The Christmas beers and darker suds are taking over grocery store shelves and taproom walls. Look for a few welcome returns at Sigma and Eureka Heights, among other places. And be sure to store some of those bottles in cool, dark places for next year!

News & Events

The seventh birthday of 8th Wonder Brewery is upon us, so the promotional blitz has begun for Celebr8ion, which is scheduled for March 21. Pre-sale tickets will be available starting at noon today. [Link]

The new Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company is now serving lunch every day. The place opens at 11 a.m. [Link]

Beer Releases

It's Murry Chrimmus time at Sigma. The Christmastime Vietnamese cinnamon and cacao porter is out, along with its barrel-aged sibling MFC. That was aged this year in rye and dark rum barrels for 10 months. [Link]

Holler is toting a new amber ale called Not Your Grandma's Amber. At 7.9 percent ABV, it's an imperial amber brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops and a Kveik strain of yeast. [Link]

Joining Saint Arnold's bourbon-barrel-aged French Press is Irish Farewell, a 4.3 percent ABV dry stout brewed with cacao nibs. Find it in the taproom and at select bars. [Link]

Two beer releases this weekend at Baileson: Look for the Dean, a double IPA, and Masinghorn, a straight-up IPA with five different hop varietals. [Link]

Southern Star's Russian imperial stout, The Octobrist, is out in stores. [Link]

It looks as if Ingenious will be releasing five canned beers on Dec. 11. They include the Hop Knight Rises (a New England IPA), Fermenter's Fuel (gingerbread coffee stout), On Comet, Christmas Cookie Double Froyo, and Fruitcake With Friends. [Link]

Look for Brash's Peanut Butter Wolf imperial milk stout and Black Masses imperial double coffee milk stout at a bar near you. The beer is rolling out this week. [Link]

Saloon Door is giving us Chicory White Chocolate Russian Imperial Stout. Now available at the taproom. [Link]

Over at Eureka Heights, Mexican milk stout Moo Caliente is coming back in cans and on draft. [Link]

No Label has a fresh batch of its smoked jalapeño pale ale, the Don Jalapeño, available at the taproom. [Link]

If heading east, Victory makes a few beers that are worth drinking if they're on a tap list.

Beer Reviews

I was away last week, so I had a whole bunch of beers that you can't necessarily find here in Houston. A few quick reviews of those beers:

Victory Prima Pils: The Downingtown, Pennsylvania brewery has been in my life for years. It's most notable creation is Golden Monkey, arguably the most ubiquitous American-made Belgian tripel. That beer was one of the first to turn me onto Belgians, and for that I'll be forever grateful, but these days I recognize the deep candied sugar flavor in Monkey, rendering it a bit too sweet for my tastes.

But then there's Prima Pils, the brewery's attempt at a German-style pilsner, and it's one of the best mass-produced pils beers made in America. It's sharper than you'd expect with herbal and citrus tones, thanks to an accentuated hop character. Also, it sneaks up on you despite a 5.3 percent ABV. Available throughout the East, it's a great pils for parties. Rating: 8.7

Victory Dirtwolf: Staying with Victory, its double IPA Dirtwolf comes in at 8.7 percent ABV. It's well-balanced and, despite its usage of Citra, somehow remains complex and not overpoweringly tropical. Plus, with a host of malts including pilsner and caramel, sweetness is elevated just enough to make this more of a well-rounded double. Really tasty. You can have two, but you also should have one if you can find it. A terrific IPA. Rating: 9.3

Threes Logical Conclusion: Let's get hazy. Threes, in Brooklyn, is highly regarded among East Coast beer freaks, and they make some delicious beverages. Logical Conclusion was hopped with Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic, and goes down surprisingly smooth for a New England going hard on some very obvious hops with dank potential. With NEIPAs I'm always looking for that "wow" moment when the tropical notes bowl me over—this doesn't have it, but take that away, and this is a very solid second-tier offering. Rating: 8.1

Hudson Valley King Wavy: I'll be honest—I stored this write-up away because I had the beer a couple years ago, but it's such an important beer. I first visited the warehouse-like Hudson Valley Brewery a few years ago and sampled everything. But King Wavy was a revelation, proving a beer could tilt so fruity (grapefruit, mango, pineapple) that it became part of a new style. Yes, it's Citra and Simcoe, and yes, it's classified as a New England, but King Wavy took Sloop Brewing's Juice Bomb and furthered it another thousand yards.

On a second visit I sampled a bunch of sour-leaning IPAs including the original Silhouette, and I realized Hudson Valley had absolutely created a new style of beer. Today it's known as the creator (or at least perfecter) of the sour IPA; Houstonian beer geeks: If you ever want to visit a new beer scene, go to the Hudson Valley of New York. I'll be glad to help plot a crawl for you. Rating: 10.0

Explanation of ratings: 9.5-10: as good as the best beer in America; 9-9.4: the best beer in Houston; 8-8.9: among the better beers in Houston; 7-7.9: really good beer; 6-6.9: try this beer at least once; 5-5.9: if you’re stuck, this won’t hurt; 3-4.9: among the lowest-quality beers in Houston; 0-2.9: as bad as the worst beer in America.

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