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24 New York beers to try this holiday season 

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Well readers, it’s that time of year again — the frost is setting in, home-cooked meals roast in the oven, and families are reuniting for another holiday season. If you’re like me, all of those things mean you need a drink.

Let your holiday helpers at CITY find some good stuff to imbibe.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
We’ve spent the past month pouring, sampling, and discussing some of the region’s finest brews to bring you another round of our beer advent calendar. It’s our second year of the tradition and thanks to some better planning this year, we had tons of fun putting it together for you all.

Beer is one of life’s small pleasures and the cascade of effervescent nectar from malt, yeast, and hops provides a welcoming respite from the chaos of life. Given the events of the past two years, we all need a little bit of that.

Likewise, with the end of the year approaching, the holidays are a great time to take stock and realize all we have to be grateful for, even if it’s just the many treasures that the breweries in this region produce.

After all, it’s often the little things that make life worth living, so let’s toast to that.

Cheers! Or perhaps, since we’re featuring a few German styles this year, we should say “Prost!” instead.

Dec. 1

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Brewcy Fruit”
from Brindle Haus Brewing Company
Rotating sour series (Pictured: Passionfruit, Orange, and Guava)

Brightly acidic with heavy emphasis on passionfruit, this sour ale walks the tightrope line between light sessionability and overly-fruited decadence. Find other versions with different fruit blends.

Dec. 2

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Raspberry Lemonade Sour” from K2 Brothers Brewing
Sour ale with raspberries and lemon

This offering from Penfield staple K2 Brothers is reminiscent of the summertime and it delivers on the promise of its name.  Escape the December chill with visions of boat days and beach parties.

Dec. 3

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Bath Bomb” from Fifth Frame
Rotating sour series (Pictured: Pina Colada)

A demonstration of excess from the St. Paul Street sour ale auteurs at Fifth Frame combines copious amounts of fruit puree into a base sour ale, ending in a viscous, smoothie-like barrage.

Dec. 4

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Oh…” from Other Half Brewing Company
Double Dry Hopped India Pale Ale

Citra, Galaxy, and Motueka hops provide tropical, berry, and citrus notes that accompany the light malt body.

Dec. 5

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Hefeweizen” from Swiftwater Brewing Company
German-style wheat beer

An unassuming, slightly sweet malt base opens up with estery notes of cloves and bananas before delivering a final punch of crisp herbal hop goodness.

Dec. 6

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Local Liquid” from Steuben Brewing Company
New York Pilsner

Brewed entirely from local ingredients, this endlessly crushable offering is deceptively complex, brimming with subtle notes of sweet malt and faint stone fruit, as well as roasty tones.

Dec. 7

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Shakedown Cruise” from Iron Tug Brewing Company
Extra Pale Ale

Is it an IPA? Is it a pale ale? Do words truly have prescribed meaning, or is language so fluid and malleable as to give them no purpose at all? Philosophers are free to ponder these prompts over this lightly bitter and overtly floral brew.

Dec. 8

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Melon Head” from Three Heads Brewing Company
Watermelon sour ale

Watermelon Sour Patch Kids are a top-tier candy, and this is the liquid, alcoholic version. Find notes of artificial watermelon up front that turn into an easygoing tartness.

Dec. 9

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Ambrosia Salad” from Noble Shepherd Craft Brewery
Sour ale with pineapple, blood orange, tangerine, marshmallow, toasted coconut, and vanilla beans

Joyous liquid recreation of the southern staple Jell-O “salad.” A sweet, fruity, and cloying brew sure to delight even the most beer-opposed drinker.

Dec. 10

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Gather House” from Drowned Lands Brewery
Unfiltered Wit Beer

While hazy as the most New England of IPAs, this wit beer gets its character from an array of malt and yeast notes rather than liberal amounts of hops. Expect malty sweetness punctuated by funky hits of farmhouse ale.

Dec. 11

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Mosaic Kolsch” from Naked Dove Brewing Company
German lager spiked with mosaic hops

Tradition meets modern in this Canandaigua mash-up. This light-drinking German lager finishes with an unexpected hit of tropical hop notes that invite another sip.

