First Frost | Fullsteam Brewery | Durham
Winner of a 2013 Good Food Award, First Frost is a malty, fruit-forward Belgian ale that features heavenly persimmons. Fullsteam Brewery founder Sean Lilly Wilson personally recommends roasted bird with an apricot glaze as a complement to this beer. Dark-meat chicken and game bird will stand up particularly well to this rich drink. But the perfect pairing? “You could just wait and serve First Frost in place of port or (dare I suggest) bourbon, as an evening-closing fireplace drink,” Wilson says. Don’t mind if we do. If you can get your hands on it, try the small batch of First Frost that’s aged in brandy barrels.
Hoppy Holidays | NoDa Brewing Company | Charlotte
For those who aren’t fans of traditional seasonal beers but want to add just a bit of holiday cheer to their pint glasses, NoDa Brewing Company’s Hoppy Holidays fits the bill. This American IPA isn’t “spiced heavily with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and Santa’s tears,” says head brewer Chad Henderson. Instead, piney Simcoe hops give this drink a distinctive zip, which is further accented by spruce notes. Henderson suggests pairing Hoppy Holidays with a dish featuring sausage and peppers. A dessert featuring tart cranberries brings out the bright flavor of this beer, too. This year’s batch is available on draft and in cans.
Silent Night | Mother Earth Brewing | Kinston
Its color might closely resemble that of coal, but trust us, you’ll want a bottle of this bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout in your Christmas stocking. Hints of coffee and molasses give this beer a robust but smooth profile. As with other full-bodied stout beers, Mother Earth Brewing’s Silent Night should be paired with decadent foods that can hold their own and aren’t easily muddled. Your party guests will love it alongside aged Gouda or a raspberry chocolate cake.
Cold Mountain Winter Ale | Highland Brewing Company | Asheville
The first holiday brew to ever come out of Asheville, Highland Brewing Company’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale has established itself as a crowd-favorite winter warmer in the past two decades. Vanilla is the most prominent flavor you’ll get on the palate, but you’ll also pick up on subtle notes of hazelnut and cinnamon. With a strong malt backbone, this is a comfort beer that deserves to be enjoyed by the fire. A starchy dish like potato latkes goes perfectly with the Cold Mountain Winter Ale.
Tiny Tim’s Christmas Ale | Front Street Brewery | Wilmington
This porter, blended with cold-steeped French vanilla coffee, is as aromatic as it is pleasant to drink. With each sip, notes of dark roasted coffee and cocoa linger, but don’t expect this specialty brew to last long on draft. Wilmington’s Front Street Brewery only releases two batches each year, so grab a growler and get it while you can. We suggest pairing this beer with a warm bread pudding. This combination serves as a sweet cap on an evening spent with friends.