The holiday onslaught
on the Wine Source's shelves has cleared them of any elf- or Santa-related beers, but there are still some winter options to grab up before breweries start shipping out their spring seasonals, according to Wine Source beer manager Jed Jenny. For belated gift-giving and for celebrating quickly failed new year's resolutions, large-format beers (bottles containing 22 ounces and 750 milliliters or more) are ideal. They're made for sharing, and they allow beer novices to sample in smaller quantities.
For chocophiles, Jenny recommends Southern Tier's Choklat. This upstate New York brewery is known for its philosophy of producing flavors at the extreme end of the spectrum, and Choklat (10 percent ABV) exemplifies that. Jenny says to think of it as "dessert in a bottle" and that this imperial stout, brewed with Belgian chocolate, is "almost too rich to consume alone," making it an ideal beer for a celebratory tasting among friends. Dropping a scoop of ice cream into a pint glass of this would not be considered improper.
For a complete departure from candy-sweet beers, Jenny suggests Goose Island's Lolita (8.7 percent ABV), a Belgian-style sour that's liable to cause some puckers. Wild yeast drives the flavor of this rose-colored beer, which is aged with raspberries in wine barrels at the vaunted Chicago brewery. Sours aren't for everyone, Jenny notes, but they are one of the "fastest-growing styles of beer in the craft beer scene," and they have the potential to blow someone's mind. Bonus: A newcomer's reaction to sour beers, in terms of facial expressions, tends to be priceless.
For something milder than a sour but with an appropriate amount of holiday spice, Jenny recommends Dupont Avec Les Bon Voeux (9.5 percent), a saison from a Belgian brewery whose name is synonymous with the style. The brewery has released this beer every year since 1970, Jenny says, and its name translates to "best wishes from the brewery." This bubbly, peppery blond ale will have just as much fizz as Champagne, and a 1.5-liter bottle (it also comes in 750-milliliter) will certainly make an impression on any crowd.