Mark Haynie

Mark Haynie, beer columnist for At The Shore.

Vernon Ogrodnek////

The holidays are upon us once again. Private parties abound and special beer releases are prevalent but events are not so common this month. People like to remain at home with family and friends and enjoy quiet times around the Christmas tree, but that is not to say you can’t enjoy the big, flavorful beers of winter in your own living room.

Be sure to stock up for the holidays. Most of these beers come and go very quickly as a seasonal release and most will age very well so buy two, one for consumption now and one to lay down for a snowy day a few years from now. Better yet, buy three and share one with friends. Winter warmers, imperial stouts, barleywines … all the big, bold beers that will help you shake off the cold.

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Samuel Smith comes out with a winter warmer every year with a different picturesque label. Anchor brews up a different yearly Christmas Ale and has been doing so for over 30 years. I have tasted some vintage ones and most hold up well, though they may be low in alcohol. Other great winter beers include Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA and Bigfoot Barleywine, Southern Tier 2xMas double spiced ale, Founders Backwoods Bastard, Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux, and for the sour lovers, The Bruery makes 8 Maids-a-Milking and 9 Ladies Dancing. They’ve already done from the second day of Christmas to the ninth, so I suppose we will see three more over the next few years.

But the locals are also providing us with some specialties to enjoy. Cape May Brewing Company has several exciting seasonals set to tap over the winter. Crusty Barnacle comes online Dec. 15, brewed with a mixed fermentation of their house English ale strain and Brettanomyces lambicus, then hopped with centennial and Amarillo for some intense grapefruit and citrus notes. Being released Dec. 22, Concrete Ship, a Russian imperial stout, has a velvety smooth texture with rich notes of cocoa and coffee. Snag and Drop, an Imperial IPA, comes out in early January. This bitter beast of a beer features almost five pounds of Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, Simcoe and Apollo hops per barrel. It’s sure to delight every hop head who gets the chance to taste it.

Ship Bottom Brewery in Beach Haven will be releasing their Baconator Stout Dec. 17. Brewed with coffee, chocolate, oats, maple syrup and bacon, this limited release will go fast. On New Year’s Eve, SB Barleywine will appear in 750ml bottles at the brewery, and on New Year’s Day, SB Russian Imperial Stout aged with bourbon-soaked wooden spirals will be released.

Hoppy Holidays to all!

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