On Black Friday Goose Island released Bourbon County Brand Stout, an anticipated annual ritual from the AB/Inbev-owned brewery. Accompanied by relentless marketing, the beer is so "rare" that almost immediately a flood of nearly identical photos from innumerable attention-starved beer geeks began clogging social media. After all, what good is overpaying for one of the most over-hyped beers of the year if you do not have your purchase validated by strangers online?
While San Diego also produces some great barrel-aged stouts, the city made its name in craft with copious helpings of hops, and this month has seen a deluge of special release IPAs. Despite El Niño threatening to dampen December any day now, conditions have been ideal for sipping on the sunny flavors of these hoppy holiday brews.
Green Flash Jolly Folly IPA. This "hoppy accident" came about due to an operator error with equipment installed to produce Alpine Pure Hoppiness. Jolly Folly is hop-forward, with more bitter, piney flavors than Green Flash's more established brews. This beer is a gift to hop heads this holiday season, and hopefully a sign of things to come from Green Flash.
Modern Times Mega Fortunate Islands. Modern Times kicked off 2015 with a plan to feature different special-release bombers every month. Some have been better received than others, but this month's release is not to be taken lightly. Forget about Modern Times' production version of Fortunate Islands. This double IPA is nothing like the sessionable, hoppy wheat that inspired it. Instead, it is an aggressive hop bomb, and a bit of a departure from what I have come to expect from Modern Times IPAs. A great way to close out what has been a banner second year for the Lomaland brewery.
Alesmith Double Red IPA. A San Diego holiday tradition, the beer formerly known as Yulesmith returns and is as robust and hoppy as ever. With shelf space becoming more crowded, Alesmith re-branded its winter seasonal to eliminate any doubt regarding what bubbles under the cap.
Stone/Sierra Nevada NXS IPA. Another double IPA, NXS is the result of collaboration between two California craft pioneers, and belongs at the top of any beer geek's wish list. The beer was partially aged in gin-infused whisky barrels and rye bourbon barrels, and then blended with a freshly brewed batch of the same recipe. The unique brew is a perfect representation of the innovation both collaborators built their reputations on.
Stone Xocoveza. A wild card rounds out this list, though it is not an IPA nor is it particularly hoppy. This Mexican-chocolate-and-spice stout's highly anticipated return is the result of customer demand, and will sell out fast, so stock up. Any holiday beer list neglecting it should be dismissed out-of-hand.
The holidays are associated with dark, roasty stouts and porters, be they locally brewed or well-marketed macros. There are enough out this season that no thirst for them will go unquenched. But with so many tasty hop bombs hitting shelves, it is also a great time to indulge in some of the best releases of the year from some of the best breweries in town.