Pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests are being replaced on liquor store shelves with winter seasonals - Belgian Christmas beers, barleywines, stouts and winter warmers - and I couldn't be happier.
It seems like it is barely fall, but in the beer world winter is here.
Pumpkin beers and Oktoberfests are being replaced on liquor store shelves with winter seasonals - Belgian Christmas beers, barleywines, stouts and winter warmers - and I couldn't be happier. Of all the seasons, winter is my favorite (only for beer, I hate everything else about winter).
Although I'm usually loathe to start buying seasonals early and try to wait until the season actually changes, I make an exception for winter beers. I already have several in my fridge at home, and I'll be sure to pick up a few more the next time I hit the liquor store to restock.
This week, I'm taking a look at the winter seasonals I always buy. They're the beers that I always look forward to and almost without fail buy at least one bottle of every year. These are the winter beers I enjoy the most, and maybe after reading this you'll try them and see why they're so good.
Although winter beers tend toward the dark styles, and high alcohol, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's winter seasonal is an IPA. The Celebration Ale is a quintessential West Coast IPA with flavors of pine and citrus, with a nice malt backbone that's easy to drink. At 6.8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), it's not too big of a beer and would be good any time of year.
Another hoppy winter beer is AleSmith's YuleSmith. This San Diego brewery makes two versions of YuleSmith: in the summer a double IPA and in the winter, an imperial red ale. I enjoy the winter version better. This is a great beer for hop heads, and the caramel malts used to give it a reddish hue add a different sweetness than you find in most hoppy beers
If you like big, non-traditional beers, try the Samichlaus from Austrian brewers Schloss Eggenberg. This 14-percent ABV doppelbock (a strong dark lager) used to be the strongest beer in the world. Although it has been surpassed by many beers available today, it is still a wonderful after-dinner beer to sip on. It is a malty beast of a beer, perfect for a cool night.
The Brooklyn Brewery has two of my favorite winter beers - the Black Chocolate Stout and the Monster Ale. The Black Chocolate Stout is a big beer at 10 percent ABV. It has huge chocolate flavors, which is amazing since the chocolate flavors only come from the malts and no chocolate is added.
The Monster Ale is a 10.8 percent ABV English-style barleywine, a style that is less hoppy than American-style barleywines. This is a full-flavored beer and goes down smoothly. It is one of my favorite American examples of the style.
Two other stouts I really enjoy are Port's Santa's Little Helper and Lagunitas' Cappuccino Stout. Both are top-of-the line beers worth seeking out.
Many Belgian brewers produce wonderful Christmas beers, and two of my favorites are the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale by Brouwerij St. Bernardus and N'Ice Chouffe by Brasserie d'Achouffe.
These are both strong dark Belgian ales, sweet and malty, full-bodied and slightly spicy. They're just beautifully done beers that I wouldn't feel like it was Christmas time without having these beers.
Troegs Brewing Company in Pennsylvania also gets inspiration from Belgium for its winter beer, the Mad Elf. Mad Elf is a quad brewed with cherries. The cherries add an extra wrinkle to the beer that elevates it from really good to great.
These are my favorite winter beers. Feel free to tell me about your favorite beers by email, or post a comment on my blog or send me a tweet.
Norman Miller is a MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News staff writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out the Beer Nut blog at blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/realbeernut or on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/beernutnorman.