As an impressionable youngster, I was taught to believe that the only way to guarantee a visit from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve—aside from behaving exceptionally well throughout the year—was a tall glass of milk and some just-baked cookies. But I never met Santa until I heeded the wise advice of Dave Schlutzer, owner of Bellport Cold Beer & Soda. He said, “Leave him a frosty can of beer. Reinbeer.”
According to Schlutzer, affectionately known by local beer loons as “Bellport Dave,” “Most people think a holiday beer has to be festive and employ the flavors of the season. That’s true, but what makes a beer truly festive is different than most; it’s one you like to share with friends.”
Schlutzer shared with us his favorite holiday-appropriate brews and what makes each a wintertime winner:
1) Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Most holiday beers are malt-forward, high in alcohol and dark as a December night. But Celebration is unique. The hops present bold citrus and pine flavors that dance with the caramel malts’ soft, sweet notes. Unlike most hoppy beers that need to be drunk immediately, this ages amazingly. Every year around the holidays I get together with the local LIBME homebrew club and we host a vertical tasting. We’re always surprised by the changes—some vintages become like a port wine, for example.
2) Delirium Noël
The holiday sibling of everyone’s favorite “pink elephant beer” Delirium Tremens, Noël packs a festive wallop at 10 percent ABV. This is a wonderful, dark Belgian ale; flavors of caramel, brown sugar and dark fruit meld well with light spiciness and booziness. If you show up at the store on a cold winter night, you might find us drinking one of these right off the shelves. And of course, we’ll share it with you.
3) Anchor Christmas Ale
You can’t have a conversation about holiday beers without Anchor’s Christmas Ale, which is celebrating its 40th year. (Whoa!) Its recipe is different every year and so is the tree on the label. What’s in it? Nobody seems to have that answer as the recipe is secret. But every year it’s excellent, a well-blended mix of malts, spices, dark fruit and caramel.