In college, I had this poster that listed the 365 days of the year and an “excuse to party” for every day. For instance, if you needed a reason to drink on October 17th, you’d find that it’s “Norm from Cheers’” birthday. In the catalog of worst cliched college posters, it might not be the worst, but it’s certainly one of the tackiest.
According to social media, it seems like there’s a reason to celebrate every day. There’s National Puppy Day (March 23rd), National Ice Cream Day (July 16th), and, of course, some variation of a beer day once a month, it seems. There’s IPA Day, Stout Day, National Beer Day, International Beer Day, and so it goes.
While those holidays are all good enough reason to crack the top on something cold and sudsy, the most important drinking season of the year is upon us: the (actual) holiday season.
Typically, the holiday season follows the agreed upon parameters of Thanksgiving to Christmas, but the start date gets earlier each year. What about Thanksgiving Eve? Does the holiday season end with Christmas or can we include New Years Eve? It’s a drinking season unlike any other. It’s a marathon with a series of sprints intertwined; It’s a season of indulgence and pleasure, but of pace and responsibility.
Here are your beers for those days.
Event: Thanksgiving Eve
Thanksgiving Eve has become a holiday unto itself in recent years. It’s a time for reunion and, thus, it’s imperative to imbibe. College kids are home from school; Friends who live out of town are home to demolish a turkey dinner at mom and dad’s house. This one is truly a marathon.
Big or small? Now is not the time to bust out the 9% double IPA or the double-digit stouts. Instead, go for a lighter IPA or two. It’s flavorful enough to make for a proper celebration, but not overwhelming enough that you won’t be able to wake up in the morning.
Recommendation: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. It’s been called the number one beer in America. It shouldn’t be this easy to drink a 7% beer.
It happens every year. Two parties on the same evening, both of which you can’t say no to.”
Thanksgiving, from a drinking standpoint, is often the most complex of the drinking holidays because the holiday is so centered around food. Complicating matters even further is that dinner is served at an odd hour. Instead of a traditional day of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we’ve got one big meal in the middle of the day. This throws off drinking hours, too.
Big or small? It’s going to be hard to overdo it, drinks-wise, when you’re consuming 5,000 calories of stuffing, potatoes, turkey, and gravy. You might as well go big here, too.
Recommendation: Allagash Interlude is the choice. It’s a Belgian style saison brewed with brettanomyces and aged in red wine barrels. It’s a very wine-like beer that won’t look out of place amongst the bottles of Cabernet and Pinot atop the table.
Event: Holiday Party Hopping
It happens every year. Two parties on the same evening, both of which you can’t say no to. You’re spread a little thin, and who in the world throws a holiday party on a Friday night, but you’re dressed up. You’re in good spirits.
Big or small? This one is easy. Small. You’re driving.
Recommendation: Oatmeal Stout. It’s hefty enough to provide warmth on cold nights, full of flavor to satisfy our beer-geekery, but sessionable so that we can grab the keys to hit the road. In my neck of the woods it’s Mayflower Winter Stout.
This is less a question of big or small than it is survival.”
Event: Christmas Eve
The two days of Christmas Eve & Christmas are the ultimate drinking marathon. As with many married people, we’re divided into two celebrations. My family gets Christmas Eve while hers gets Christmas.
Big or small: It’s time for the whales to breach.
Recommendation: Yank those big beers out of the basement. I’m talking Jester King farmhouses, Bourbon County Stouts, and, if you’re a hop-head, start pouring those recently acquired local IPA’s (Tree House comes to mind). Healthy pours and conviviality all around. This is why you have a basement full of beer.
While you may have overdone it the night before, Christmas is the culmination of the holiday season. The peak. You’re broke. You’re a little fatter. But you’re still in the festive spirit. Perhaps Santa left a little Bailey’s in your morning coffee, too. I’d investigate just to be sure.
Big or small: As with most endings, you should go big. Have one last holiday hurrah.
Recommendation: Hardywood Ginger Bread Stout. It’s decadent and over-the-top. It’s one of the best stouts in the country. Find it, split it in two, and soak in the after-effect of a well-spent holiday season.
Event: New Years Eve
Oh, shit, there’s still New Years Eve? I don’t know if I have it in me to drink another beer. Okay, just one.
Do I go big or small: This is less a question of big or small than it is survival. Grab a couple well-made farmhouse ales, savor them slowly.
Recommendation: Drinking an Oxbow Barrel-Aged Farmhouse Pale Ale is drinking the way New Years drinking is intended: It’s light, effervescent, and highly-complex like a well-made champagne. It’s a beer that’s elegant and appropriate for ringing in a new year.
Thanks to Remo Remoquillo for the header illustration.