Staff Picks: Our Top 5 Winter Brews
A lot of folks equate beer with summer. It’s easy to do - I imagine being poolside with a citrusy IPA, or barbequing with friends, sweat beading in the sun on a bottle of crisp, refreshing lager. While summer time is truly an excellent time for drinking and brewing (but really, when isn’t a good time?), it’s quite possible that the best brews are made in the winter months. A good winter warmer is generally thought to be dark, rich, and malty, but since the craft beer boom, there are many breweries making the case for light, crisp, spicy brews in the winter months. Since there are only a few weeks left this winter, we decided to put together a list of the best winter brews that you need to try before the snow melts.
5. New Holland - Cabin Fever
We are pretty enamored with all things New Holland these days, and this easy drinking American Brown Ale is no exception. Upon pouring, Cabin Fever hits the nose with the sweet scent of toasty caramel malts and a warm, nutty aroma. For a moment, you may think you are sitting around a fire in a secluded little log cabin. The color is rather beautiful, almost as dark as a porter, with a tall, tan head. The taste is heavy and rich, with very little bitterness. The smooth caramel notes linger on the tongue, and make you want to come back for more.
4. Bell’s Brewery - Winter White
Bell’s is pretty renown for making exceptional beer, and I’m not sure that there’s a soul around that could possibly argue that at this point. Bell’s Winter White is proof that winter warmers don’t necessarily have to be dark and malty. Upon pouring, the smell is crisp and clean, with just a hint of clove. The fruity, spicy profile is achieved by using a Belgian yeast, without ever utilizing any spices at all. This hazy, golden brew may be a simple pleasure, but still manages to be masterfully crafted. Bell’s Winter White is a welcome departure from the heavy winter ales we’ve become accustomed to.
3. Founders - Backwoods Bastard
We know this is a Fall release, but it’s fairly easy to find this brew into December and January. This Scotch Ale hits like a ton of bricks at 11.2%, so sip with caution. This barrel-aged beauty is deep, dark brown, with a creamy head that resembles cappuccino in hue. The aroma is intense bourbon and caramel malt. Sweet caramel and toffee notes, with smooth and velvety vanilla and bourbon that linger on the tongue. A surprisingly easy drinking brew for how high in ABV, which makes it one of our cold weather favorites.
2. St. Bernardus - Christmas Ale
Yes, obligatory St. Bernardus. We all look forward to this brew, year after year. You can’t make a Winter Brew list without it, and we’ll just keep including it until someone comes up with something better (spoiler alert: probably not going to happen). This Belgian Quadpours a deep, rich brown with a fluffy tan head that reminds us of toasted marshmallows. This brew is not one for sniffing - but rather deserves a deep, deep inhale to take in the wonderfully complex scent of banana, figs, chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, nuts, and even a hint of licorice. Tasting reveals notes of dark fruit, molasses, and a hint of rum. At 10%, this is definitely more of a sipper than a session, and should be shared with friends around the fire.
1. Stone - Xocoveza
We try not to put a Stone brew on every top 5 list we do, but really, do we have a choice? This is a huge favorite for - well - just about everyone. This brew is black as night. Hold it up to the light, and you get a bit of red hue that dances through the glass. Upon opening, you get a delightful nose-full: a complex mixture of coffee, cinnamon, dark chocolate, vanilla, and spice. Drinking this robust stout will run your tastebuds through the full gambit of holiday spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla. It finishes smooth and chocolatey on the palette. An outstanding brew that will make you wish it could be winter all year round.