Giving beer as a present offers the recipient two options: Drink it or cellar it.
Either way, you can’t lose. If they choose to open it right away, you—the giver—can reap the rewards of sharing in your smartly chosen beer. If they put it in a cool, dark place for a few years, they’ll think fondly of you, their generous and knowledgeable friend, whenever they survey their beer shelf.
In the spirit of giving (and maybe even getting a little back), here are 10 new, large-format or otherwise special beers that would make lovely stocking-stuffers or additions to your holiday dinner table.
1. 2nd Shift Liquid Spiritual Delight. The first limited-run bottles from New Haven’s 2nd Shift Brewing Co. made their way to a few St. Louis stores this week. Liquid Spiritual Delight—LSD for short—is a rich, roasty stout with flavors of coffee, chocolate and dark fruit. At 7.5 percent alcohol by volume, you could open it now or tuck it away for a year to let the flavors develop. $9.99 for a 750-ml bottle.
2. Ayinger Celebrator. This German-brewed doppelbock is a classic example of the style, deep reddish-brown in color, and flavors of bready malts, toffee and brown sugar. Celebrator, with 6.7 percent alcohol by volume, is a cold-weather beer if there ever was one, and the little goat trinkets on every bottle make nice Christmas tree ornaments. $10.29 for four-pack of 11-ounce bottles.
3. Boulevard Harvest Dance Wheat Wine. The winter release in Boulevard Brewing Co.’s Smokestack Series is this standout wheat wine that packs a punch at 9.1 percent alcohol by volume. Harvest Dance is brewed with an abundance of malted wheat, as well as Hallertau and Citra hops. Aging the brew on French and American oak gives it a smooth, creamy finish that complements its soft, wheaty mouthfeel. $8.49 for a 750-ml bottle.
4. Budweiser World Series Champions Bottles Anheuser-Busch. InBev released these limited-edition aluminum bottles this month to commemorate the world champion Cardinals. Buy a case and pass them out to your co-workers and the beer-loving baseball fans on your holiday shopping list. $17.99 for 15 12-ounce bottles.
5. Grand Teton Wake Up Call Imperial Coffee Porter. Idaho’s Grand Teton Brewing Co. sourced beans from Utah’s Caffe Ibis Coffee Roasting Co. to brew this imperial porter that the brewery recently released as part of its 2011 Cellar Reserve Series. Try it with roasted meats or chocolate desserts. $8.99 for a 750-ml bottle.
6. He’Brew Genesis 15:15. For its 15th anniversary, Shmaltz Brewing Co. presents drinkers with this barrel-aged barleywine. He’Brew Genesis 15:15 is loaded with seven types of hops in addition to pomegranate, fig, date and grape juice. The brew is then aged for eight months in Sazerac 6-Year Rye Whiskey barrels. At 13.4 percent alcohol by volume, the most festive beer this Christmas season might be a He’Brew one. $10.99 for a 22-ounce bottle.
7. Mikkeller Red/White Christmas. For a truly international taste of the holidays, pick up a magnum of this beer, a hybrid of a British red ale and a Belgian witbier from Danish brewer Mikkeller. American hops and orange peels round out the citrusy flavors of this bright winter ale. $23.99 for a 1.5-liter bottle.
8. Odell Friek. Fresh off a gold-medal win in this year’s Great American Beer Festival’s wood-aged sour-beer category, Odell Friek returned to store shelves this week in cork-and-cage-finished bottles. The name is a nod to its blending of framboise and kriek styles of beer, using Colorado-grown raspberries and cherries in the brew. Wild yeasts and oak-barrel aging help create a bright, tart, refreshing and complex beer that’s one of the year’s best. $15.99 for a 750-ml bottle.
9. Perennial Saison de Lis. Whole chamomile flowers used to make this beer lend soft floral notes to the aroma and flavor of this Belgian-style saison from Perennial Artisan Ales, one of St. Louis’ newest craft breweries. At just 5 percent alcohol by volume, this is a drink-while-fresh, food-friendly beer that deserves a spot at the holiday table. $10.99 for a 750-ml bottle.
10. Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale 2011. One of the best values in holiday ales, Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale is brewed under contract by Canada’s Unibroue. The Belgian-style strong dark ale delivers flavors of booze-soaked fruit and herbal spices. It’s big enough (9 percent alcohol by volume) to drink now or lay down for a few years. $4.99 for a 750-ml bottle.
©2011 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch