We Ranked the 10 Best Christmas Beers, Winter Beers, & Holiday Beers

Christmas beer, holiday beer, winter beer—it doesn’t matter what you call it, all that matters is that it pairs well with a roaring fire and makes you feel cozy. Here are 10 widely available winter beers, ranked from ho-ho-hum to jolly good.

The best winter beers take an iconic, seasonal flavor and snuggle it into a tasty brew. But a great holiday beer shouldn’t taste like cider or like a gingerbread hard seltzer. It should taste like beer—but with a little something extra. We’re talking pine, we’re talking mulling spice, we’re talking chocolate. That’s what I was looking for when I sat down to a table of winter beers—subtle flavors that added to the natural beer flavors, rather than simply covering them up. I definitely did not want something that tasted like eggnog and called itself a brown ale, or something that promised a whisper of mint and tasted like carbonated toothpaste. 

Amazingly, I found ten seriously good winter beers. So don your coziest, ugliest Christmas sweater, break out the peppermint bark, and check out the best winter beers to buy this year.

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best christmas beer: Victory Merry Monkey

Best Wheat Beer

Victory Merry Monkey

If you love a wheat beer and a sweet beer (and a rhyme), then this is the best holiday beer for you. The Belgian-style ale layers flavors of cranberry, orange peel, cinnamon, and nutmeg on top of the brand’s Golden Monkey beer. The flavors show up but they don’t hit you over the head—it’s not like you’re drinking a Christmas candle from The Body Shop. But it definitely has the classic Belgian ale banana-bread undertone and it is certainly on the sweeter end of the spectrum. A good dessert beer. And at 10% ABV, it’s a good way to cap off the night.

Credit: Liv Averett / Total Wine

Rating:

6.5/10

Sporks

best christmas beer: Deschutes Jubelale

Best Dark

Deschutes Jubelale

First, let’s talk about the label. This year’s Jubelale label looks like an Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) album cover. Too old of a reference? Okay, it looks like a Daft Punk album cover. Still not relevant enough? Ok, it looks like a Tame Impala album. It’s a trippy, surreal vision of a winter forest designed by Francisco Morales, a Portland, Oregon-baged Latinx illustrator. Can we talk about the beer now? It’s dark but it’s hop-heavy, with notes of raw, unsweetened cocoa. It’s fascinating—a real conversation beer. It’s rich and dark, a winter beer for mulling over thoughts and feelings.

Credit: Liv Averett / Total Wine

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

best winter beer: Einstok Olgerd Icelandic Winter Ale

Best Smoky

Einstok Olgerd Icelandic Winter Ale

If you’ve ever wanted to taste Icelandic winter, this winter beer delivers the experience right to your mouth. Brewed with whiskey-cured spruce tips and smoked barley, it feels like a beer Santa might drink (after responsibly parking his sleigh for the night, of course). “A real warm ya up beer,” as managing editor Gwynedd Stuart described it. It has a deep, sweet, smoky flavor. It has an umami quality with a touch of spruce-y bitterness at the finish. It’s not a crushable beer at 8%, but if you’re used to drinking double IPAs, this would be a good seasonal replacement.

Credit: Liv Averett / Total Wine

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

best christmas beer: Rogue ‘22 Santa Private Reserve

Best Chocolaty

Rogue ‘22 Santa Private Reserve

Created in partnership with chocolate truffle bar-maker, Honey Mama’s, this year’s holiday beer from Rogue is flavored with tahini, tangerine, and chocolate. While it’s hard to pick out the tahini, the chocolate comes in strong. It’s sweet but not cloying and not too heavy, thanks to a zesty hit of acidity (presumably from the tangerine) on the finish. It’s a real treat.

Credit: Liv Averett

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

best winter beer: Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop Ale

Best for IPA Lovers

Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop Ale

Hop haters can turn right around. This winter beer from Sierra Nevada is like an amped-up pale ale. It smells like the redwoods—like damp bark on a cold, Northern California morning. As a NorCal native, this is what winter smells like to me, so I may be a tad biased. But if that sounds at all appealing to you, I absolutely recommend this beer. It’s one of the best winter beers for people who don’t want a holiday-flavored beer, they want a winter beer.

