Holiday Beer Cheer 2007

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Those who like IPAs and other überhopped ales, pay attention: This is your holiday beer. California brewer Sierra Nevada’s signature Pale Ale is already high on hops, and Celebration takes that pleasant bitterness a few steps further. Many of our tasters found it overwhelming, especially in a so-called holiday ale (“Why would I get out of the snow for this?”), but the right beer-lover will adore the fresh aroma and flavor (“Ahhh! Hops, pine”) of this longtime favorite.

Full Sail Wassail
Oregon brewer Full Sail’s been making this brown, lightly hopped, mildly roasty ale since 1988. It’s not a true wassail (a traditional spiced punch or ale), but instead is a more full-bodied and robust version of the company’s standard amber ale. It’s “bitter in a nice way” but also “rich and warming,” though some were “expecting a more full-bodied beer” and felt disappointed.

Affligem Noël
Belgians are a whole world unto themselves, so it was a little unfair to throw just a single Belgian holiday ale into the mix. Stacked up against the others, Affligem wasn’t universally adored, but tasters did like its “boozy,” “root beer”–like aroma and “buttery” taste that hinted at holiday spice (“nutmeg, dates”). At 9 percent alcohol it’s quite strong, but it also ages well … that is, if you can hold off drinking it right away.