‘Tis the season of poinsettias, spiked eggnog and the mass release of holiday brews. With a plethora of Christmas and winter beers on the market, it can be tough to tell which holiday spiced ale or winter stout will best suit your palate. We’ve selected and reviewed six seasonal beers from breweries across Virginia, each of which showcase their own unique twist on quintessential holiday flavors, from cinnamon and nutmeg to gingerbread and cranberries. We’ve even offered pairing suggestions too, so that one of these brews may become a new addition to your holiday feast.
9519 Critzers Shop Rd., Afton
Blue Mountain Brewery’s Lights Out Holiday Ale is layered with warm, wintery flavors. Even with just a hint of earthy hop spiciness, the zest hits with a kick. Over time, the brew’s deep malt flavor mellows out the fiery Willamette hops with a smooth, rolled oat finish.
Medium-bodied in texture, this old ale-style beer pairs well with grilled or roasted game, lamb, moderately aged cheeses and a spiced-plum walnut tart, perfect for the holidays.
Christmas At Midnight
2410 Granite Ridge Rd., Rockville
This holiday brew boasts a stunning caramel color and plenty of seasonal flavors. Spices from cinnamon and nutmeg are intricately woven into the brew’s malt backbone.
Often described as a snickerdoodle in a bottle, Christmas At Midnight pairs well with vanilla and sugar cookies. Enjoying this spiced ale with mild cheddar cheese, wild game and dark fruit tarts will also enhance the roasted malt flavors that are present in traditional English mild ales.
Winter Pecan Porter
211 W 24th St., Norfolk
O’Connor Brewing Co.’s Winter Pecan Porter greets you with the rich and buttery fragrance of toasted pecans, sourced and roasted locally from the Old Dominion Peanut Company in Norfolk. The first swig of this robust winter brew embraces your palate with semi-sweet flavors and ends with a smooth, nutty finish.
Winter Pecan Porter is perfect for the colder months and pairs wonderfully with classic holiday desserts like pecan pie and cheesecake.
200 Mosbys Run, Roseland
Served by the glass, this sparkling Cran-Gose could be easily mistaken for a rosé. Its light pink hue is developed from the heaps of pureed cranberries incorporated during the traditional German-style brewing process. Known for being a sour beer, the combination of added berries and citrus Centennial hops also give the gose its fruity aroma and tart, crisp finish.
Like a glass of fine champagne, Cran-Gose pairs well with just about everything, but we recommend enjoying this seasonal brew as either a refreshing aperitif or as a complementary craft beverage to smoked and grilled meats or a simple cheese and cracker plate.
2408-2410 Ownby Ln., Richmond
The critically acclaimed Gingerbread Stout doesn’t disappoint. It’s velvety, saccharine and crafted with a delicate blend of cinnamon, vanilla, honeycomb, and of course, ginger. Chocolatey in both color and taste, the rich imperial milk stout goes down slowly and smoothly, leaving just the right amount of ginger spice to linger on the tongue.
Relish the holiday flavors of Gingerbread Stout as a digestif or pair with a warm crème brûlée or dark chocolate lava cake, topped with a heaping scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
Winter Scotch Ale
204 Challenger Way, Hampton
St. George’s full-bodied and malt-forward Winter Scotch Ale is the ideal fireside companion. The sweet, malty aroma that dominates this caramel-colored libation is juxtaposed by the slight roastiness and bitterness in flavor brought forward by hops and peat smoked malt. The brew wraps your tongue with a well-balanced and low hoppy bitterness before seamlessly transitioning into its praised smoky finish.
Like most traditional Scotch ales, Winter Scotch Ale is complemented well by pungent cheeses, creamy desserts and a variety of grilled or smoked meats.