The Definitive 2020 Guide to Portland’s Best Holiday Craft Beers

Portland's best holiday craft represent some of the best IPA's, Porters, Winter Warmers and Specialty Ales local brewmasters are stirring up.
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Portland’s reputation as a craft beer mecca is unmistaken and draws craft beer lovers from near and far to breweries such as Ten Barrel Brewing in the Pearl District, or one of Gigantic Brewing’s locations. With 2020 coming to an end, local breweries are gearing up for the holiday season rush despite pandemic closures. Each year, brewmasters put their creative juices to work producing craft beers that energize loyal fans and attract new adventurous tasters in the mood for holiday-inspired ales. 

Cozy up with our definitive guide to the best craft beers offering wintry seasonal cheer, and how you can get your hands on them. Whichever you choose, all you beer lovers are sure to be the hero of the party.

Winter Warmers

So what in the heck is a Winter Warmer beer? It’s a generic label used to describe many winter seasonals. Breweries intentionally label their local brew as a Winter Warmer because beers with spice notes can keep patrons warm in cold winter months. So without further ado, here are three of our favorites from local breweries that are bottling up or serving winter warmers on draft this season.

Super Jubel 2020, Deschutes Brewery: this beer was inspired by a frozen keg of the beloved Jubelale that was rediscovered by brewers. Jubel 2020 is described as an Imperial Winter Warmer without the freezing, which is considered distillation (for you brew experts). There are hints of toasted caramel, raisins, dates, and figs that are complemented by spicy and herbal hop aromas. Super Jubel has 10% ABV and 50 IBUs, which are available now in four-pack bottles.

Winter Coat 2021, Stormbreaker Brewing: a follow-up to Winter Coat 2020, this tasty beer won a gold medal at both the Best of Craft Beer Awards and the US Open Beer Championship. The creative name came from lead brewer, Tyler Martell’s trusty snowboarding coat that never lets him down. Winter Coat 2021 is a malty and strong-base beer, with a 7.5% ABV and 35 IBUs. Even though it’s a Winter Warmer, it’s made with tangerine and cacao nibs, which sounds mighty tasty! Available in local stores and at Stormbreaker for pick up or delivery.

Neon Snowsuit, Level Beer: the beer label alone is enough to want to buy this fun-looking beer. Neon Snowsuit has lots of caramel, toffee, rye, plum, fig, and rich bready undertones. It is also balanced with a wonderful blend of piney, floral, and earthy hops, which sounds just like a beautiful winter day. The ABV is 7.2% and 60 IBUS, which makes this a bold beer. Starting 12/10, this beer is available for pickup and on draft.

IPAs/Ales

When craft beer drinkers think of IPAs, they imagine the first drink as being hoppy, and strong; but it’s much more than that. This is an incredibly popular style of beer that has had many face-lifts, depending on the brewery. IPA, also known as an India Pale Ale, is a hoppy beer within the broader category of pale ale. It became popular in 1815 England, and would later be a beer that was exported to India and elsewhere. Two breweries really wowed us with PNW-inspired iconic woodsy creations.

Yippee-Ki-PA, Baerlic Brewing: how fun is this name? Yippee-Ki-PA is a Christmas-style IPA that was brewed to perfection with enough resinous pine to take down the local Sasquatch. It has an ABV of 7.2% and is available for pick-up and home delivery.

The Cat Ate My Stash and P*ssed on the Christmas Tree, Gigantic Brewing: this name is upfront, a little coarse…and very memorable. It’s hazy gold in color and uses NW pale malts, Simpson Medium Crystal malts, Chinook, Simcoe, Mosaic, Cascade, and Nugget Hops; basically, all the piney and earthy tones an individual beer can get. This beer sits at 7.5% ABV and 85 IBUs and is available on tap at all Gigantic locations.

Porters 

 

Porter-style beers are incredibly popular in the colder months and for good reason. Beer drinkers tend to lean on darker brews  because it fills them up with a toasty warmth. Developed in the early 18th century in England they owe their dark appearance to the use of brown malts. The name originated from street and river porters who enjoyed this style quite frequently. This standout makes your decision easy, no?!

Pecan Pie Porter, Backwoods Brewing: if this wintertime porter doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, we don’t know what will. This Backwoods brew is filled with caramel, chocolate, and vanilla flavors that make the style appealing as a dessert beer, or paired with an appetizer. It has a light roast finish, with the perfect hint of pecan. The ABV is 5.9% ABV and 20 IBUs. You can pick up this delicious porter at Backwoods and get it to go or sip on it at the pub.

Specialty Ales

There’s a huge variety of beer styles these days and sometimes breweries will cross-reference styles to create something spectacular. Specialty Ales are typically a regular beer brewed to a classic style with added flavor components. Beers in this category sometimes originate from unusual fermented foods that make the flavors stand out from the rest.

Sherry Barrel Stock Ale, Upright Brewing: this ale is a “one-off” or seasonal brew that was made with Level Beer. The style of this decadent ale is unique and seldom seen today. With the pairing of English stock ales in vintage casks, and young, fresh beer, the notes and taste will be different a lot of other ales. Upright provides the sherry barrels, and Level contributes the young beer, which makes this brew a historical and memorable concoction. 

Winter Sage, Cascade Brewing: this beer came out in 2019 and its festive nature is worth noting. Cascade partnered with Market of Choice to create Winter Sage, a sour wheat ale aged in oak barrels up to 10 months. It’s infused with fresh and locally grown sage, white tea, lemon peel, coriander, and to top it off, Oregon coast sea salt. Everything about this flavor screams cozy cabin in the PNW woods off of the coast, which now is where we want to be. The ABV is lighter at 5.3% and a holiday in a cup.

Tree Spirit, Little Beast Brewing: this lovely little brew definitely has holiday vibes and was made using a foeder (“food-er”). For non-brewery experts it is a large, vertical oak vessel in which a beer is fermented. The  wood vessel allows slow maturing and complete flavor development. Tree Spirit  is a foeder-aged ale fermented with whole Montmorency cherries, resulting in a complex flavor with hints of vanilla, almond, and of course, cherry. It’s unfiltered with a 7% ABV and 16 IBUs. Available in bottle-form for local delivery and in-state shipping.

There you have it! Be merry at home and try some new holiday craft beers and discover the earned reputation of Portland’s breweries. Cheers!

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