Hops for the Holidays: Great Craft Beers for Gifting
The holiday season is a fantastic time of year for getting together with family & friends over a home-cooked meal or around a warm fire on a winter’s night. This year, instead of buying everyone socks for the Yankee Swap or bringing a boring green bean casserole to the potluck, why not give the gift that everyone really wants? That’s right. Beer. Even better: delicious craft beer made locally by the amazing brewmasters in the Greater Boston area.
We asked beer aficionado Phil DiCarlo, co-owner of the upcoming Craft Beer Cellar Fenway, to round up some of his favorite local craft beers perfect for all holiday occasions. Phil and his wife Jana Wolfova will be opening Craft Beer Cellar Fenway in early 2016. “We look forward to opening and serving up great beer, great hospitality and education to the neighborhood,” Phil says. “Our store will have a large selection of craft beers from all over the world in addition to an assortment of wines and craft spirits.”
Now, onto your ultimate craft beer gifting guide:
Classic American IPA – Flower Child, 6.5% ABV
Cambridge Brewing Company, Boston
American craft breweries are notoriously obsessed with cramming as much hops into a single drop of beer as possible to increase its complexity. IPAs and double IPAs (like the famous Heady Topper from the Alchemist in Vermont) pack an atomic punch of flavor that can send your head spinning into orbit. Flower Child from Cambridge Brewing Company is a more subtle, maturely balanced yet hoptastic beer with bright floral notes for your IPA enthusiasts, blending pale and honey malts to even the palate. It’s the perfect beer to sip around the fireplace and finally make small talk with your estranged Uncle Ernie.
Phil says, “No beer style is more popular than IPAs and double IPAs. This hoppy style is most revered by the beer geeks on your gift list.”
Traditional Belgian Ale – Spencer Trappist Ale, 6.5% ABV
Spencer Brewery, Spencer
The monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey carry on the centuries-old tradition brewing extraordinary Trappist ales in solemn silence with devout dedication to the craft. These traditional Belgian ales are world-renown for their rich Old World flavor—full-bodied, unfiltered and unpasteurized, with fruity accents and a dry finish. The Trappist Ale is a great choice to impress your friends with your rarified tastes at an ugly sweater party.
Phil says, “There are only 11 monasteries in the world brewing Trappist beers. One of the 11 Trappist breweries run by monks [the only one in the United States] is right here in Massachusetts.”
Imperial Stout – Blaecorn Unidragon, 12.5% ABV
Clown Shoes, Ipswich
Don’t let the D&D name fool you. This is Russian Imperial Stout by the brewmasters at Clown Shoes is very serious beer: a full meal in a bottle. Brewed with a monstrous amount of malt and aggressive hops, this beer is powerful and complex, smoky and smooth, a conqueror’s beer for holiday nights huddled up over a board game with friends.
Phil says, “No style signals the colder months like having a nice stout. When you are looking for a beer to have after dinner, nothing beats a stout. Stouts can deliver coffee, chocolate, maple and many other varieties. Look out for the Imperial Stouts, they pack a punch at ABVs up to 13%.”
Barrel-Aged Barleywine – Entropy, 14.2% ABV
Mystic Brewery, Chelsea
A meticulous aging process with four stages of fermentation and strains of yeast make this barrel-aged beer from Mystic Brewery a true labor of love. It’s an earthy beer with a dark-fruit sweetness similar to a barleywine. Entropy is a sophisticated beer for the secret epicureans in your family, best sampled with the Thanksgiving turkey tasting.
Phil says, “Barrel-aged beers offer very complex flavors in a wide variety of styles. A high ABV barleywine like Entropy offers rich fruit flavors with a boozy finish.”
Other Seasonals to Keep an Eye Out For
Baltic Porter – Framinghammer, 10% ABV
Jack’s Abby, Framingham
Phil says, “Baltic porters are great with a nice smoked meat, potatoes or a creamy dessert. Come to think of it, these beers are a creamy enough dessert on their own.”
Champagne of Beers – Enlightenment Brut, 11% ABV
Enlightenment Ales, Everett
Phil says, “If you are looking for that special beer to ring in the New Year, Brut by Enlightenment Ales is the perfect bottle to uncork for your New Year's celebration. If you don’t like champagne, this is a great substitute.”
Yankee Swap 2015 – Belgian Quad, 12% ABV
Phil says, “We admit we have a soft spot for Slumbrew. This year's Yankee Swap is a Belgian quad. It’s aged in rum barrels and is a very easy drinking 12% ABV beer. This is Slumbrew's third holiday season producing these and the combination of a great name and great beer make this beer the perfect Yankee Swap gift!”
Saison Farmhouse Ale – Session Saison, 4.8% ABV
Notch Brewing, Ipswich
Phil says, “Session beers are easy drinking…while many people associate session beers with the warmer months as they’re great for crushing while doing yard work, Notch Brewing out of Ipswich has made it a great everyday beer.”
Check out your favorite local craft beer store for these favorites or stop by one of Craft Beer Cellar’s locations in the Greater Boston area.