The 2016 Winter Warmer Beer List
There aren’t many people that say winter is their favorite season. Fall and Spring tend to take the cake when it comes to the general consensus, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some die-hard winter fans that get extra excited when the first snowflakes fall.
A great way to not only survive winter, but learn to love it is to check out all the seasonal offerings from your favorite breweries. From stouts to hoppy IPAs, to the titular winter warmers…there’s a lot to love in the world of craft beer when the temperature drops.
Check out our list of winter seasonal beers to get you in the winter spirit and get on board with giving winter the credit it deserves.
Kicking off our alphabetical list is Anderson Valley Brewing Company. Founded in 1987, Anderson Valley has grown into a varied and respected brewery that produces everything from the tried and true styles to the wild and interesting Gose series. Continuing their annual tradition, this winter AVBC is again releasing Winter Solstice, their take on the classic winter warmer style. At 6.9% ABV, this beer pours a translucent copper with a thick and creamy head. Expect to taste sweet malt and caramel as well as some nutty tastes in the background.
Bell’s Brewery is no stranger to seasonal beers, and their ever-popular Winter White Ale is making a comeback 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 absolutely no spices added, and at 5% ABV it’s very easy to drink and very refreshing.
When it comes to big winter beers, it’s hard to beat the Russian Imperial Stout. These big, intense beers were once favorited by the Russian Tsars, but today you don’t have to be Russian to fall in love with the big kids on the stout block. Bell’s brews their Expedition Stout to have a huge malt body that features complex flavors including chocolate, dark fruit, and sweet malt that coincide nicely with American hops. Great as a fresh beer, Expedition Stout is brewed to age with the best of them, with a 16-year old vintage winning a Great American Beer Festival gold medal in 2011.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Hailing from Milton, Delaware is none other than Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Known for their weird and wild beers that always seem to work surprisingly well, their love of collaboration could be argued as second to none, too.
A great example of this love of collaboration paired with a penchant for experimentation is their Pennsylvania Tuxedo. This 8.5% ABV beer is a pale ale that’s brewed with Pennsylvania spruce tips, and is a homage to the flannel-suited hunters that fill the woods of north-central Pennsylvania. Brewed in partnership with Woolrich clothing company, the beer features a grassy citrus kick with undertones of spruce, the source of which were hand-picked by Dogfish Head themselves.
Who says you can’t have a beer for breakfast? Dogfish Head decided to take the idea of the breakfast stout to the next level with their Beer For Breakfast Stout. Originally released in 2014, this beer features a little of everything that makes breakfast great, including Guatemalan Antigua cold press coffee, maple syrup, and Rapa Scrapple. Add to this Applewood-smoked barley, flaked oats, molasses, milk sugars, brown sugar, and roasted chicory and what you have is a 7.4% ABV beer that’s calling for you to make breakfast any time of the day.
East End Brewing Company
In a bid to clear the snow and warm things up for everyone in Pittsburgh, Scott Smith from East End Brewing makes his Snow Melt Winter Ale each year, and even though this substantial 7% ABV beer helps, the snow still seems to stick. This mahogany red ale has a unique malt character and a bright hop flavor that has hints of pine. This beer will 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 Company
While it’s typically good advice to steer clear of Johnny Law when drinking, Erie Brewing releases their Ol’ Red Cease & Desist each year, going against that advice. Ol’ Red 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.
Lancaster Brewing Company
Located in…you guessed it…Lancaster, PA, Lancaster Brewing Company loves the winter season as much as might be possible, and they showcase that love with their Winter Warmer Ale. This 8.9% ABV beer skips the spices found in most winter beers to give you a full-bodied beer that features a monster of a malt bill along with British and American hops to give this beer a balance that’s not often found in a winter ale. Classified as an Old Ale, Winter Warmer will do as its name implies, and it’ll do it with style.
