When you think of holiday beers, you probably think of brews that include the same spices that are used in mulled wines and hot ciders (allspice, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon). While the best brewers use a light hand and produce balanced and pleasing winter warmers, there are more than a few spice bombs out there.
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The best holiday beers on the market encompass a grab bag of styles ranging from pungent India Pale Ales to bold malty lagers to Belgian-inspired fruit beer. We also found a couple of righteously spicy takes that strike the right balance between beer and spice. Here are the best holiday ales out this year.
Brewer: Ninkasi Brewing
Style: German Altbier
You might expect that a brewery named after the ancient Sumerian goddess of brewing would take a more reverential approach to holiday tradition. Instead, the Eugene, Oregon–based Ninkasi features the big guy standing up in his sleigh and flashing devil horns. Sleigh'R is what the brewery calls a Dark Doüble Alt Ale. Alt translates to "old" in German, and the altbier style is brewed in what Germans consider the old way, with ale yeast instead of lager yeast. The beers are well-balanced with warm malt flavors and a punchy finishing bitterness.
Sleigh'R is deep brown with toasty, caramel aromas and flavors, a hefty 7.2-percent alcohol punch, and a bitter finish that's just short of IPA levels. It's refreshingly drinkable, and we'd give it a thumbs up, but under the circumstances, we'll just flash the devil horns and order another pint.