‘Tis the season, as they say. It's the season of holiday parties, visits from out-of-town relatives, and catching up with loved ones. During these times, though, there are plenty of important decisions to be made, such as how much turkey is too much turkey, selecting the best ugly sweater, and what drinks to serve your house guests.
Around town, several stores have stockpiled the best holiday beverages to help spice up your parties and get-togethers, as well as provide great gift options.
Craft beer drinkers rejoice. Troegs Mad Elf, with its flavorful combination of chocolate malt, cherries and honey — as well as Sierra Nevada's Celebration Fresh Hop IPA — continue to be favorites this time of year. For those with heavier tastes, Founders Brewing Company offers its CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout), an imperial stout with hints of coffee and chocolate, aged in bourbon barrels and in honey.
If you want to play it safe with your selections, Ben Barrick at Goska's Liquors suggests a hazy IPA.
“It's an easier drinking beer overall. I think it's the types of hops they’re using, and they're a little juicier. The hop profiles aren't as aggressive,” Barrick said. “A lot of them have a good bit of fruit character to them, which adds the juiciness and drinkability to it. They've been a popular style all summer long, and I definitely see it continuing into the fall, and people are going to be drinking them all year round.”
Another unique option, filled with the Christmas spirit, comes from Anchor Brewing’s Christmas ale magnums.
“Anchor Brewing is a company that has been around for a lot of years,” said Matt Cross, the spirits manager at Dawson's Liquors. “Every year, they brew their special ale a little bit differently, but the same celebratory nature goes into brewing it. It's very rich, has a lot of spruce tips to it, very dark and very much captures the season compared to other Christmas beers.”
If you support local breweries, RaR Brewing and Oliver Brewing Company come highly recommended. Another local option with a unique flavor combination is Monument City Brewing Company's Bulls-Eyes Caramel Creams milk stout, inspired by Goetze's famous caramel cream candies.
To get creative, swing by Annapolis Home Brew and make your own beer. Manager Steve Bolton said some seasonal flavors are available only during the holidays, but dozens are available year-round.
“Personally, I like darker beers in the winter, and as the days get shorter, I like beers to get darker and taller,” Bolton said. “We have a pumpkin spice porter that comes in a premade kit. We also have our own pumpkin ale, which is based on an amber ale kit with pumpkin spice in it. The winter seasonal just replaced that. We also have the harvest wheat beer, the salted caramel porter. We have dozens of beer kits.”
Eggnog remains a popular choice during the Christmas season, and if you're a fan of the eggnog recipe served at Severna Park’s Brian Boru Irish Restaurant and Galway Bay Irish Restaurant in Annapolis, you can find their mixture for sale at Dawson's Liquors.
Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey is a mainstay, and the Winter Jack Tennessee Cider, which blends apple and cider liqueur, has been a popular pick since its October release. Continuing with the holiday fruit flavors, Koval Cranberry Gin Liqueur will present a tasty cocktail base with the aroma of Thanksgiving mixed in.
Elijah Craig is a premium and super-premium brand of bourbon whiskey produced by Heaven Hill Distilleries in Kentucky. The distillery has partnered with Goska's Liquors for a small batch single-barrel collaboration expected to be available toward the end of November.
Liquor bottles can be a great gift for dinner parties or gift exchanges. Kim Lawson, owner of Fishpaws Marketplace, said gift sets are great ideas for those occasions. Baileys Irish Cream, Maker's Mark and Patron are common choices.
If you're looking for a unique gift to pour drinks into, Fishpaws Marketplace is offering custom engravings on any wine or spirits bottle.
“Jenny is calligrapher and engraver. She can personalize any bottle of wine or spirit for you,” Lawson said. “Customers just love it because they can personalize it and make it a one-of-a-kind gift if they are going to a housewarming party, or use it as a gift, or just to have something at the house. She does a beautiful job.”
Custom engravings at Fishpaws will be available on November 30 from noon to 6:00pm, December 5 from 4:00pm to 8:00pm, and December 11 from 3:00pm to 8:00pm.
Wine bottles also serve as a great gift idea during the holidays and the options are endless.
For lovers of red wine, Château de Saint Cosme “Les Deux Albion” presents aromas and flavors of roasted game, mesquite, olive and plum.
The staff at Magothy Wine and Spirits suggests a bottle of Foris Rogue Valley Pinot Noir, a smooth, medium-body with flavors of tart cherry and orange zest, or a bottle of Lone Birch Pinot Gris as a dry white wine option.
Store general manager Peter Rutski also highly recommends a bottle of the Marques de Riscal.
“It's from central Spain. What's great about this wine is it's really versatile. It's a bottle that has good fruit, has good acids, so it's going to pair well with a lot of different things,” Rutski said. “If it's something you want to drink right now, it's showing wonderfully. But also, if you want to lay it down for a few years, Rioja is known for their structure and their ageability. So if you're looking for a nice gift, that would also work as well.”
Annapolis Home Brew carries a chocolate raspberry dessert wine that comes as a three-gallon kit of juice.
“You add the yeast to it, you follow the instructions and it makes three gallons of this rich, chocolaty, raspberry dessert wine,” Bolton said. “It’s a very well put-together kit as far as the balance between the chocolate flavor and the raspberry flavor. It’s a port wine base, so it’s rather high in alcohol as well. Generally with a dessert wine, you’re having small portions, so it’s the perfect wine for after the Christmas dinner when all the fighting has stopped and all the tears have dried up. You can bring out a bottle of wine, everyone can share a bit of this, and hopefully make everyone happy again.”
Anyone looking for champagne to ring in the holidays should look no further than the crisp and bright flavors of Mumm Napa Brut Rosé.
“Mumm Brut Rosé is the best of both worlds,” said Don MacMurrary of both Port Tack Wine & Spirits and Harbour Wine & Spirits. “It pairs well with any type of food or any kid of plates that people put out. It’s celebratory for holidays and it’s easy to share.”