North Country Brewing Company
Originally brewed in 2005, Jack Frost Winter Warmer Ale from North Country Brewing is a great example of what a winter warmer should be. Coming in at 7.7% ABV, this malty beer focuses on the malt body, allowing only enough spice into the beer to hint at their presence.
You’ll find some hop flavor in Jack Frost, but not much of the bitterness you’d expect along with it. In short, this is one great malty beer that uses a touch of spice to give you a beer that’s perfect for a cold winter night, and best of all it’s available in cans!
Saugatuck Brewing Company
Brown Ales are the perfect balance of toasty malt character, rich roasted malt, and bitter chocolate all wrapped together in one delicious beer. Add to this tastes and aroma of oak aging and what you have is SBC’s Snow Wizard Oak Aged Brown Ale. This beer comes in at 7% ABV and 49 IBUs, featuring that toasty malt brown ales are known for while adding in a little extra bitterness and oak character for good measure. Unlike the other beers listed above, Snow Wizard is only available October through December so check this unique brown ale out while it’s still here.
Smuttynose Brewing Company
For those of us that love their Belgian-style beers, Smuttynose Brewing has long held their Winter Ale as the perfect beer for winter, and while they still feel this way, this 7.5% Belgian Dubbel has a new name Single Digit Dubbel for the beer we love with a few additional ABV that before, and it’s still brewed with a special Trappist ale yeast as it has always been. This beer features fruity aromas and flavors as well as a soft hop background. Mellow yet surprisingly complex. The perfect brew for the winter months when you’re looking for something different.
Springhouse Brewing Company
Those pesky Martians are at it again, and this time they’ve gone after Santa. While we send the National Guard to go rescue him, you can take solace in Spring House’s The Martians Kidnap Santa Egg Nog Stout. This 8.3% ABV beer pairs the chocolate darkness you’d expect from a stout and the creamy booziness we all love about egg nog and places them together in a match that’s way better than milk and cookies could ever be.
Straub Brewery has been in the brewing business since 1872 and today they’re not only producing quality beers that have been around for much of their history, but new and innovative beers as well. Take for example their Legacy Sampler, a mix pack of beers that show the history of Straub Brewery better than any history book ever could. The sampler includes their 1872 Lager, a 5.4% ABV pre-prohibition style lager, longtime favorite Helles Lager, a 5.5% ABV lager, Dopplebock, a 7% ABV Winter Bock, and their Dunkel, a 5.2% ABV Munich-style Dunkel Lager.
While we’re just getting started with winter, there’s nothing wrong with thinking about our favorite seer of seers and prognosticator of prognosticators and what his prediction for the length of winter will be. We may have to wait to see what Groundhog Phil has to say about the coming weather, but one thing we’re certain about is Straub’s Groundhog Altbier. Coming in at 5.4% ABV, this beer is brewed in the old German style and pours a deep gold with a pronounced malt flavor and a hearty dose of hops to balance everything out. Straub’s Groundhog beer will be making you want to repeat Groundhog Day again and again.
Troegs Independent Brewing
It wouldn’t be a holiday season without the wild and wonderful Mad Elf from Troegs. Coming in at a surprising 11% ABV, Mad Elf uses pilsner, Munich, and chocolate malts paired with spicy Belgian yeast and cherries to make a rich and flavorful beer that might possibly drive you mad, too. Mad Elf is possibly the perfect beer for the holidays. Falling in line with Troegs’ new look, Mad Elf has a new label on a bottle filled with the same holiday beer we’ve all grown to love.
A beer making its return this year for the 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 Company
Victory Brewing from Downingtown PA has quite the catalog of beers available throughout the year, but they wait until the winter months to release some of their absolute best. 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.
Another phenomenal beer brewed for the winter months is Hop Ranch IPA, which is a celebration of the seasonal hop harvest fit nicely into bottle. At 9% ABV, Hop Ranch is an imperial India pale ale that uses Mosaic and Azacca hops for a pungent, floral and intense taste and aroma that’s a refreshing change from the typical winter beers.