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It’s no secret that the beer game here in Western New York is strong, but, during the holiday season, from Thanksgiving and Black Friday to Christmas, our fearless local brewers seem to save their best for the final months of the year, and pull out all the stops to celebrate the season. And it couldn’t come at a better time – 2020 has been a year to truly forget, so we could all use a festive brew. Or six.
How does a fruit cake gose sound? Figgy Pudding Belgian Ale? Or high octane barrel aged imperial stouts? Maybe a tiramisu stout or cranberry pilsner better strikes your fancy? Chances are whatever you’re in the mood for to give 2020 a proper sendoff over these next few weeks, you’ll find something on this list.
1. Bourbon Barrel Awesome Jenkins, Thin Man Brewery
This batch of Bourbon Barrel Awesome Jenkins Imperial Stout was aged in Basil Hayden barrels for 14 months to create notes of cocoa, oak and caramel. This one is a heavy hitter that clocks in at 14.88% ABV.
Available on Black Friday, November 27 (draft).
2. Poor Decisions Imperial Stout, Thin Man Brewery
Brewed in collaboration with Lervig (Stavanger, Norway), Poor Decisions is a huge double mash imperial stout that spent a year in Buffalo Trace barrels. It features a giant rich mouthfeel, tons of milk chocolate, dark honey and toffee. It’s frighteningly smooth for the ABV, which is a monstrous 15.32%.
Available on Black Friday, November 27 (draft).
3. Tiramisu Stout, Five & 20 Spirits & Brewing
A sweet, chewy dessert beer for the winter season, Five & 20’s Tiramisu Stout features notes of baker’s chocolate, bread crust, coffee, vanilla and malt. It can be found at the brewery and at other choice beer retailers, bars, and restaurants in the Western New York and Erie, Pennsylvania areas.
Available now (bottles, draft).
4. Frosty the IPA, Hamburg Brewing
Frosty the IPA was a jolly hoppy brew. With a two row base, some white wheat malt, and a juiced up hop review. Frosty the IPA is a fairytale, they say. He was made of wort, but the yeast all know how he came to life one day. There must have been some magic in those shiny tanks we found, for when he came out, the brewers danced around.
Available now (cans).
5. Yule Shoot Your Rye Out Spiced Winter Ale, Hamburg Brewing
This bready rye ale is spiced with ginger and spirit for the holidays. A glass of this seasonal classic will help you unwind.
Available around Thanksgiving (cans).
6. Never Gose Bad Fruit Cake Gose, 42 North Brewing
This fruited gose features apricot, cherry, cranberry, black currant, and pineapple. It’s lightly spiced with a blend of allspice, clove, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla, and is made with a special yeast that gives a hint of cognac and dark rum.
Available Saturday, December 12 at 42 North, theoutpost42n.com and everywhere local craft beer is sold (cans, draft).
7. Gingerbread Cookie Brown Ale, Pearl Street Grill & Brewery
Pearl Street’s annual holiday seasonal treat is an English brown ale brewed with ginger, allspice, cloves, and aged on vanilla beans that comes in at 6.2%.
Available after Thanksgiving (draft).
8. Let’s Go Pils with Cranberries, Community Beer Works
First, it was Meyer Lemon, and Yuzu and Ginger, now its cranberries. This fruited version of Let’s Go Pils is very dry, crisp American light lager with a seasonal twist. The addition of fresh cranberries introduces a light and tart fruitiness.
Available November 20 and wherever great beer is sold following (cans).
9. Spruce Hornsby Double IPA with Spruce Tips, Community Beer Works
Continuing their Spruce series (remember Spruce Valanch?), Spruce Hornsby is an ode to a sprucey guy, a double IPA pleasantly hopped with Columbus and Chinook for a firm bitterness, intense floral/citrus aroma and then conditioned on real black spruce tips for an earthy finish. That’s just the way it is.
Available November 25 (cans).
10. 12 Gates of Christmas Beers, 12 Gates Brewing
If you don’t know what the 12 Gates of Christmas is all about, it’s 12 straight days of small batch releases at 12 Gates in celebration of the Christmas season. This year, you’ll find such beers as Spicy Porter, a porter aged on peppers, ‘Tis the Saison, an orange honey saison, Choco Raz Peanut Butter Pastry Stout, Reese’s Puffs Porter, Professor C. Bananaweizen Chocolate Banana Hefeweizen, Oreo O’s Porter, and more.
Available December 1 – 12 (draft).
11. Liquid Christmas Card, Flying Bison Brewing
Everyone is on Flying Bison’s Christmas card list this year! Well, Liquid Christmas Card, a list that includes four 16oz. cans of holiday beers in a keepsake box. The beers include Paula’s Red Velvet Ale, inspired by Paula’s Red Velvet Donut, Spiced Christmas Ale, a malty Winter Warmer with hints of ginger and cinnamon, Spot Coffee Stout, a fan favorite, and Hazy Holidays, a juicy IPA featuring Mosaic, Simcoe, Centennial and Mandarina hops.
Available November 19 (cans).
12. Holiday Variety Pack, Ellicottville Brewing Company
EBC describes their Holiday Variety Pack perfectly – a ‘delectable dessert-style party pack.’ This mixed 12-pack features four festive brews – Lloyd’s Christmas Ale, as well as Raspberry Truffle Ale, the latest collaboration with Platters Chocolate Factory in North Tonawanda that features chocolate, raspberry and lactose, Salted Caramel Coldspresso Ale, brewed with locally-roasted cold-pressed coffee and caramel, and Sugar Cookie Pastry Ale, which features notes of vanilla, almond and cookies.
Available now wherever great beer is sold.
13. Figgy Pudding Belgian Ale, New York Beer Project
This New York Beer Project holiday brew is a traditional Belgian Dubbel Ale that’s been aged on 75lbs. of a combination of Mission figs, jumbo Thompson raisins, Deglet Noor dates, and 150 vanilla beans. It features sweet notes of dark fruit and vanilla.
Available now (draft).
14. Crantastic Voyage, Eli Fish Brewing
This kettle sour is a full flavored Berliner Weisse packed with cranberries. It’s quite tart with a subtle essence of curacao orange peel.
Available now (cans, draft).
15. French Vanilla Hazelnut Make Me Wanna Stout, Big Ditch Brewing
This list wouldn’t be complete without a beer that emulates a warm and cozy mug of hot chocolate. Big Ditch’s French Vanilla Hazelnut Make Me Wanna Stout is their coffee and cream stout aged on vanilla and hazelnut.
Available November 25 (draft).