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Hoops on hops: Holiday Beer Preview

Ring in the holidays with an array of area brews. thinkstock.com 1 / 2
Dave Hoops2 / 2

I may not be the first to say it: Happy Holidays everybody. The sentiment is sincere as this is my favorite time of the year. I look forward to enjoying the rare and special releases many breweries make for the winter holidays. I hope to write this article celebrating holiday beers for many years. Each new holiday season provides new beers, new players, new excitement, and of course, some great classics. 2017 has been another banner year of growth in the small brewery segment and the beers continue to improve, delight and evolve.

Let's look at some local offerings:

Bent Paddle, Duluth

Barrel aged Double Shot Double Black, 11%

Coming just before Thanksgiving, Barrel-Aged Double Shot Double Black Ale is an amped up version of the popular Cold Press Black Ale. The Double Shot Double Black has twice the cold press and two doses of whole Papua New Guinea vanilla beans. If that isn't enough, Bent Paddle aged this one for over a year in bourbon barrels. Coming in at just over 11 percent, this beer will surely warm you up.

Blacklist, Duluth

Cran, 8 percent

A tart holiday ale selection, Cran is a strong Belgian golden ale with cranberries. Champagne-like carbonation with a pretty pink tint from the fruit offers a nice and dry finish. This is a festive, awesome beer for any holiday dinner.

Canal Park Brewery, Duluth

An Imperial Brown Ale, 10 percent

Brewed for their 5-year anniversary, this yet-to-be-named ale is a beefed-up version of the popular Nut Hatchet. Coming in at 10 percent ABV and dry hopped with Willamette and Golding hops, it will be released the last week of November.

Castle Danger, Two Harbors

George Hunter Stout, 8 percent

George Hunter Stout is an American Stout with aromas and flavors of molasses, licorice, maple, coffee, chocolate and cream. It's a big, roasty, full-bodied brew that will stand up to Minnesota winters.

Earth Rider, Superior

Valhalla Winter Warmer, 9 percent

This is a Scotch Ale clocking in at 30 IBU, 23 SRM and roughly 9 percent ABV. Valhalla Winter Warmer is a big malty amber ale. No hop character is evident here, just the melding of bready malty flavors with alcohol to warm the heart.

Fitger's Brewhouse, Duluth

Blitzen's Blueberry Porter, 5.8 percent

Copious amounts of blueberries are infused into a special chocolate porter base beer. The result is a great, fruit-driven beer with dark malt flavors and a slightly sweet finish.

Pollinator, 7 percent

This traditional German style bock beer is fortified with local raw honey giving it an extra kick. Brewed as the 3rd and final installment in their Honey series, and for everyone to enjoy during the holidays.

Hoops Brewing, Duluth

Blueberry Pale Ale, 6 percent

A classic pale ale infused with 800 pounds of Bayfield blueberries, this one is great for any holiday occasion.

Lake Superior Brewery, Duluth

Old Man Winter Warmer

This winter barley wine has been produced for years and is an old favorite for beer lovers.

Here's a short list for some recommendations from farther away from the Twin Ports:

  • Indeed Old Friend Winter Warmer, Minneapolis
  • Summit Winter Ale, St. Paul
  • Odell Isolation Ale, Colo.
  • Great Lakes Christmas Ale, Cleveland
  • 21st Amendment Fireside Chat, San Francisco
  • Bells Christmas Ale, Michigan
  • Brouwerij Huyghe Delirium Noel, Belgium
  • Sam Adams Winter Lager. Boston
  • Beaver Island Tip Up Winter Lager, St. Cloud
  • Alaskan Winter Ale, Alaska
  • New Belgium Accumulation, White IPA, Colo.

Dave's Classic Favorites

Anchor Brewing's Christmas Ale, San Francisco

The granddaddy of American Holiday beers, Anchor will release its 43rd version of this eagerly awaited seasonal. Each year the label features a new "Yule Tree" look for this beer to arrive mid-November.

Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale, Chico, Calif.

My all-time favorite holiday beer. First brewed in 1981, this beer is one of the first examples of an American IPA and one of the rare hoppy holiday ales. A true classic and the perfect gift for the hop lover on your list. Already in stores now. Run — do not walk — to get some of this beer.

And, for Dessert...

The ultimate dessert offerings come from New Glarus, in Wisconsin. My favorite two — Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart — are brewed with ridiculous amounts of fruit in a malty sweet base beer. Also try Beauregarde (blueberries) from The Bruery in California and Apricot from Cascade Brewing in Oregon, these beers are all sold in the area at local shops.

Enjoy the season everyone. Happy Holidays!

Dave Hoops lives and works in Duluth and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Contact him at dave@hoopsbrewing.com.

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