VinePair is ringing in the Holiday Cheers with a spotlight on the bottles we’re gifting (and hoping to receive) and a look inside some of our favorite holiday traditions and recipes — from elevated eggnog to all things bubbly. Plus, we’ll be reflecting on the past year in the beverage industry and shifting our focus to the drinks trends we expect to see in 2022.
Beer is a many-splendored thing. It can reach every level of drinker, from beginner to connoisseur and pro. As a gift, it’s unexpected — compared to other liquid gifts like whiskey and wine — but it’s anything but boring, and finding the right bottle for that person on your list takes every bit of finesse as more traditional gifts.
Be it a limited-edition barrel-aged blend with berries and plums, an anniversary ale with a finely honed recipe, or a Belgian brew with the wisdom of saints, there are plenty of very special bottles out there faithfully awaiting their spots at the table.
That’s why we’ve curated this short list of bottles that any beer drinker, casual or avid, would be pleased to receive. Here are seven exceptional beers for gifting this holiday season.
The most dedicated beer lovers among us can recall their “first” — the one that made them fall in love with beer. This is often a Belgian beer, and for many, Chimay. A Trappist beer brand made by monks since 1862, Chimay’s four styles today are more commonly referred to by the color of their labels: Red, Blue, White, and Gold.
Chimay Grande Reserve, affectionately known as Chimay Blue, is a Belgian strong dark ale that has fruity, chocolaty aromas; a rich, creamy texture; and an impressive, ribbon-ready stature. As a conversation starter, it’s been brewed by monks since 1956, originally as a Christmas beer. This crowd-pleasing magnum retails for $43, but 750-milliliter bottles and smaller 4-packs are available, too.
Paso Robles, Calif.
We look forward to Firestone Walker’s annual anniversary ale every year. It’s one of the most impressive blends of barrel-aged beers that money can buy, and on top of that, money can buy it — and pretty easily, for just $13.
To extra-impress (and ‘tis the season), the store is offering a Limited Edition XXV Anniversary Ale Trio Pack of 2021 blends for $30 (a small penance for what you’re getting — 2021 editions of Parabola and Stickee Monkee, both components of the final 25th Anniversary blend). And for the splurge-worthy recipient on your list, go for the cento: The Library Anniversary Bundle Box comes with large-format (750-milliliter) bottles of the 19th, 20th, and 21st anniversary ales for $100.
Santa Rosa, Calif.
Pliny the Elder, a Roman philosopher circa 44 A.D., is perhaps better known among drinkers today for its liquid legend: a pioneering double IPA from Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing. Once near impossible to taste outside the taproom, this bitter, bright, grapefruit-y modern classic DIPA is currently available direct from the brewery online: California residents can purchase a 12-pack for delivery for $61. (Not in California? Phone a friend and pay for shipping. It’s worth the wait.)
Rodenbach Caractère Rouge
Rodenbach always feels festive, and Caractère Rouge is arguably the most so — particularly for the holiday season. This bottling begins with Rodenbach’s original Flemish red ale blend, then is aged an extra six months with macerated cherries, raspberries, and cranberries. It’s a seasonal bounty in a bottle, and tastes ripe and tart, a treat on its own but built for food pairing, too. This is a world-class bottle to bring to any table, and it’s even celebrating an anniversary this year: Rodenbach Caractère Rouge was originally developed in collaboration with three-Michelin-star chef Viki Geunes in 2011.
Guinness Chocolate Mint Stout Aged In Kentucky Bourbon Barrels
Though its name evokes the makings of Girl Scout Cookie Thin Mints, this limited-edition Guinness that launched last month is surprisingly bourbon-forward. Brewed with dried mint leaves, aged in bourbon barrels, then conditioned with straight cacao, it drinks fairly boozy, with notes of vanilla from the bourbon-soaked oak. Dark chocolate bitterness sits on the mid-palate with whiskey warmth. The mint soothes the palate, adding a refreshing cooling sensation to complement the warm bourbon heat. For any stout or bourbon lover, it’s a thoughtful, if surprising, gift, that will only run you $20.
This fantastically purple beer is made with only the best Italian plums Oxbow could find. Plum Synth is a mix of mixes: a blended, fruited, mixed-fermentation bottle that, according to the brewery, begins as “an array of dark farmhouse ales which have been aging in red wine barrels, apple brandy barrels, and stainless tanks,” then is aged further on Italian prune plums before it is conditioned in bottle with plum juice. Tart black fruits, oaky notes, and mixed-culture complexity pop out of this bottle. At just $15, it’s a fun one to give more adventurous drinkers.
If ever there were a way to say “I love you” with a bottle, Rosé de Gambrinus is it. This fruited lambic beer is as exceptional in taste as it is hard to find; however, this or any of Cantillon’s bottlings are a surefire way to really impress the beer lover in your life. Ruby-hued and bursting with raspberries, this tart oak-aged beauty is a hallmark of fruited sour beers around the world. It may cost upwards of $50 at least, but if you’re lucky enough to come across one, it’s undoubtedly worth it.