Holiday Beers – 2015

A Blizzard of Beers For the Holiday Season

With Thanksgiving both literally and figuratively under our belts it’s time to start thinking about jingle bells, reindeer, and a particular fat man in a red suit. As we get into the heart of the winter months, one of the most interesting seasons for craft beer fully kicks off. Winter seasonal beers run the gamut from spicy and complex to big and bitter. It’s this range in the seasonal beers that makes them so great in these darker, colder months.

What better way to celebrate the coming winter season than with some amazing beers from near and far. The best thing about winter seasonal beers is that there truly is something for everyone, so check out our blizzard of winter beers and maybe you’ll even find something better than cookies and milk to leave Old Saint Nick this year.

Anderson Valley Brewing
Anderson Valley was founded in 1987 and since then has grown into a respected brewery that produces everything from the tried and true styles to the wild and interesting Highway 128 series. As with every winter season AVBC is once again releasing their Winter Solstice, their take on the classic winter warmer style. At 6.9% ABV, this beer pours a light copper with a thick and creamy head. You’ll taste sweet malt and caramel as well as some nutty tastes in the background.

Speaking of the Highway 128 series, Anderson Valley’s Blood Orange Gose is returning for a second year. This beer comes in at 4.2% ABV and is one of the most interesting beers in our list. Gose (pronounced gōz-uh) beers are traditionally salty, sour, and usually have a dry finish. While these are highly sought-after beers for those experienced in weird beers, to make the beer more palatable to a larger audience Anderson Valley added the citrus tang of blood oranges to give this beer a tart taste that pairs perfectly with the slight sourness of the Gose style.

Bell’s Brewery
Bell’s Brewery is no stranger to seasonal beers, and their ever-popular Winter White Ale is making it’s seasonal return once again this year. An odd entry into our list, this beer is a wheat ale fermented with Belgian yeast to give it subtle banana and clove flavors with no spices added, and at 5% ABV it’s very easy to drink and very refreshing.

Celebrating the season, Bell’s is once again releasing their Christmas Ale, a 5.5% Scottish ale that only uses Michigan-grown barley and hops to give this beer it’s unique taste, once again with no spices added.

Dogfish Head Brewing
Dogfish Head is known for their variety of beers and unique styles, and the winter months are no exception. Returning for a third year is their Piercing Pils, a Czech style pilsner that’s brewed with white pear tea and pear juice. Brewed with spicy Saaz hops, this 6% ABV beer is a unique take on a classic style.

East End Brewing
Hoping to clear the snow and warm things up for everyone in Pittsburgh, Scott Smith and head brewer Brenden Bensen from East End Brewing brew Snow Melt Winter Ale each year, and even though this substantial 7% ABV beer helps, the snow still seems to stick. This nearly pitch black ale has a unique malt character and a bright hop flavor with hints of pine. This beer will definitely help keep you warm and while we all can’t wait for it to warm up, at least we have this to clear the snow for us.

Erie Brewing
Most of us usually steer clear of Johnny Law when drinking; Erie Brewing’s Ol’ Red Cease & Desist is an up-front powerful ale that makes its own set of laws about what a winter beer should be. Coming in at 10.1% ABV, this beer has a balanced mix of oak, spices, dark fruits, and even a little caramel. While the alcohol and flavors are up-front about their intentions, this beer finishes smooth and easy to drink.

Returning for a second round this year is Erie Brewing’s Skipper Stout. This winter seasonal is brewed with three different types of coffee and crème brûlée for a bold flavor with a smooth and slightly sweet finish. Named after Erie Brewing’s brewdog Skipper, this 7.2% ABV stout is sure to find quite a few good homes this year.

Heavy Seas Beer
Heavy Seas is known for great beer, and their winter seasonal Winter Storm is no exception. This winter ale draws its hops from the West Coast as well as the UK to give it quite the pronounced bitterness. Pale and dark malt mix, giving Winter Storm a tawny color and hefty body. Brewed as an imperial extra special bitter (ESB), this 7.5% beer will get you through any storm.

Jack’s Hard Cider
Splitting up this all-beer list is the always great Jack’s Hard Cider with their Dry Hopped Cider. The handmade cider maker takes classic American hops and adds them throughout the fermentation process of this dry cider to give it pleasant citrus and herbal aromas and flavors. If you’ve had enough beer and need a break, this 5.5% ABV cider might be just the change you’re looking for. You’d be hard pressed to find a better cider, or a better cider pun.
Smuttynose Brewing

For those that love their Belgian-style beers, Smuttynose Brewing has their Winter Ale, a 5.8% Belgian Dubbel that’s brewed with a special Trappist ale yeast. This beer features fruity aromas and flavors as well as a soft hop background. Mellow but surprisingly complex, Smuttynose’s Winter Ale is perfect for the winter months when you’re not looking for a big alcohol kick.
Spring House Brewing

Big dark beers seem to be the trend for the colder months, and not to be the ones to buck the trend, Spring House Brewing from Lancaster, Pa offers their Kerplunk! Imperial Chocolate Stout. This 8.1% ABV beer is named for the sound made as large amounts of Wilbur chocolate and West Coast hops are added to the brew kettle. Also the name of my favorite Green Day album, Kerplunk! features rich caramel sweetness that’s backed up by a deep-roasted heartiness that’s so present you might think you can bite into it.
Stone Brewing

A crowd favorite amongst craft beer fans, Stone Brewing makes a variety of amazing beers year round, but saves a few of them specifically for the winter months. For example, take their Bastard lineup of intense beers. This year Stone Brewing is making your life easy by offering them in a gift box with all four varieties.

First, you get the original Arrogant Bastard, the bigger badder Double Bastard, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, and the Depth Charged Double Bastard. Wish someone you love (or yourself for that matter) a special Arrogant holiday this season.

When it comes to IPAs, the fresher the better. With this in mind Stone Brewing makes their Enjoy By series of beers, each meant to be enjoyed before the surprisingly close expiration dates. The most recent of these is the aptly named Enjoy By 12-25-15. The Enjoy By series of beers are meant to be enjoyed as soon as possible and never aged. This 9.4% ABV beer is described by Stone as “devastatingly fresh” as well as floral, citrusy, and amazing. While you won’t melt if you drink this beer past it’s Enjoy By date, Stone feels so strongly that this is the best date for the beer to be drank by, they make it part of the name of the beer.

Troegs Brewing
Coming back for a second year this winter season from Troegs is their Blizzard of Hops winter IPA. This 6.4% ABV beer has notes of pine and citrus in it as well as a solid malt backbone. If you’re tired of spiced and flavored beers this holiday season, Blizzard of Hops is one beer you can’t miss.
Victory Brewing
Victory Brewing out of Downingtown PA has quite the catalog of beers available throughout the year, but they wait until the winter months to release some of their best beers. First up is Winter Cheers. This 6.7% ABV wheat beer uses Tettnang and Citra hops to make a hoppy wheat beer that’s ready to warm you up and give some winter cheer to spread.

Weyerbacher Brewing
Wrapping things up is the semi-local Weyerbacher Brewery from Easton, PA. Weyerbacher brews their Winter Ale to be a malty beer with hints of Simcoe and Fuggle hops that comes in at 5.6% ABV. Winter Ale has a deep roasted taste that is balanced with a dry finish, making it a great cold weather beer.

Each of these beers are proudly distributed in and around the Pittsburgh area by Vecenie’s Distributing.