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The Twelve Beers of Christmas

Andrew Nagy
Posted: December 21, 2012

It's the final weekend before Christmas. The lights are strung, the tree is trimmed, and aside from a few last-minute tasks, you finally have the time to light up a few premium cigars, relax with a soul-warming beer, and reflect.

Perhaps you're thankful to be a craft beer drinker in the United States right now, and for good reason: there's a lot of good beers on the shelves nowadays. Impact Databank numbers show craft brewers saw 13 percent by volume industry growth in 2011. Additionally, the Brewers Assocation, which represents 99 percent of the beer brewed in the U.S., reports an additional 12 percent growth for the first half of 2012.

To satisfy your thirst for craft beer, we thought it natural to find some of the best options for winter that not only are delicious, but pair well with cigars.

You won't find any leaping lords or milking maids on this list. What you will find, though, are a couple of barley wines, some beers from Canada, a 28 percent alcohol liquid that defies normal beer standards, and a brew based on a 2,800 year old recipe.

Hop City's Barking Squirrel Lager
(5 percent alcohol by volume, $7.99 for four-pack of 16 oz. cans)

Hailing from Ontario as the flagship beer of Hop City Brewing, Barking Squirrel recently debuted in the United States market (lucky us). A combination of malts—Canadian Pale 2 Row, Crystal and Munich—provide a backbone that is balanced by traditional Hallertau Mittelfrüh and Saaz hops.

While not high in alcohol, this red lager remains flavorful, sessionable and surprisingly warming.

APPEARANCE: Clear amber color with a surprisingly foamy white head. Sticky lacing.

AROMA: A crisp and clean hop smell dominates, with just a touch of cereal, herbal and floral notes.

PALATE: The slightly spicy beginning turns to biscuit and grassy notes, followed by a hint of nuts. Mouthfeel is light and finish is crisp, but leaves the tongue tingling with the same spice note from the start.

CIGAR: Quesada Oktoberfest Kurz (Not yet rated) The dry smoke softens the spice of the lager and brings out some earth flavors in the liquid as well as a caramel note in the cigar.

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