5 Beers To Replace Your Champagne On Friday Night

Look, I know the drill…you’re going to a New Year’s party, and it’s almost a requirement of every guest to truck over to the nearest liquor store in the next day or two and grab 2 or 3 bottles of some no-name champagne off the endcap without bothering to look at where it’s made or who makes it, just so you have something to pop at midnight, I get it. I have a weakness for champagne, at least the good stuff, even though I’ve only had Bollinger once. I dig a good bottle of Spumante even more, but since we can’t have enough articles about how beer is replacing a lot of traditional beverages drunk at a specific time of year or holiday, I figured I would talk about 5 that should easily replace your champagne on Friday night, with [hopefully] some serious crowd-pleasing success.


The original “Biere De Champagne / Biere Brut” or whatever style the guys at BeerAdvocate want to call it, is the original, and granddaddy of the “beer meets champagne” style. Absolutely delicious, refreshing, effervescent, and not to mention pretty expensive (I believe it retails for around $30-$35) this pale straw-colored elixir is a must try for beer lovers who haven’t had the pleasure yet. I received a bottle as a housewarming present 4 years ago, and the instructions on the bottle say to serve it ice cold, like a traditional bottle of champagne. I did at the time, and really enjoyed it. However, when one of the brewers from Brouwerij Bosteels (the makers of Pauwel Kwak and the amazing Tripel Karmaleit) paid a visit to Rochester a few months back to slap fives and talk about their fine products, they served samples at cellar temperature, which I believe was an improvement and really brought out the flavors.

Tomme Arthur is without question one of the best brewing minds this world has yet seen, and he also co-founded the Port Brewing Company in San Diego where he serves as the Director of Brewery Operations. While Port Brewing provides some seriously quality beers, its Lost Abbey “division” is where the creativity and unconventional beers really burst the pipes. One of the shining stars in its line is Carnivale, a stellar saison that is dry hopped with Amarillo and Simcoe hops. A shimmering, hazy ale reminiscent of a mimosa, it is normally released in the spring, but if you can find a bottle of this, grab it now. I received one in a trade over the summer and I haven’t had a Saison this good since.

After the legendary Duvel received its first tweaking in the form of Duvel Green, a more “sessionable” lower test version of the original, next comes Duvel Tripel Hop, a Belgian IPA that has experimentation written all over it. Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat has done it again with a very unique, complex beer housed in a grand bottle with a very clear description of the beer, and a story to go along with it. When I tried it recently, I noticed a hop aroma that screamed Citra, but upon reading the bottle discovered it was hopped with the very similar Amarillo. If you’re watching the ball drop with a few hopheads, this is the beer for you.

A lot of hype has been generated recently over the latest Samuel Adams big beer, and talk over this one is certainly justifiable, since they partnered with one of the world’s best, most authentic, and oldest brewery, Weihenstephan. We’re all aware of the fine products that both breweries produce, and they collaborated to produce their version of Biere De Champagne, called Infinium. I was hesitant to endorse this beer for this post, since even though it seems like a no-brainer for a New Year’s Celebration, I hadn’t had it yet. After attending the wake for a lifelong friend’s father last night, my friends and I toasted to him with this beer, and while I don’t see it as a major award winner, it was definitely a complex, refreshing, singular beer that reminded me of an imperial Hefe-meets-witbier with lots of bubbly carbonation and character. Another great one to grab to pop with loved ones.

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m not a major fan of sour beers, wild ales, lambics, etc. It’s taken me a long time to warm up to them, and I have very much in the past year (although I don’t think I’ll ever be able to tolerate unblended lambic). However the first time I tasted Ithaca Brute, it was truly a special moment, and made me realize how good Wild Ale can be when done properly. Not a training wheels beer by any means, it has the funky, slightly lactic, sour flavor that is a hallmark of the style, and it may possibly be the best Wild Ale made on the East Coast, and right here in Western New York. It’s an unconventional choice for a large crowd at New Years, but an interesting option for those looking to try something new and different. And isn’t the dawn of a new year a little bit about stepping outside of the box a bit?



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