Credit: Liv Averett / Total Wine

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

best holiday beer: Shiner Holiday Cheer

Best If It’s Hot Outside

Shiner Holiday Cheer

Not everyone celebrates a cold Christmas or holiday. For those people, there’s Shiner Holiday Cheer, a peaches and pecan-flavored brew. At first, we were all a little confused by the canned peach flavor. But then we kept sipping. “I changed my mind and now I love it,” Gwynedd said. “I could drink a lot of that.” The malt and hops come through, so it doesn’t just taste like a soda. It’s bright, it’s refreshing, it’s a different kind of holiday beer—a Texas holiday beer.

Credit: Liv Averett / Total Wine

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Best winter beer: Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale

Best with Cheese

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale

This is what “good beer” used to taste like in 2004, back before breweries were as prolific as coffee shops. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still good. It has a dark, fruity flavor—almost like it was aged in a Cabernet cask. That fruitiness makes it the best winter beer to pair with a cheese platter filled with aged cheddars and funky blues. The label is bonkers. It’s like someone just discovered clipart. But that’s a bonus, for me. It’s something to read while you’re kicking back.

Credit: Liv Averett / Total Wine

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

best christmas beer: St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

Best Fruity

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

“Yum, yum,” I wrote in my tasting notes. “You see how dark it is and you think it’s going to be heavy but it’s nice and light,” Gwynedd said, putting things a bit more eloquently. To me, this tastes like how Christmas is portrayed in A Christmas Carol—back when people in ascots and top hats decorated their dirty homes with strands of cranberries threaded onto a string and a dried cherry was a prized gift. It’s darkly fruity and tangy and 9.8% ABV, so it packs a punch. It’s one of the best winter beers to sip in your dressing gown and slippers.

Credit: Liv Averett / Total Wine

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

best winter beer:  Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale

Best Day Drinking Beer

Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale

Cozy up around a campfire in a spruce forest with this winter beer. The resin-tinged flavor somehow captures the essence of a cold, fall evening in the woods, complete with soft leaves underfoot and the sense that rain is just around the corner. I want one right now. At 6.9% (I won’t make a joke about that number, I promise), it’s not a session ale, but you can certainly have more than one, and you are definitely going to want to do just that.

Credit: Liv Averett / Total Wine

Rating:

9.5/10

Sporks

best christmas beer: Anchor Brewing Co. Merry Christmas Happy New Year 2022

Best of the Best

Anchor Brewing Co. Merry Christmas Happy New Year 2022

This is the best winter beer. It’s the best Christmas beer. It’s the best holiday beer. The label looks like a quaint country Christmas. And the beer itself tastes like you are drinking a Christmas tree in the best way possible. “It’s a holiday ale in a real ‘on the nose’ way,” Gwynedd said, referencing the distinct pine flavors. There are notes of juniper and other alpine botanicals—gin drinkers will love it. Bring this to your next holiday party, sip it while you’re decorating the tree, pair it with a crown roast. It’s this year’s best winter beer.

Credit: Liv Averett / Total Wine

Rating:

10/10

Sporks


About the Author

Justine Sterling

Justine Sterling is the editor-in-chief of Sporked. She has been writing about food and beverages for well over a decade and is an avid at-home cook and snacker. Don’t worry, she’s not a food snob. Sure, she loves a fresh-shucked oyster. But she also will leap at whatever new product Reese’s releases and loves a Tostitos Hint of Lime, even if there is no actual lime in the ingredients.

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  • Funny enough, I got a bunch of these a couple of weeks ago. Coincidentally, they’re numbers 1, 3, and 5 on your list! I was pleasantly surprised by Shiner Holiday Cheer as well. The peach and pecan come through in a really delicious way. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale was definitely a solid beer. As for Anchor Brewing Co. Merry Christmas Happy New Year 2022, at first, I was really off-put by it because that Christmas tree flavor REALLY comes through! But, it is definitely one of the most unique beers I’ve had, and it grew on me (and yes I am a gin drinker lol). Unfortunately, I saw Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale and didn’t get it… maybe next time!

    Reply
  • Victory Merry Monkey is not a wheat beer. The yeast flavor, along with the orange peel and other spicy notes, may remind you of some wheat beers like a hefeweizen or a witbier, but it is a Belgian Tripel with other flavors added. There is no wheat added to tripels and the Victory website confirms that their does not contain any either. https://victorybeer.com/beers/merry-monkey/

    Love Anchor Christmas Ale at the top! My favorite winter tradition in the beer world. Hope y’all will like it as much next year, as the recipe for it changes each year (along with the tree and the drawing on the label artwork).

    Reply
  • Hope you all did get too drunk off this review.

    Reply
    • I meant to say didn’t get too drunk. Not that I love seeing people get drunk as amusement for myself.

      Reply