It might sound strange, but winter is one of our favorite times for beer. Now is when we appreciate those high-octane dark beers with their heavy roasted malts, ultra-rich flavors, and creamy sticky mouthfeel. Here are a few beers we'll be enjoying at our holiday gatherings this year:
Many brewers get also seem to get more creative with their winter offerings than at any other time of the year. We see a lot of experimentation with unusual ingredients, cask-conditioning, and wild-fermentation.
• Barleywines - By definition, these beers are strong both in terms of flavor and in terms of alcohol. They tend to be fruity and intense, with an ABV as high as 12%! The sweetness is also often balanced out with a good dose of bitter hops. Try Widdershins Barleywine from Left Hand Brewing Company, Bigfoot Barleywine from Sierra Nevada, and Olde School Barleywine from Dogfish Head.
• Doppelbocks (or Double Bocks) - We discovered this style of beer last winter and will definitely be enjoying their nutty, roasted flavors yet again this year. This is the beer that coined the term "liquid bread"! Try Salvator from Paulaner Brewery, Butthead Double Bock from Tommyknocker Brewery, and the Troegentaor from Troegs Brewing.
• Imperial Stouts - If you like regular porters and stouts, try this amped up version. Imperials are known for extreme chocolate and coffee flavors, low carbonation, and a dry finish. These days, many imperials are also being aged in oak barrels. Try Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout from Brooklyn Brewery, Bell's Java Stout from Bell's Brewery, and Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout from Samuel Smith Old Brewery.
• Tripels - Spicy, fruity, and honey-like, these can be a nice alternative to all the dark, heavy beers. They're creamy and almost candy-like, but with enough perky spices to keep you interested. Try La Fin du Monde by Unibrou, Golden Monkey from Victory Brewing, and Curieux from Allagash Brewing Company.
• Winter Warmers - Almost every brewery puts out their own version of a winter or Christmas beer - and some are definitely better than others. They tend to have caramelly, toasted malts and are usually spiced with a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Try Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Company, Sam Adam's Winter Lager from Boston Brewing Company, and Our Special Ale/Christmas Ale from Anchor Brewing Company.
What other beers and beer styles do you like this time of year?