Dec. 12

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“It Was Written” from Rising Storm Brewing Company
Rotating Sour IPA series (Pictured: Blackberry Apricot)

A tribute to Nas’s sophomore album from the hip-hop connoisseurs at Avon’s Rising Storm, It Was Written is a sour IPA packed with fruit additions. Sweet pulp mingles on the finish with deeper floral and tropical hops.

Dec. 13

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“European Swallow Beer” from Peacemaker Brewing Company
English Bitter

A confounding take on the classic English bitter, European Swallow Beer has a hearty bitter bite that follows malty notes of caramel, toffee, and light roast.

Dec. 14

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Liquid Lollipop” from Froth Brewing Company
Rotating sour series (Pictured: Peanut butter and jelly with strawberry, grape, raspberry, and peanut butter)

Liquid Lollipop represents the single Buffalo contribution to this year’s calendar but oh boy, what a contribution. A truly asinine level of fruit makes this dessert sour an exercise in gluttony rivaled by few. (Tip: you can make a cross-town collaboration by blending it with a Genesee. It helps thin things out).

Dec. 15

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Double Middle Finger Lakes IPA” from Reinvention Brewing Company
Double IPA

A big, hearty IPA which eschews subtlety in favor of sharp pine, citrus, cloying resin, and intense bitterness. Harken back to the West Coast IPA days of yore.

Dec. 16

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Hydra” from Mortalis Brewing Company
Rotating Sour Series (Pictured: Blackberry, Black Currant, Sweet Cherry)

The swan song of Rochester beer and a marvel of the fruited sour genre, the monster’s many heads are made up of constantly changing experiments in fruit puree and other additions. Thick, hearty, and proudly over-the-top, Hydra is a must have for lovers of extreme beer.

Dec. 17

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Lakeside” from Young Lion Brewing Company
New England IPA

Young Lion’s take on the hazy IPA genre is a lesson in balance. Notes of sweet malt are complemented by tinges of citrus and sweet fruit and contrasted by a deep, yet palatable, bitterness.

Dec. 18

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“PB&J with Churchill” from War Horse Brewing Company
Coffee Stout

Execution of a fruited stout typically leaves much to be desired, and it seems like the brewers tempted fate with this confluence of coffee, peanut butter, and jelly. But this beer succeeds in its audacity, perfectly representing a canned version of a childhood lunchtime staple.

Dec. 19

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Cran Orange Kellerbier” from Genesee Brewing Company
Kellerbier

Why this blend of clearly artificial cranberry and orange flavorings in this light German zwickelbier works is beyond me, but it does. It’s easy-drinking, flavorful, and unquestionably holiday-tinged.

Dec.20

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Der Rauchgarten” from Aurora Brewing Company
Rauchbier

CITY’s creative director Ryan Williamson best described this beer as like a Genny that had been left out beside a campfire. That is fitting. A light amount of smoked malt brings a deep, earthy character to this otherwise sweet, malty brew.

Dec.21

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Massive Spire” from Strange Bird Brewing Company
Rye Barleywine

This absurdly hopped, aggressive barleywine also has the heftiest alcohol content of all the brews on this calendar. A hefty malt base is counterbalanced by strong bitterness and spicy rye notes on the finish.

Dec. 22

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Ski Bum” from Ellicottville Brewing Company
Winter Ale

An unassuming brown ale with a hefty bitterness, this beer is a perfect fit for a long, cold day on the slopes.

Dec. 23

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Old Top Hat Lager” from Stoneyard Brewing Company
Lager

A traditional, unassuming, and unpretentious lager based on a simple malt profile and modest hops. What’s not to love?

Dec.24

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
“Vanilla Porter” from Rohrbach Brewing Company
Porter

This roasty porter imbued with vanilla is as classically Rochester as a beer can get. Simple, timeless, and robust, it’s a perfect sipping beer as the holiday season comes to a close but the cold winter months are still long ahead.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer and can be reached at gfanelli@rochester-citynews.com.
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