New Year’s Eve looks different for everyone, every year. This year especially will be a bit of a crapshoot. Bars and restaurants are closed across the country, parties are illegal, family gatherings are dangerous, and friends are helping friends by agreeing to #stayhome. But of course, there is a bright side: Now is your chance to confidently skip out on overcrowded ragers with insane entrance fees and take a short, budget-friendly trip to the grocery store and stock up on some really good beer.
For those who already love beer, there’s no explanation needed here: Enjoy the list! For those who may have an inkling to expand their beer palates — perhaps the world of sour beers is calling, or a sparkling-wine-inspired IPA might do — there’s no time like the present to start exploring. This festive list of beers includes options for a range of palates and tastes, from a lager-like beer-wine hybrid brewed with Sauvignon Blanc must, to a corked-and-caged classic from the saison promised land. Consider this curated list of beer bottles (and cans) worthy to pop while you’re counting down the clock.
New year, new you: Let the beer-buying adventure begin.
10. Allagash Two Lights
An “ode to cold beer and sparkling wine,” according to Allagash, Two Lights is a pretty perfect place to start for sparkling wine drinkers. It’s light, spritzy, and brewed with Sauvignon Blanc must (pressed juice from the grapes); and fermented with wine and beer yeasts. Lager yeast gives this beer its clean, crisp profile, while Champagne yeast amplifies its tart fruit notes as well as the perception of sparkling-wine-like effervescence. Amarillo, Simcoe, and New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin hop varietal further the lightly tropical fruit and white grape notes.
9. Perennial Artisan Ales Saison de Lis
An irresistible saison from St. Louis, Perennial’s Saison de Lis is floral, spicy, and dry. The addition of chamomile flowers adds playful finesse and prepares the palate for a tart finish. Plus, the 750-milliliter bottle is impressive, and the pretty label design brings a bit more elegance to the occasion. A lovely, low-alcohol 5 percent ABV makes this a perfect bottle for those planning to wind down after midnight. (Sleepy Time Tea, anyone?)
8. Stillwater Extra Dry
Baltimore (Produced in Stratford, Conn.)
Stillwater Extra Dry quietly tiptoed into the background of my beer shopping memories until recently, when a colleague reminded me that A) I love this beer, and B) It’s time to bring it back! (Thanks, Katie.) Extra Dry is a super-fun beer to have on hand for several reasons: It’s ridiculously easy-drinking, light lager-level sessionable, and low-alcohol enough to drink all night. It’s inspired by sake, evident in its Japanese design-inspired label as well as use of sake rice in the grist. The flavor is delicate and fresh, a touch fruity as Citra, Hallertau Blanc, and Sterling hops bring light citrus and floral notes from nose to palate. The can is also one of the coolest-looking around, so that’s a plus for visuals, particularly for those partying on Zoom.
7. Sixpoint Sparkler
Sparkler initially launched as a brut IPA (remember those?) before Sixpoint cleverly rebranded it as a much more impactful hazy IPA. In essence, this beer still offers what brut IPA set out to accomplish: juice bomb-level fruitiness but a dry and effervescent palate, so drinkers can enjoy the aromas and flavors of a smoothie without feeling the saccharine heft of drinking one. Bonus points if you have actual sparklers.
6. Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Bam Biere
Bam Biere is a Michigan farmhouse ale that continually garners attention for its thirst-quenching tartness, bright, citrusy flavor, and low-alcohol and -sugar content. Lemony zest is softened by two months’ oak aging, giving the light, chuggable ale noted complexity. If nothing else, drink this in honor of the brewery’s Jack Russell, Bam, who survived being hit by a car and inspired this beer. (It was also recently named one of VinePair’s 50 best beers of the year.)
5. Brewery Ommegang Rosetta
Cooperstown, N.Y. (Produced in Oudenaarde, Belgium)
Three words: sour cherry ale. Rosetta blends Oud Bruin, a Flemish sour brown ale, and Cuvee Brut cherry ale into an exciting, approachable mashup that’s not too tart, not too sweet, and not boozy, either. Produced at Liefmans blendery in Belgium, which shares Ommegang’s parent company (Duvel), Rosetta’s stylistic elements also dovetail: On the surface is the deep, dark austerity of Oud Bruin; and beneath is a candy-sweet cherry kriek. Neither dominates, but instead they coexist in harmonious bliss. This will be wonderful paired with creamy Brie.
4. Schlenkerla Helles
Peated Scotch fans may appreciate the subtle smoky notes on this Helles lager from Bamburg, Germany’s famous Schlenkerla. The brewery is synonymous with the Bavarian speciality of smoked beer. The Helles is not actually smoked itself, but gets its smoky flavor from being in proximity to rauchbier and other smoked beer operations. It’s a great entry-level smoky lager that pairs very well with apps such as pulled pork sliders or pigs in a blanket, and a sense of adventure.
3. Saison Dupont
Saison Dupont is the reason we have “saison” in our beer vocabulary. (The French word for season, it refers to the centuries-old farmhouse ales brewed to refresh working hands in the hot months, but today, it’s brewed and enjoyed year-round.) It’s dry, soft, and fluffy on the palate, and has delightful fruity and spicy notes from the yeast. Like Champagne, Saison Dupont undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle. The corked-and-caged bottle also has the added benefits of feeling fancy and fun to pop open, and at a fraction of the price of that sparkling wine you were about to add to your Drizly cart. It can also age beautifully in your cellar, closet, or fridge for next year. (Or next week, because if not now, when?)
2. Sierra Nevada Celebration 2020
Chico, Calif. and Asheville, N.C.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, more recently rebranded Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA, is a time-honored classic that hasn’t had as many chances to grace our dinner tables this year. Yet, the 2020 release of this annually released holiday ale still found a way to convince us there are still things to celebrate, even in Covid-19. The beer uses fresh hops from the year’s first harvest to pepper its caramel-malt character. It’s a special beer to have on the table, remarkably so for those who have done so since 1981. It’s also a great winter IPA, with notes of nostalgia complemented by pine trees, orange peel, and caramel.
1. Miller High Life 750 ml
Here it is: America’s Champagne of Beers in a sleek 750, back for 2020 with a smart foil collar and sparkling marketing campaign. Miller High Life’s holiday “Champagne” bottle is pretty irresistible for its pageantry and price (about $3 or $4). Just don’t let anyone talk you into spending $20 on the WiFi-enabled light-up coupes because they are complete nonsense. This bottle locator helps find shops that carry it. And finally, take a cue from the Miller High Life Girl in the Moon, and toast to the stars.