Toasting the new year with champagne (or whatever the hell you call that sweet sparking wine you were thinking about pouring) is quite traditional. This year, dump the grape stuff and pick up something with some barley and hops.
Here are eight beers in four different varieties to inspire you to make the leap into a new beer-centered New Years Eve tradition.
Let your wild side out while the ball drops with a beer that's been fermented with yeast or other microbes that have been hanging out in the air. The funk will fly when you pop the cork on a wild ale from Saint Somewhere Brewing from Tarpon Springs, like the saison-based Lectio Divina. Open fermentation brings western Florida critters into the mix, offering up tartness, grass, fruit, and lots of bubbly carbonation.
Or go for a bottle of Oude Geuze from Brouwerij Boon. The Belgian brewer's geuze, a style of blended young and old Lambics, has a lot of that dry and woodsy character that a well crafted champagne does. The months of oak aging helps.
Big Barreled Stouts
To hell with beers that are similar to champagne, for New Years go in the opposite direction and pick out a beer that's big, bold, dark, and full of chocolate big malty flavors. Especially seek out imperial stouts aged in some sort of barrel: whiskey, bourbon, brandy, or all three. There's no better time to open that bottle of Cigar City Brewing's Hunahpu's Imperial Stout you've been (properly) cellaring in your carefully controlled beer fridge. With a thick black body, vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, and exotic spices blend together for a divine experience.
Or maybe delve into a bottle of Prairie Bomb! from Prairie Artisan Ales. This high alcohol behemoth is aged on coffee, cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and ancho chili peppers for a little heat to go with your chocolate.
Pale, grassy, and generally strong, a golden ale or Belgian strong pale ale would make a great alternative to that fermented bubbly grape juice. Peach Grand Cru from Great Divide Brewing Company is an effort in bringing fresh Palisade peaches into a big Colorado beer. Expect some yeasty character with a big pillowy head accompanied by subtle peach flavors.
Or, if you're looking for something sure to be in stock at every beer store you come across, there's nothing quite like the gold standard of golden ales, Duvel from Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat. Big carbonation, flavors of straw and crispness all come together to make the quintessential Belgian golden.
Biere de Champagne
This is the ultimate wine-swap for New Years Eve. Beer produced in the methode de champenoise, where aged beers have their yeast removed and then carbonated back up. Wine like abv accompanies these as well. It's a more uncommon style at the moment, so finding an appropriate beer will be tough (so tough, it's rarely imported to Florida), but if you can manage to pull it off, you'll have struck gold before the bell strikes midnight.
Malheur Bière Brut from Brouwerij De Landtsheer is a whale to find. The brewers use a process where the yeast is frozen and removed using the "dégorgement" process whereby only the ambient pressure in the bottle is used to force the yeast out again. It's touted as having flavors of velvety peach and rose, apricot, vanilla, orange, lemon rind, with a dry aftertaste. Ask some jet-setting friends to get a few bottles.
A little closer to home is Sundowner from Adelbert's Brewery in Austin, Texas. "From the first pour," Arianna Auber of Austin360 writes, "It's clear how much Sundowner resembles champagne. The golden-colored brew shimmers as bubbles dart, comet-like, up the glass..."
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers, and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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