Throughout most of the year, I stick to drinking flagship and seasonal beers from Maine breweries. My fridge is steadily stocked with staples from my favorite brewers spiced with the occasional special release beer.
The holiday season, however, is the time to splurge and buy specialty bottles from Maine breweries to share at ugly sweater parties, pop open at a holiday meal or gift to fellow craft beer lovers.
Maine brewers offer a range of specialty beers in handsome bottles with artistic labels that hit different notes on the palate. Whether you’re looking for a barrel-aged beer with wild yeast or a big boozy bourbon barrel-aged dark ale, Maine brewers have you covered.
The following list is, as they say, just the tip of the iceberg — Maine brewers offer a myriad of specialty bottles. Hit up your local beverage store for a full view of the vast catalog available.
Here are six specialty bottles available at beer stores and breweries sure to please the palate this holiday season.
Nikita || Rising Tide Brewing Co. ($13, 375 ml)
Winter is the perfect time to break into a bottle of this small-batch Russian Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels from Rising Tide. Like a great Russian imperial stout, Nikita is a balance of flavors: buttery bourbon, oaky wood, roasty malts and an assertive boozy underbelly. Nikita also boasts a nice hop finish from the addition of Magnum, Cascade and Mount Hood hops.
True to its name (“fluxus” is Latin for change), each year Allagash Brewing revamps the recipe for this winter release. The 2017 version is a blend of a milk stout and a saison. On paper, the two different styles of beer shouldn’t work; however, in the hands of the alchemists at Allagash, Hibernal Fluxus is a triumph of flavors. The bright saison yeast interplays with the dark malts of the stout to create a supple beer.
This strong ale is aged in bourbon barrels and offers big flavors of bourbon and Oxbow’s signature house yeast. The sweet flavors from the dark malts and the barrel-aging, along with the 10 percent alcohol content, make this a great digestif to sip after a big holiday meal. Oxbow offers a wide range of specialty bottles with striking labels, so be sure to check out all their offerings.
Packaged in an innovative sleeve holding two 12-ounce cans, Sebago’s Barleywine makes a great stocking stuffer. At 11.8 percent, this bourbon barrel-aged beer is brimming with complexity and is another great beer to sip after a big meal. Heck, with all those flavors of sweet malts, vanilla and caramel, you could even serve this beer for dessert.
The playful name, wax seal, fetching packaging and innovative liquid inside make Saxual Revolution a great gift for beer lovers. True to Liquid Riot’s outside-the-box approach to brewing, this is a tripel ale brewed with 150 pounds of candy sugar and aged with Brettanomyces yeast on gin barrels. Your palate will be unlocking different tasting notes from this kaleidoscopic flavor ride with each sip.
Since most of the beers on this list are dark beers with big roasty flavors, I want to mix in this sour ale aged on wild Maine blueberries from Foundation Brewing. Pomology: Blueberry is a small batch release that boasts a palatable sour undercurrent on top of sweet notes from the blueberry and malts. This is a refined sour that, like a bottle of wine, would be a great compliment to a holiday feast. A bite of salty turkey and cranberry sauce washed down with a sip of Pomology: Blueberry will surely induce instant holiday bliss.
OTHER BEER HAPPENINGS
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ screening at Rising Tide Brewing
5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Rising Tide Brewing, 103 Fox St., Portland. On Facebook.
What would the holidays be without a screening of the ubiquitous American classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Rising Tide is offering a screening in their newly opened East Room. The event includes eats from Locally Sauced food truck and a performance by cellist Alexa Ciciretti. Check out the new space as Rising Tide continues to expand in its Fox Street location while quaffing the brewery’s delicious lineup of beers. And you can pick up a bottle of Nikita Russian Imperial Stout while you’re there to boot.
Little Tap House Presents: 4th Annual Wicked Mainah’ Holiday Party
6 to 11 p.m. Thursday, 106 High St., Portland. On Facebook.
For years now, Little Tap House has been a veritable institution of Maine beer. The cozy beer-forward gastropub has close ties with many Maine brewers, allowing them to offer some of the best brews in Maine. This will be highlighted on Thursday for its 4th Annual Wicked Mainah’ Holiday Party. Expect brilliant one-off beers from local brewers and an inspired food menu to compliment all that great beer. There will even be a gathering of brewers on hand to chat up as you sip their beer. Dress in your finest flannel as you imbibe for the holidays and listen to live music.