Christmas beers welcome holidays

Nothing puts me in the Christmas spirit more than a holiday beer. After dealing with (insert crazy family last names here), everyone is entitled to a nip of something more potent than Aunt Jane’s eggnog. For me, richness and smoothness top the list of alcohol priorities for the winter season. And what better beer than a dark, thick stout. While those are my main staples, I veered from my usual and tried a shandy. Only two things are needed with these delectable wintertime beers: a fireplace and footie pajamas.

One of my local favorites topped the list — Good People Brewing out of Birmingham’s Coffee Oatmeal Stout. This stout pours a deep chocolate brown, with minimal foam. The creaminess of the beer and the way it luxuriously slid down the back of my throat reminded me of eating heated chocolate bark as a kid. Keeping it even closer to home, this beer is brewed with local coffee. It produces that waft of morningtime breakfast, and no, I will not judge if you decide to pop one open before 11 a.m. This beer might even make you more proud to call yourself an Alabamian.

A not-so-local beer, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout from England, came highly recommended to me. The stout poured a tad lighter than the Good People brew and had the consistency of sweet milk — not buttermilk. The bottle read “brewed with well water” which was pretty neat considering I was currently drinking water from another continent. My only drawback: this beer is weak. Maybe my taste buds are just ‘hop’ cravers, but I had no desire to hop across the pond and devote myself to the British way of life for this beer. Next.

Hopping back over to the states, even if it is the Midwest, I prepared my taste buds for a jolly adventure with Leinenkugel’s Cranberry Ginger Shandy. This beer cuts a close second to the worst experiences I have ever had with beer, only behind the first time I ever tried it. With a 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, I knew my chances were not great. But cranberry, ginger and shandy it has a ring to it, right? It tasted more like a spiked, carbonated cranberry juice than beer, and poured a similar color to Natty Light. I enjoyed the hints of citrus and orange zest, but I wish the cranberry holiday flavor had shone through.

Editor’s Note: All beers, except for the shandy, were purchased from the Wine Cellar in downtown Florence.