Hops For the Holidays: One beer writer’s favorite foamy gifts

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Large silver kegs filled with craft beer, I’m smitten
Raising pint glasses with good friends to cheer
These are a few of my favorite beers

What happens when a third beer is born to a family? A “Middle Child’’ is born. This is not a middle child with a syndrome of feeling left out – this is a child who gets attention and is loved equally, if not a bit more. “Middle Child” from Grey Sail Brewing is the peacemaker between two of my favorite Grey Sail beers, Captain’s Daughter DIPA and Little Sister Session IPA. Captain’s Daughter, as you may recall, won Motif’s 2022 Drink Awards in the DIPA category.


What was the inspiration behind the birth of this beer fusion? Justin Carlson, bar manager at Grey Sail explained, “I wanted a beer to drink after my shift that didn’t have a higher ABV to make me lose all ambition to cook dinner or do laundry. I also wanted a beer that would have somewhat of an ABV to take the edge of the day off. I decided to mix Captain’s Daughter with Little Sister.” His idea went over so well with other staff like Nicholette, a beer tender at the brewery, that they decided to sell it on tap. Middle Child has an ABV of 6.5%. It’s smooth with a mild malt sweetness but still has a slight hop on the end of each sip.

Rich Welsh, head brewer of Grey Sail told me, “I think people forget about us because we’re readily available and reasonably priced.” Grey Sail, I have not forgotten you. The brewery is a must-visit, not only to take in the 1920 historical house the taproom is in, but to purchase beers like these two and others that are only available at the brewery.

Love Mexican Lagers? Look no further than Vigilant Brewing, Bristol’s newest brewery. “Los Hermanos” is one of my favorite Mexican Lagers. There’s a sweet malt on the nose and palate, and true to the style of this beer, it is smooth and crisp. This can easily be your Sunday football game pint choice. It’s crushable and with an ABV of 5.9%, you can have a few.

After speaking with John Ottero, one of the brewers of Vigilant it was easy to see why this beer is delicious. “I consider all of my recipes as my ‘babies.’ The story of ‘Hermanos’ does not disappoint. During the construction of Vigilant, I’d walk into complete organized chaos with various team members accomplishing their tasks for the day. In my line of sight I would find bottles of the popular ‘Corona’’ beer everywhere.” John stated he gave the team a hard time, “with a smile of course,” saying that they “are a brewery and this beer should not be here.” It was suggested by Kevin Amaral, the owner, that John make a Mexican Lager. At first, John shut the idea down. He felt a Mexican Lager wouldn’t be good for Vigilant’s brand. However, this all changed when John tried a pint of Mexican Lager from Buttonwoods brewery. After some research, John developed a recipe that would be “approachable and unique.” This is true to what Vigilant Brewery stands for. Amaral expressed that he wants Vigilant to be a brewery that provides locals with beer that isn’t intimidating and is in a recognizable style.

If you know me well, then you know that I would add at least one beer from Long Live Beerworks to my top favorite beers. In fact, honestly, it was difficult to narrow down to just one beer I love. Given Long Live’s penchant for constantly rotating beers, many of my favorites are no longer in production. It would be a tease for me to talk about them, and surely put me on Santa’s bad list, wouldn’t it?

Ironically named to be perfect for this article, I am choosing “You’re Dead and out of This World” IPA. As you may know “You’re Dead and Out of this World” is the name of a song by Norma Tanega, the theme song to the series “What We Do in the Shadows.” It features 4 vampires who try to fit into mortal society. Nevertheless, this IPA stands out! It’s brewed with four different types of hops and has an ABV of 7.4%, making it not too weak but not too strong. Alongside notes of citrus and grapefruit, you can truly taste the full hop in “YDAOOTW,” as with most LLBW beers. It’s hop-forward and dominant to the final sip, which is what I generally look for.

I would be doing an injustice not to mention Friendsgiving, an annual collaboration with PVDonuts since 2019. This pastry stout has a high ABV of 12% and is meant to be sipped. Brewed with vanilla and hazelnut, it is a delicious spin on a traditional coffee stout. It’s a well-crafted dessert in beer form, so it is probably sold out by now.

Looking for a more traditional styled stout? As with all the breweries, it was hard to choose my favorite. I picked Raffi’s Oatmeal Stout from Tilted Barn. It is perfect for those chilly New England days or nights. If you haven’t been to the Tilted Barn, let me give you a glimpse of my visit this fall: It was a chilly day. The Tilted Barn was packed, but I managed to find a table by the window with an outside view of patrons huddled near fire pits, sharing pints. The tables inside were adorned with pumpkins as the light shined through the many windows. I ordered a sample of the Raffi. This stout pours dark brown and has a potent scent of coffee. Each sip is filled with strong coffee and slight bitter undertones that even out with a hint of vanilla. As the sun set in the sky and the stout warmed, the flavors of coffee and vanilla became more intensified.