THE BREWHOLDER: 2016 Christmas beers are here

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The “Elf on the Shelf” — Santa’s helper who keeps an eye out for naughty and nice children — has appeared in many homes during the month of December. Likewise, bottles, cases and taps of Christmas beers have now appeared in bottle shops and pubs throughout the region. Here’s a list of some craft brew elven helpers to make your season more merry and bright!

PHOTO BY MATT BRASCH These elves will help make your holidays merry and bright.

These elves will help make your holidays merry and bright.

Troegs “Mad Elf”: An annual favorite since 2003, this 11 percent ABV beautiful ruby red ale is brewed with honey, cherries and chocolate malts, and has a slight spiciness from Belgian yeast. With the complete overhaul of Troegs branding and labels this year, the face of the “Mad Elf” has changed, but not the flavor. If you can find it, also try a bottle of Troegs’s “Wild Elf;” based on the “Mad Elf” recipe but using Pennsylvania grown Balaton cherries and wild yeast, this limited bottle release was one of the first beers brewed in Troegs’s new oak foeders.

Fegley’s “Rude Elf Reserve”: Allentown-based Fegley’s Brew Works “Rude Elf Reserve” is a Belgian-style strong, dark ale brewed with spices. Its creation is explained on the Brew Works website, “After being harassed by elves in the toy workshop and the reindeer in the stables, Rudy found his true calling in Santa’s brew house. Keeping his edge and focusing his talents, this elf created a spicy holiday brew that became a Christmas legend of its own.” http://thebrewworks.com/brews/rude-elfs-reserve/ In reality, head brewer and co-owner Jeff Fegley created “Rude Elf” in 1999 as a spiced beer to celebrate the holidays!

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant “Santa’s Little Helper”: Iron Hill has embraced the holiday season by brewing several seasonal beers. “Santa’s Little Helper” is described by Iron Hill as a “fuller-bodied version of the classic Belgian Witbier. This beer has a sweet wheat malt flavor balanced by additions of coriander and orange.” http://www.ironhillbrewery.com/beer-list.htm.

You can try “Santa’s Little Helper” and 3 other seasonal beers in the “Deck the Halls” sampler flight, which also includes “Scrooge IPA,” an American-style IPA brewed with a generous amount of hops for a pronounced hop flavor and bitterness that matches the beer’s namesake; “Reindeer’s Revenge,” an American-style Belgian golden ale with complex aromas and flavors of grapefruit, spice and banana with a refreshing hop bitterness; and “Winter Warmer,” a medium-bodied dark ale finished with classic winter spices. Served in a cinnamon-rimmed glass.

Ridgeway Brewing “Bad Elf Winter Ale”: Ridgeway Brewing, based in the United Kingdom, has released an entire line of elf themed beers. The base beer, “Bad Elf Winter Ale,” is described by RateBeer as “a hop-lover’s dream, balancing a generous amount of famous English malt with an astounding 45 ounces of fresh hops – including American Cascade – per barrel.” www.ratebeer.com/beer/ridgeway-bad-elf-6/28228/ There are 2 versions of “Bad Elf” — a 4.5 percent ABV and a 6 percent ABV; the 6 percent version is available at Wegmans in Montgomeryville. Also at Wegman’s you’ll find Ridgeway’s “Seriously Bad Elf,” (9.0 percent ABV) and “Insanely Bad Elf” (11.2 percent ABV).

Port Brewing “Santa’s Little Helper”: San Marcos, California-based Port Brewing brews a 10 percent ABV imperial stout for the holidays named “Santa’s Little Helper.” The flavor is described on the Port Brewing website as, “…an emphasis on dark cocoa and roasted coffee aromatics. The finish lends hints of sweet crystal malt, warming tones of alcohol and a touch of hops, making a perfect accompaniment to leftover fruit cake and sugar cookies.” http://portbrewing.com/beer/santas-little-helper/ A bourbon-barrel aged version is also available.

So whether it’s to add a little more cheer to a family gathering or as the perfect gift for a craft beer fan, these helpful beers make this holiday season the most wonderful time of the year.

Columnist Matt Brasch is a beer enthusiast and a lifelong Montgomery County resident. For more, go to http://thebrewholder.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at “The Brewholder.”

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