Holiday beers 2017

Celebrator Beer News magazine’s top-rated beers of the season

Photo by John McStravick (via Flickr)

For 2017, the blind-tasting panel at Celebrator Beer News out of Nevada City has once again circled around the table to rate the year’s holiday beers on a scale from 0 stars (“bad; pour it out immediately”) to 5 (“exceptionally great”), and the CN&R is sharing the top-rated selections. For the full list of ratings, pick up the December/January issue or find the PDF at

At the holidays, when people stop their busy lives and share some precious time with family and friends, the beer they choose should be equally as special as the time they’re sharing. So a holiday beer should be made to impress, to wow its audience, to stand out. This is the only criterion that should be met by one of these beers: Will it impress?

Five-star holiday beers:

Brown Shugga’—Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma

Bright copper color with a generous tan head and legs to spare. Orange and citrus hop nose with aromas of caramel and Juicy Fruit gum. Good malt backbone, building a rich hop monster of marmalade and spicy citrus flavors. Refreshing and complex, with warming qualities and a dry, sweet finish.

Celebration Fresh Hop IPA—Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico

Bright amber color with a generous tan head. Big hop nose with aromas of Fruity Pebbles, citrus and Juicy Fruit gum. Abundant fresh-hop flavors dominate but are well-balanced. It’s the hops that shine through and through, down to the lingering, bitter finish.

Delirium Noël—Huyghe Brewery, Belgium

Clear bronze color with a tight white head and good lacing. Spicy nose of brown sugar, vanilla and herbal aromas. Sweet, spicy flavors of caramel, cinnamon and nutmeg, with notes of fruit and bittersweet hop character that lingers through a long finish.

Gouden Carolus Noël—Het Anker Brewery, Belgium

Mahogany color with a thick tan head and nice lacing. Spicy, herbal nose with aromas of anise, caramel, cinnamon, licorice and candy canes. Rich, clean malt with sweet caramel and toffee flavors and a touch of fruit. Great balance and synergy, as everything works together in harmony.

Our Special Ale (aka Anchor Christmas Ale)—Anchor Brewing, San Francisco

Dark brown color with a tan head. Lightly roasted malt nose with aromas of clove, ginger and allspice. Rich and complex, with good balance and just a hint of welcoming smokiness. The holiday spices balance the malt throughout with a long, lingering, bittersweet finish.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale—St. Bernardus Brewery, Belgium

Deep bronze color with a tan head and good lacing. A complex fruitcake nose that’s also lightly sweet. Good malt base with a complex mélange of flavors. Like a liquid fruitcake, with raisins, vanilla, cherries and spicy hops. Tastes like a Christmas cookie.

10 Lords-A-Leaping—The Bruery, Placentia

Dark molasses color with a modest tan head. Complex nose of milk chocolate, sarsaparilla, licorice, ginger and some nuttiness. Clean malt, good balance and complex flavors that include licorice, ginger, herbal hops and roasted malt. A clean, drying finish.

Xocoveza: Imperial Stout—Stone Brewing, Escondido

Deep black with a generous mocha head. Huge nose of coffee, chocolate, almonds, vanilla and cherries. Cold coffee, roasty flavors with a complex mix of chocolate and mocha that’s well integrated, along with notes of vanilla and cinnamon. It’s spicy coffee with several kinds of jolts.