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The 15 Best Christmas Beers

December 18, 2013  |  1:39pm
The 15 Best Christmas Beers
Christmas is my favorite day of the year, but a close second might be the day we do our annual Christmas beer tasting. And this year was our best yet. We doubled the number of contenders, but rather than just give you a round-up of just the ones we tasted this year, we’ve compiled a list of the best we’ve ever had. If you’re at least 21 and you’ve been particularly good this year, maybe Santa will leave one of these beers in your stocking. If you’re European, Father Christmas and Papa Noel might hook you up at 18. And if you’ve been bad, well, some of these Christmas beers with double-digit ABVs may be partly to blame. Here are our absolute favorite Christmas beers available in 2013:

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7. Southern Tier 2XMAS
City: Lakewood, N.Y.
ABV: 8%
Style: Spiced Ale
Key ingredient: Figs
Perfect for: Entertaining Nordic guests
The verdict: Inspired a party where Glögg, a Scandinavian hot mulled wine, was served, the breweries at Southern Tier decided to make a beer with figs, orange peel, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger root and clove. The winter spices are aggressive, but this is a Christmas ale, so we don’t mind at all.

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6. Delirium Noël
City: Melle, Belgium
ABV: 10%
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
Key ingredient: Belgian yeast
Perfect for: Bringing the host the perfect gift
The verdict: Made by Brewery Huyghe, this delicious beer comes in an equally lovely bottle—ceramic with a pink elephant in a Santa hat. The caramel, dark fruit and spice notes hit you right up front.

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5. Ommegang Adoration
City: Cooperstown, N.Y.
ABV: 10%
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
Key ingredient: Sweet Orange Peel
Perfect for: Keeping warm as you play Joseph in the live nativity scene
The verdict: The spices bring this beer alive—coriander, cardamom, mace and grains of paradise, with just a hint of orange peel. But at its heart is a traditional Belgian Christmas ale.

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4. Scaldis Noël
City: Leuze-Pipaix, Belgium
ABV: 12%
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Key ingredient: Belgian candi sugar
Perfect for: After mom and dad have completed their Christmas Eve tasks
The verdict: Bottles of Scaldis Noël are visions of sugar plums that I have dancing in my head on Dec. 24. Extreme sweet, malty flavors make this more like dessert than beer.

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3. Troegs The Mad Elf Holiday Ale
City: Hershey, Penn.
ABV: 11%
Style: American Strong Ale
Key ingredient: Cherries
Perfect for: Making the office Christmas party one to remember—or forget
The verdict: So much yum. The Pennsylvania brewery uses cherries, honey and chocolate malts for a delicious dessert-y beer that can hang right there with the Belgians.

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2. Corsendonk Christmas
City: Oud-Turnhout, Belgium
ABV: 8.5%
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
Key ingredient: Santa’s magic
Perfect for: The official beer of the North Pole
The verdict: The most Christmas-y of Christmas ales, this is the archetypal beer—just the right amount of spices, Belgian candi sugar and caramel malt. This is what we mean when we say “Christmas beer.”

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1. St. Bernardus Christmas
City: Watou, Belgium
ABV: 10%
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Key ingredient: Christmas spices
Perfect for: Drinking with people you love. No, really love.
The verdict: Simply one of the best beers in the world, the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is dark as the richest Belgian chocolate, malty without being too sweet, with a perfect frothy head. At 10% ABV, just one of these will make for a very merry Christmas season.

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