Editor's note: This is the latest installment of the Untappd Challenge series, a social media app that allows you to check in with the beer you are drinking and keep track of the beers you've had and your friends are into. You can rate, toast and comment. Many breweries also are active on Untappd and will interact with patrons. Find Joshua Riley at jriley919.
It's almost Christmas, and you might be asking yourself what to get that difficult-to-shop-for person. Or maybe you are planning on attending a get-together and feel like you need to bring something to impress the folks. Maybe they don't drink beer, but if they tried the right one they might get it — finally.
I wanted to put together a list of beers that would please even the most craft-averse family member, brother-in-law, dad, cousin, weird uncle in your family. But that list would be impossible, so I settled for something else.
I chose to end the year with one final installment of the Untappd Challenge, the badge Wonderland, to try the best wintertime beers.
If people aren't into these yet, I have no hope for them. I'm just kidding. It's Christmas; drink what you like. I happen to like craft beer so I'm going to drink that.
Winter Wonderland is convoluted, because it is not immediately clear what it takes to satisfy this badge. But I have verified these beers count toward that badge.
One quick note before we begin. You can drink macro beer any time of the year. Since getting into craft oh-so-many years ago, certain beers just go with the season, and without them, it doesn't feel like Christmas, putting up the tree, hanging Christmas lights, or whatever else you might do this time of year. It isn't about getting smashed on Belgian strong ales during the winter months but having something to sip as you shovel the walkway or wrap presents or hang stockings. Some like hot cocoa, some like wassail (just kidding — no one likes wassail). I happen to genuinely like the taste of a dark, yeast-driven, strong ale when it's snowing outside.
This time of year doesn't start to get festive until I track down a sixer of Revolution Brewing' s classic Fistmas. It is a real easy drink, slightly hoppy red ale with some very delicate spices such as ginger and orange peel to give it a little more complexity than your average red. It has their distinctive branding on their cans featuring a Santa Claus in a barrel. It is a staple in my refrigerator this time of year. In fact, I drank my last one yesterday and will get some more before this weekend is up.
Also, I included Sketchbook Snowy Owl. Although it's not a winter ale, because of weird categories on Untapped, this one counts.
Next week, I am going to do a roundup of where we went this year through the column, and I'm going to review the badges we were able to knock off.
Name: Fistmas from Revolution Brewing
ABV: 6.5 percent
Style: Winter Ale
Notes: Ginger root and orange peel, with aromas of fresh-baked bread, caramel and stone fruits.
Would Go Well With: Chocolate-covered pretzels and predinner snacks
Where to Buy: Jewel-Osco and Target in various locations, and Liquor World in Kankakee sell a six-pack of 12-ounce cans for $10.
Name: Christmas Bomb! from Prairie Artisan Ales
ABV: 13 percent
Style: Imperial Stout
Notes: A dessert beer aged on cinnamon, coffee, chocolate, vanilla and chiles.
Would Go Well With: Dark chocolate and the end of a pleasing meal.
Where to Buy: The Open Bottle in Tinley Park sells a 355-milliliter bottle for $10.
Name: Christmas Ale from St. Bernardus Brouwerij
ABV: 10 percent
Notes: A deep dark color, with a creamy, thick head and a full, almost velvety taste with a fruity nose.
Would Go Well With: A fireplace roaring, Christmas music, watching your daughter open presents and family fun.
Where to Buy: Liquor World in 26-ounce bottles for $13 or The Hoppy Pig on tap: a 5-ounce pour for $4.50 or a 12-ounce pour for $9.
Name: Noel from Goose Island Beer Company
ABV: 9.5 percent
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Notes: Rich caramel base with Belgian fruity esters
Would Go Well With: A snowy Christmas night as you settle in for a fun evening with your family or friends.
Where to Buy: Liquor World in Kankakee or The Open Bottle in Tinley Park sell a four-pack of 12-ounce bottles for about $11.
Name: Snowy Owl from Sketchbook Brewing
ABV: 5.1 percent
Style: Amber Ale
Notes: Caramel malts, with spicy notes from the rye, balanced with the citrus flavor of American Cascade and Amarillo hops.
Would Go Well With: Christmas goose or ham.
Where to Buy: The Open Bottle in Tinley Park sells a four-pack of 16-ounce cans for $10.