Christmas season approaches! You know that means. Those classic Christmas songs we’ve all heard to the point of exhaustion (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside," “Blue Christmas," “Silent Night," etc.) will be played over and over again until the new year rolls around. Artists will cover the same old songs that we’ve heard countless times before with little regard to our sanity.
In terms of holiday music, the genre itself has been quite drab for years. In fact, I would even venture to say there hasn’t been an original Christmas song that has blown anyone away since the 90’s and Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You."
This playlist isn’t packed with cheesy sing alongs and sleigh bell-led rhythms. Instead, it’s chocked full of original songs that sound even better during the holidays. Join Eddie Vedder in the saddening realization that the magic of Christmas is over when your a kid in “Let Me Sleep (It’s Christmas Time)." Try to make sense of the ambiguous lyrics in “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes. Embrace nostalgia by recalling the innocence of rolling around in snow in “A Great Big Sled” by The Killers.
Coinciding with the unconventional Christmas playlist is an unorthodox holiday beer selection. Whether it be a piney pale ale brewed with fresh-cut spruce tips, or an American strong ale that has enough brown sugar to satisfy that holiday sweet tooth, these beers aren’t usually thought of as Christmas-y but are rather delightful around this time of year.
We owe ourselves a fresh start! This year has been too dismal to subject ourselves to anymore lackluster indulgences. It’s time to break up the normalcy that comes with the recurring Christmas season with a fresh holiday playlist paired with some of this year’s most unusually festive beers.
Off Color Coffee Dino S’mores
Dino S’mores is a yearly seasonal release from Off Color that is the perfect dessert beer for after those big holiday meals. Every year Off Color changes the coffee beans that are used to create this Russian imperial stout, giving it a unique flavor with a solid base each year.
This year’s iteration ended up being a blend of two different coffee beans; one from Ethiopia and one from Honduras. The result is an ultra sweet, cocoa nib infused dark stout that can contend with grandma’s pies for the after dinner dessert choice. It pours as black as its dark chocolate flavor and is weighted with those perfect holiday ingredients: marshmallow, vanilla, and graham cracker.
Dogfish Head Pennsylvania Tuxedo
Pennsylvania Tuxedo is one of the piniest beers on the market. This pale ale is brewed with spruce tips that are hand picked out of Pennsylvania backcountry. The fresh cut tips allow the beer to take on the fragrance of a freshly cut Christmas tree. The taste is identical to the aroma. It’s as if you were drinking sap directly from your tree. Pennsylvania Tuxedo is insanely flavorful and is an easy sipper. Citrus notes shine through on the back end with a slightly dry, hopped up conifer finish.
Lagunitas Brown Shugga Ale
Nothing says the holidays like brown sugar. It’s found in almost everything around Christmas time. It’s in the cookies, the gravy, and even glazed around the ham roast. You might as well follow the tradition and have some in your beer too. Brown Shugga Ale is as heavenly as the angel on top of your tree and as smooth as molasses. This American Strong Ale has a rich flavor profile, which is complimented on the back end by its high alcohol by volume (9.7%). Brown Shugga exudes sweetness. Indulge yourself.
4 Hands Zellige
Zellige is an exquisitely spiced stout inspired by Moroccan cuisine. It may seem like a weird choice for a holiday beer but after sipping the delicately balanced spices, it may be your new go to holiday tradition. Zellige is a coffee stout that somehow tastes like a dark roast coffee and chai tea at the same time; a rather uncommon synergy that makes for an incredibly distinctive taste that isn’t found anywhere else. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom give this slightly chalky and dry beer its unique flavor profile.
North Coast Brewing Brother Thelonious
Brother Thelonious is the perfect winter warmer to sip slowly around a Christmas tree and crackling fire; bonus points if you have some old jazz vinyl spinning in the background. Brother Thelonious is a Belgian Style Strong Dark Ale that is as heavy as your holiday dinners. It pours heavy but still has a delicate thinness to it. Dark fruits are the first flavor to jump out at you, quickly followed by a subtle toastiness and light tobacco aftertaste.
In addition to being an incredible choice of beer, you can satisfy your holiday giving spirit as a portion of every sale is donated to the jazz programs at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.
Thanks to Steph Byce for the header photo.