Have a beer-y merry Christmas. Photo by Catherine Downes.

Taste Test Thursday: Holiday Beer

Every label taunts the palate with promises of pecans, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, oranges, cocoa, and even toffee.

So you’re running late to your sister’s boyfriend’s boss’ holiday party and agreed to grab a seasonally appropriate six-pack on the way. The beer aisle at the liquor store is littered with decorative packaging, each boasting its own brand of holiday delight. Every label taunts the palate with promises of pecans, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, oranges, cocoa, and even toffee. How the heck are you supposed to choose?

We tasted six different holiday brews — that come in six-pack form — for this week’s blind taste test. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. So, which one is the best according to D Magazine staffers? Is it the same as your personal favorite? Do you even like holiday beer? Let us know in the comments below.

The beer:

A. Shiner Holiday Cheer
B. Breckenridge Christmas Ale
C. Deschutes Jubelale
D. Lakewood Holiday Bonus
E. Anchor Christmas Ale
F. Saint Arnold Christmas Ale

Tasting notes:

Shiner Holiday CheerIMG_9944 copy

  • Peachy undertones and a little sweet. Seems more like a summer beer to me.
  • Berry aroma, bright and floral, but altogether not pleasant. Astringent aftertaste and mouthfeel.
  • Sweet nose, kinda flat. Flavor is dim, like a faded syrup.
  • Very sweet! Berries. And maybe orange? Delicious.
  • Peachy. I think this might be Shiner Cheer. Serviceable, but too sweet if you drink too many. (WHICH I WILL.)

Breckenridge Christmas Ale IMG_9925 copy

  • Like any other sour beer.
  • Malty aroma. Unremarkable. Blah, I’m getting nothing here. Bored.
  • This doesn’t smell like much of anything and is pretty heavy on the malt. Not bad.
  • Bright, fresh, fruity.
  • Low carbonation. Almost tastes flat. Taste is nothing special.

Deschutes JubelaleIMG_9929 copy

  • A sour beer, but Christmas-y sour beer.
  • Beautiful head, its malty backbone is tapping on my wine cellars, then a hop pow right in the licker. Bold and bright with good stubble.
  • Also doesn’t have much of a smell. It’s more bitter than the rest, I’m into it.
  • Not my favorite.
  • Good bitterness. Nice head and lacing. I like this. A little apricot-y, which I appreciate.

Lakewood Holiday Bonus IMG_9933 copy

  • Roasted and chocolaty. But where’s the Christmas spirit?
  • Caramel nose, banana, good hefty stout. But not too much alcohol. Good hop back, like a gentle hand around the jugular, in a good way.
  • Kinda tastes like fruit at the end. There’s more spice in this than the others.
  • Dense but smooth. A bit woody, and maybe maple?
  • Much darker than the rest. Roasty flavor, with a fruity nose. Very bitter aftertaste; I actually don’t mind it.

Anchor Christmas Ale IMG_9939 copy

  • Definitely smells and tastes like Christmas. Eggnog in beer form.
  • Gingerbread nose, cloves in the mouth, my mouth. Good clarity, good drinkability. This is the most festive tasting.
  • Smells like gingerbread beer? Odd, but it’s the season. Oh, I like this flavor. Maybe it’s the increased carbonation.
  • Tastes like Christmas! Nutmeg?
  • Cloves and Christmasy, but flavor falls flat.

Saint Arnold Christmas Ale IMG_9943 copy

  • Too hoppy for my taste. Unnecessary fruity undertones.
  • Smells like an old feeding bin, mostly metal and rust and the age of a mildew whisper. Oh, and corn. Heavy carb followed by grape. This is fine but only suitable in small doses.
  • This sucks. This tastes flat. It makes me feel like I drank something I left out last night.
  • Smooth and yummy; subtle nutty flavor.
  • Get it together, F. You’re terrible.

Tally up:

Shiner Holiday Cheer: 0
Breckenridge Christmas Ale: 0
Deschutes Jubelale: 0
Lakewood Holiday Bonus: 1
Anchor Christmas Ale: 4
Saint Arnold Christmas Ale: 0

The winner is:

Anchor Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale won this week’s taste test challenge with four out of the five votes. The San Francisco brewery has been bottling their holiday ale since 1975, and each year the recipe (along with the type of tree that’s printed on the bottle) changes. The 2014 tree is the Giant Sequoia, as for the malt and hops used? That’s “top secret.”

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