Give your favorite trail runner the gift of holiday beer

Let’s face it, during the holidays we sometimes get stuff that we don’t exactly want, or necessarily need. Rather than getting your favorite trail runner “stuff” that will probably just get placed in the closet full of other new stuff, why not just get the gift of holiday cheer, in the form of beer!

Beer is responsible for a lot of trail running stories which are often told along the bar and around the dinner table–and maybe even embellished a little! But rather than the normal, year-round-available beer, try out the specialty and holiday offerings from your local craft establishment or other craft brewers, such as a big, bold imperial stout, a spiced wild ale or a “Nöel” beer. Here are a few suggestions that you should be able to find more broadly and some that you will have to search for like that elusive finish at Barkley Marathons.

Brouwerij Huyghe Delirium Nöel (Melle, East Flanders, Belgium) – This is a quintessential Belgium beer distinguishable with a little pink elephant on every bottle. It is also distinguishable by the taste that Belgium is known for: sweet, boozy, spicy, sweet. Yes, I said sweet twice, the Belgians use candy sugar in their brewing process for a reason! And the pink little elephant on this bottle wears a Sinterklaas hat. 🍻Pairs well with stories of your European trip to Chamonix even though it’s a long way from Belgium (you Americans really need to brush up on your geography).

New Belgium Brewing Co. Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale (Fort Collins, CO) – A dark ruby-colored ale fermented with red raspberries. This festive beer, named for the Flemish word “raspberry”, is tart along with a little sweetness from the fruit, nutty and chocolatey in both aromas and taste. You can even try to find the limited release Imperial Frambozen with Cocoa, which is locally roasted and ground right in Fort Collins. This is one of champion ultra runner Alex Nichols’ favorite beers and the one that got him into the craft beer scene. 🍻Pairs well with your summer ultra stories, like that Nolan’s 14 you attempted. Remember, the one you broke the FKT on?

Anchor Brewing 2018 Christmas Ale (San Francisco, CA) – This annual Christmas Ale has been brewed for 44 years and may be the one of the top holiday beers which, each year, introduces a secret recipe and unique hand-drawn label design by the same gentleman that has produced all of Anchor Brewing’s labels, James Stitt. 2018 edition has hints of spices, baked banana bread with a velvety finish. 🍻Pairs well with the nostalgic trail runners that did it before it was actually a sport. I’m talking about you, Gordon Ainsleigh!

Tröegs Independent Brewing Mad Elf (Hershey, PA) – This mad concoction has flavors of ripened cherries, raw honey and cocoa with some notes of cinnamon, clove and allspice. It’s also weighs in at 11% so you will probably be a mad elf after a few. 🍻Pairs well with that quiet person that only comes out of their shyness with a little liquid encouragement. Then you realize how much of a freak they really are and you say “maybe you should go easy on the Elf.”

Prairie Artisan Ales Barrel-Aged Christmas Bomb! (Krebs, OK) – This gem from Oklahoma took the standard Christmas Bomb! and aged it in bourbon barrels for 2018. This imperial stout is conditioned on cacao nibs, vanilla, coffee, cinnamon and chili peppers. If you like to live on the wild side, serve this, grab some popcorn and brace yourself for the political discussions that ensue! Because 13% ABV will do that. 🍻Pairs well with stories of how bad you blew up in your first 100 mile attempt. You really “bombed” that one, get it!?

Resilience Butte County Proud IPA (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. & 1,400 breweries nationwide) – Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., one of the oldest and most well known craft breweries in the US, has made a commitment to help the residents and community of the November 2018 Camp Fire, now the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, and challenged other breweries to do the same by getting their suppliers to donate ingredients to all breweries that offer to help. There are now over 1,400 breweries–about 4.2 millions pints–to be consumed and 100% of all money raised will go directly back to the Camp Fire Relief Fund. So make sure you go out and find this beer in your local area and drink as much as possible, it might be more important than any present you get or give this holiday season. 🍻Pairs well with the provision of care and a sense of being a good human being. Find your local brewer here.

I asked my friend, Eric LiPuma, who happens to be the 2018 USATF 50K Road National Champion, beer aficionado and Brewers Association employee to suggest a few beers for the holidays and here is what he had to say.

There’s no shortage of great food and beer during the holidays and the Brewers Association has many great resources available for you to nail your festive food and beer pairings. When I think of holiday beers I think of classic winter desert spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) and higher ABV stouts rich enough to fuel your next long run. Here are a few of my favorite cold weather classics.

Indeed Brewing Company Stir Crazy Porter (Minneapolis, MN) – This beer is everything a great holiday beer should be. It’s dark, roasty, and would be perfect while sitting next to the fireplace with friends. You immediately get roasted malts on the nose and the further you delve into the beer it begins to open up into notes of dark fruits, coffee, and holiday cheer. This beer would be great for anyone who loves porters and stouts but does not want all that holiday spice.

Photo by Eric LiPuma

Stone Brewing Company XOCOVEZA (Escondido, CA) – This one isn’t your traditional holiday brew. Packing a punch at 8.5%, this imperial stout is brewed with ingredients inspired by traditional Mexican hot chocolate. With additions of cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, Xocoveza is great to drink on a harsh winter night while you get lost in just how deep this beer is.

Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Ale (Cleveland, OH) – In 2018 I was fortunate enough to have a friend grab me a bottle of Christmas Ale on his way back from Cleveland. This beer immediately delivers on the name with nose like a gingerbread cookie covered in honey. A true classic of the style, keep your eye out for this one.

So, this holiday season, seek out a seasonal brew from the neighborhood brewery or pick up a festive bottle from the local packy so your party can be wicked pissa. All you in Bostonians know what I’m talking about!

Check out the resource guide and ideas for putting on a Winter beer and food pairing.

ATRA Executive Director Nancy Hobbs, Hoka One One pro Joseph Gray and the author contemplate their next trail run (and beer!).