Winter Wonderland of Beers
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.
You may not have made a Christmas list since you were young, but this list might make you start back up again, no Hills catalog required.
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 fall beers it’s hard to find one that’s more universally loved that Bell’s Brewery Best Brown Ale. With hints of caramel and cocoa, this well-balanced 5.8% ABV beer has a deep malt body that’s balanced out nicely by the generous helping of American hops.
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 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 translucent copper with a thick and creamy head. Expect to taste sweet malt and caramel as well as some nutty tastes in the background.
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.
If you look halfway between 60 Minute and 90 Minute you can find a very unique beer in the form of 75 Minute IPA. This 7.5% ABV beer blends two of the most popular beers from Dogfish Head and adds in some maple syrup to naturally carbonate it. Dry-hopped with whole-leaf Cascade hops, 75 Minute is crisp and bitter while hanging on to a soft and velvety mouthfeel. Best of all, this beer is now available in 12-oz bottles this year, making it much more easy to enjoy.
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.
Returning this season is Troegs’ 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.
In a bid to clear the snow and warm things up for everyone in Pittsburgh, Scott Smith from East End Brewing makes 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Don’t worry, I’ll help you out with the pronunciation of the amazing Xocoveza Mocha Stout from Stone Brewing so you’re ready to ask for it the next time you’re out. Pronounced “zo-co-VA(long A)-za, this 8.1% ABV beer is making its triumphant return to shelves this season thanks to countless fans requesting its return, and for good reason. This beer is Stone’s take on Mexican hot chocolate that’s brewed with cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If you missed this beer the last time it was available, make sure to catch it while you can, you won’t be disappointed.
Cooler weather loves darker beer. It’s a fact. Bigger, darker beers are the perfect companion to longer nights and lower temps. Storm King Stout from Victory Brewing Co. knows this fact and is here to help. The 9.1% ABV American imperial stout uses whole flower hops and three different varieties of hops to give you a big, hearty beer that has notes of espresso, dark chocolate, alcohol warmness, as well as an impressive dose of bitterness.
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. A great example of this is their 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.
Wrapping things up is Saugatuck Brewing Company and their seasonal Stout Pack. Fall and Winter are perfect for big, dark beers. The roasted flavor of the toasted malt and the often higher ABVs all make for a perfect way to spend those long, cold nights as we all wait for warmer weather.
SBC couldn’t agree more, which is why they’re offering their seasonal Stout Pack. This 12-pack variety includes 3 bottles each of Beam Me Up, Stouty, Darker Than Your Soul Stout, Neapolitan Milk Stout, and Blueberry Maple Stout. If making decisions isn’t your thing, then this Stout Pack is perfect for you.