About a month or so ago, I ran down a list of some of my favorite pumpkin beers for the Fall brewing season. Since that was a lot of fun, I decided that the Winter brews deserve some love too. Generally, most winter brewed beers are going to be heavier in style, as well as higher in alcohol percentage (for them cold, cold nights). There are gimmicky beers brewed with all kinds of fruit, champagne beers, spicy winter warmers, and other beers not themed so specifically for Christmas, and will sell late into the season.
Hibernator by Long Trail Brewing Co. (Bridgewater Corners, VT) – We start this list with one of my favorite beers for winter. I am a completely biased, unabashed devotee to Long Trail for their session beers. Hibernator is an easy drinking beer, widely available between October and March. It is a darker beer, but drinks lightly. It’s brewed with six different malts, as well as brown sugar and honey giving it a sweeter taste.
Mad Elf by TRÖEGS Brewing Company (Hershey, PA) – A holiday staple at any beverage center in the northeast worth its salt. TRÖEGS really goes for the Christmas appeal with Mad Elf. It’s brightly colored label and cartoonish appearance can lure in even the most casual of beer drinkers. It’s brewed with cherries and honey. It’s another sweet beer, but this one packs a wallop. 11% alcohol by volume really sets this one apart from the rest. Perhaps best shared unless you’re staying in for the evening.
Celebration Ale 2011 by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, CA) – Our first seasonal IPA is one of the most popular to be released this season. Celebration Ale stands up against the darker counterparts of the winter season, with a tasty pine aroma and warmer amber color. I think this season I am going to try and keep a few around until the warmer months, in hopes that it’s just as tasty then but far more refreshing. A must try for the season if you’re a fan of IPAs, or beer in general.
Infinium by Boston Brewing Co./Weihenstephan (Boston, MA) – We come to our most peculiar entry with the collaboration between Boston based Samuel Adams and Germany’s Weihenstephan. The style is a bit of a rarity, something called Bière de Champagne. It is sold in magnum sized champagne bottles, and is a lot more interesting than Sam Adams Winter Lager. This is a bit pricey ($19.99 range) and doesn’t last very long, recommending it be drank within six months of bottling. If nothing else, it’s worth a try if you’re feelin’ fancy. Otherwise, $19.99 can buy you like three bottles of Great Western some places.
Wreck the Halls by Full Sail Brewing (Portland, OR) – I wasn’t hip to this, but serial beer drinker/close friend Jan tried it, and decided to text me about it that day. It’s an ambitious venture, allegedly combining both a winter warmer and an American IPA to create a unique taste all its own. I can’t speak much for the warmer side of it, since the hop profiles really stand to crush whatever flavors might also be present. It is however, a great beer. This one arrived at the beer store later than the rest, but be on the look out for a different kind of winter seasonal.
Black Chocolate Stout by Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, NY) – Can’t finish without mentioning at least one stout, and what a stout it will be. This has been a staple of wintertime for me since I was about 19 years old. An old stand by, it’s become one of the most popular beers of the season. Its very dark, high in alcohol, and tastes like dark chocolate. I seem to remember older vintages having higher alcohol content, but it has leveled off at an even 10% the last few years, which is more than enough. This beer is on tap a lot more places than you’d think, so be sure to ask your local publican if he serves the finer things in life.
Here’s a few more to really get you in the Christmas spirit:
Brr Seasonal Ale by Widmer Brothers Brewing (Portland, OR)
Chicory Stout by Dogfish Head Brewery (Rehoboth Beach, DE)
Our Special Ale (2011) by Anchor Brewing Co. (San Francisco, CA)
Old Man Winter by Southern Tier Brewery (Lakewood, NY)
Winter Welcome by Samuel Smith Brewery (Tadcaster, England)
THERE IS NO SANTA by Brew Dog (Fraserburgh, Scotland)
That’s a wrap for the winter seasonals. As always, if you’re drivin’ don’t drink. And if you did, don’t drive. Cheers!