classified as […]

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  • Gouden Carolus Christmas

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Gouden Carolus Christmas

    Het Anker has reportedly been operating since the mid-15th century. It has gone through multiple owners over the year and continues to produce delicious beers. Their Gouden Carolus Classic, another Belgian Strong Dark Ale, is a veritable classic in the beer world. Their holiday release, the Gouden Carolus Christmas is classified as a Belgian Strong […]

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  • Anchor Brewing Merry Christmas Happy New Year 2012

    Reviewed by on in Holiday Guide
    Anchor Christmas 2012

    Every year Anchor comes up with a new Holiday beer with a different combination of spices and flavors. Additionally, for you arborists out there, the bottle features a unique image of a coniferous tree. Enough academics, let’s discuss the beer. This beer is a spiced ale (another technical name is Winter Warmer); typically these are […]

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