Beer makers capitalize on the holiday season perhaps better than any other time of year. Walk into most liquor stores right now and you’ll find shelves stuffed with brews whose labels contain depictions of elves, menorahs, and portly, bearded men, among other kitsch. It’s as if the brewers know we’re going to be drinking a lot this month or something.
Explicit labels are not the only way to know you’re making a suitable choice. Below are five beers, available right now, that will pair perfectly with your holiday merriment.
Stone Brewing Co., Xocoveza: On paper this seems like a weird one — a mocha stout inspired by Mexican hot chocolate and brewed with coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg — but wow does this work. It’s rich and creamy, with hints of tingly spice that tickle the back of the throat without overpowering. Drink this with a truffle or a piece of chocolate and prepare to be blown away. (8.1 percent alcohol by volume)
Chimay Grande Reserve: Colloquially known as Chimay Blue, this Trappist beer made at the Scourmount Abbey in Belgium is the one the monks first brewed as a Christmas ale. This is one of the more complex beers around, thin in mouthfeel but bursting with notes of toffee, chocolate, spices, and dark fruits. If you’re looking for a pairing, the monks also make a line of cheeses under the Chimay name. (9 percent ABV)
Shmaltz Brewing Co., Chanukah, Hanukkah . . . Pass the Beer: The nation’s only “Jewish celebration beer company” is 21 years old. From the names to the brews themselves Shmaltz is nothing if not over the top. This strong golden ale is brewed with eight malts and eight hops, and is a sure conversation starter. (8 percent ABV)
Springdale Beer, Fresh Boysen: The first local and least sweet offering on the list so far, this golden foeder sour from the Framingham-based Jack’s Abby offshoot was aged on boysenberries in red wine barrels for a year. It’s fruity and tart, but not overly so. (6 percent ABV)
Mystic Brewery, Table Beer: The standout Chelsea brewery can do no wrong. A lower alcohol option to drink while you’re cooking, Table Beer is an everyday saison with notes of grass and orange peel that holds up during your meal as well. (4.3 percent ABV)Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.