I have a well-documented disdain for Christmas beers, winter warmers, and other beers with cutsie holiday-inspired names like Silver Beers and Jingle Beers and Have Yourself a Beery Little Christmas. But around this time of year it is hard to avoid them. They take up half the craft beer cooler at my favorite corner store. The Bollywood music playing in the background adds a certain confusion to the scene, but the store owner certainly knows what brings in money.
Now well into my thirties, I understand that from Thanksgiving to December 25, and perhaps from well before, my life will be invaded by Christmas. The music I hear, the ads I see, the food and drink I buy, the clothes in stores, the shows at theatres, the urges to donate, the urges to buy, the insistence of want, the stupid shit people stick on their heads, cars, children, and pets, even the way people bid me farewell. After all these years, I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be okay with it.
I’ll especially not be okay with the replacement of my favorite IPAs and… IPAs with The Nutcracker Wheat and Rudolph the Red Nosed Rainbeer. Because, let’s be honest: this curmudgeonliness has little to do with my personal religious beliefs and everything to do with what I want to drink after a day of playing retail Christmas Elf to dozens of customers, all equally pissed off that they have to spend their hard earned money on siblings they never really liked anyway. And that beer I want to drink is one made of water, grain, yeast, and hops. Please hold the nutmeg.
I’m not sure why craft brewers make Christmas beers. There’s no Christmas Coors, no Merry Miller, no Silent High Life. What would we really miss without a spicy hangover-express of a winter’s eve? Would it be so difficult to spend one evening with a beer that didn’t make me feel like I was in a commercial for someone else’s holiday?
In Ohio, the Great Lakes Christmas Ale is actually a recognized form of currency from Nov 1 to the end of the year. It’s considered quite gauche to turn down the offer of a bottle; tantamount to turning down a free $5 bill. What kind of no-good, snooty, elitist, high-falutin’, beery fancy pants would turn down a Great Lakes Christmas Ale? Wait. That doesn’t sound right… I get it! I GET IT! These beers aren’t for me: The Christmas Ale is a gateway beer!
Oh, ho, ho! All this time I thought those beers were just fermented holiday cheer, but the brewers are actually using Christmas ales as a way to hook the non-craft drinkers. And then they rim that shit in cinnamon and crack and phew boy! Devotees for life (and the first one was free).
For those of you who hear me, who understand my conscientious objector status, there are a few non-spice-wracked winter beers I enjoy. For Ohioans, Great Lakes Ohio City Oatmeal Stout and Thirsty Dog’s Siberian Night, an imperial stout. More widely distributed are Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Fresh Hop IPA, New Belgium’s Snow Day, an American Black Ale, and Rogue’s Yellow Snow IPA.
Because, my friends, I need no convincing. I have belonged to the Church of Craft Beer for years and worship every night. And when the snow lies thick and the night sky is clear, inside the beer keeps the house warm and lit.