The December gauntlet

DCP Holiday Drinking Guide – Part 2

 By Kevin J. Gray

Photo: The Fantôme de Noel Belgian-style ale pairs well with a hardy Christmas dinner.
With Thanksgiving and Hanukkah behind us, we are running the mad dash that is the December holiday season. Below are recommendations for adding some holiday cheer to your festivities.

Work holiday parties

Chances are, beverage choices are limited at a work party. Hats off to those who have great options at your annual gathering. For everyone else, work parties usually mean finding the best of whatever options are present. While great beers might not be abundant, you can sometimes count on either Sam Adams or Guinness to be available. Or you might also find a few faux crafts, like Shocktop or Blue Moon. Don’t be shy about tipping back a few Guinnesses. Consistently well made, this Irish stout is flavorful, but much lower in alcohol than most American crafts.

If beer choices are sparse, you may be tempted to order a cocktail or two. Remember, if you aren’t used to drinking liquor, your awkward annual forced fun event isn’t the place to start. Let someone else be the “life of the party.” Your job is to navigate this party with your dignity – and your job – in tact. This goes doubly true if you are someone’s date at his or her Christmas party.

Holiday parties hosted by friends

Most likely, you are bringing your own alcohol to the event, so gauge the type of crowd who will be attending. A lot of beer geeks on the list? The party is likely to turn into a bottle share, meaning bring something interesting. Many bottle shops hold high-end or rare beers behind the counter, so be friendly to the staff and ask them for recommendations. Friend holiday parties are great opportunities to buy large format bottles (750 mL or 22 ounce bombers) and to share aggressive beers that would be challenging to drink on your own – think Belgians, especially holiday ones like Brasserie Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux or Russian Imperial Stouts like Great Lakes Blackout Stout.

Not a beer geek shindig? Here is a chance to share your knowledge. Don’t bring something inaccessible, no matter how much you like it, because you’ll come off as a snob and will end up resenting those who don’t understand your beer. Instead, think solid, but approachable. Avery and New Holland both make excellent brown ales that are easy to love. Bell’s Winter Wheat is a hardy take on a white ale that beer geeks and newbies alike can appreciate.

Christmas Eve

Like Thanksgiving Eve, the key to Christmas Eve drinking is to be social without being a drunkard. No one needs a hangover under the tree the next morning, especially if there are young children biologically programmed to wake the house up at 5 a.m. on Christmas. And if you have young children, chances are you’ll be fiddling with toy parts and looking for a 24-hour convenience store that sells those batteries you forgot to get. Therefore, think moderation.

If you are out with family and friends, look for a holiday beer on tap. Annual favorite Great Lakes Christmas Ale will likely be hard to find by Christmas Eve, but Troegs Mad Elf may still be on tap and on shelves – limit yourself to one for this boozy beer. Give yourself an early Christmas present and stock up on some easy-to-drink favorites for that evening, when you are cursing the toymakers and fumbling with instructions that make Ikea directions look easy. At only 6 percent ABV, Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve Ale would be a good option to end the night with.

Christmas Day

Santa always leaves a bottle of Founders Breakfast Stout in this writer’s stocking. It’s the perfect start to Christmas morning, full of chocolate and coffee flavors. It pairs with every breakfast favorite, but goes especially well with an egg and sausage casserole.

For Christmas dinner, bring on the big holiday Belgian ales. Beer geeks around the world are hoping Santa brings them goodies like Affligem Noël, De Dolle Stille Nacht, De Ranke Père Nöel, Fantôme de Noel and Scaldis Noël. Belgian brewers blend spices with the spicy after-effects of their peculiar yeasts to make complex, nuanced beers that pair well with traditional Christmas dinner favorites.


Kwanzaa isn’t usually thought of as a drinking holiday, but libations do play a major part in the celebration. Ginger beer has roots in the West Indies and would pair well with the other flavors in the Karamu, or Kwanzaa feast. Most ginger beers are non-alcoholic. Fever Tree is locally available and highly regarded. Crabbie’s makes an alcoholic version that is also tasty, especially in a Dark ‘n’ Stormy.

New Year’s Eve

Tomes have been written about what to drink on New Year’s Eve, so we’ll only touch on it briefly here. Not much of a champagne fan, this writer celebrates the New Year with a Belgian-style tripel. Victory’s Golden Monkey and Unibrou’s La Fin Du Monde are nice North American options. Or go classic with tripels from Chimay, Westmalle or St. Bernardus. But really, you’ve put up with shit from everyone all year, so drink what you want and let yourself go. Just remember to play it safe – make sure your friends have your back and take a cab home.

New Year’s Day

There is only one appropriate drink for New Year’s Day – the venerable Bloody Mary. Period.


Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin J. Gray at


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