It's time to examine the latest wave of Christmas beers to hit retail shelves.
The Christmas-themed category of beers has exploded in recent years and making sense of them can be difficult because there is no standard style. A Christmas-themed beer can be any style, from a spiced brown ale to an India Pale Ale. Through trial and error, I have identified 10 standouts, and I present them to you as my 10 Best Beers of Christmas:
10. Delirium Noel From the makers of Delirium Tremens, this strong dark Belgian ale features sweet caramel and toffee flavors along with dark fruit and light toasted-bread notes. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, but quite effervescent. It's $9.99 per 750ml bottle.
9. Penn St. Nicholas Bock Caramelized brown sugar and caramel make a big play in this bock along with raisin and molasses notes. A malt-bomb of a beer, it's $9.99 per six pack.
8. Scaldis Noel At 12 percent alcohol by volume, this is a very warming brew. Loads of sweet dark fruit, rich dark malt and Belgian Candy sugar are on display here. It's $15.99 per 750ml bottle.
7. Lump of Coal This U.K.-brewed stout features strong roasted malt notes, bittersweet chocolate and hints of raisin and fruit esters. It sells for $4.99 per 500ml bottle.
6. Santa's Butt Porter Another U.K. brew, this Porter is defined by chocolate malt flavors and an easy drinking quaffability. Once banned in Maine and New York for its reference to Santa's derrière, you can grab Santa's Butt for $4.99 a 500ml bottle.
5. De Dolle Stille Nacht Another strong ale from Belgian, this brew is a longtime favorite of beer aficionados. Huge flavor concentration, with pale fruits such as apple and pear work with complex malt flavors to create a sweet bready finish that lingers impossibly long on the tongue. An 11.2-ounce bottle is $3.99.
4. Samichlaus A truly unique 14 percent alcohol-by-volume Doppelbock from Austria. Samichlaus packs a boozy malt and fruit-accented punch. Not for folks who like lighter beers. It's $5.99 for an 11-ounce bottle.
3. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale The Christmas beer for hop lovers, Celebration electrifies the taste buds with waves of pine and citrus flavor, balanced by sweet malt. The cost is $8.99 a sixer.
2. Avery Old Jubilation With rich dark malt notes, light nuttiness and a deceptive hop bite, Old Jubilation appeals to a variety of tastes without being dumbed down. A sixer costs $9.99.
1. Anchor Our Special Ale It changes from year to year, but in 34 years of production this spiced dark ale has never disappointed. Pick one up for $10.99 a sixer.
— Joey Redner is a Tampa resident and world beer traveler.