I love beer, and always have. Beer is the yin to my fitness yang, you might say. I look forward to finding the right beer for the right occasion and season. I love diving into a beer and trying to distinguish all the flavors that I can. It’s easy for me to workout hard and eat clean during the week knowing I will soon be on the lookout for the next great brew, and this time of year, that means winter seasonals.
As it starts to get chilly here in NC, I’ve been discovering some great cold-weather beers and rediscovering old favorites–and I don’t just go for the typical Christmas This or Santa That beers. Here are 10 great winter brews to get you through the cold months ahead.
Ayinger Brewery’s Celebrator Doppelbock
Celebrator, a beautifully complex beer, pours a dark brown color with a red hue. It’s a thick bodied beer without being syrupy, and like many others on this list it, should be allowed to sit and warm up to bring out the best flavor. The tastes are all subtle or even unrecognizable to a novice beer drinker, but to a true beer connoisseur, it boasts many characteristics ranging from a rich caramel flavor that reminds me of banana’s foster to notes of pine and a slight acidity like that of orange. It finishes slightly sour but never falls flat.
AleWerks Brewing Company’s Coffeehouse Stout
Now this is a beer for those who enjoy their beer heavy and their coffee black. The aroma of coffee hits you immediately on pouring. Coffeehouse Stout juggles a deep roasted coffee bitterness and the sweetness of a burnt marshmallow. Coffeehouse Stout is truly a beer to accompany you on those late nights around a fireplace with friends (if you are so lucky to have one.)
Atwater Brewery’s Vanilla Java Porter
The name of this beer says it all. Sweet vanilla and a roasted coffee each stand on their own, combining to create a crème brulee and burnt caramel flavor. Vanilla Java Porter is delicious but definitely a beer to finish the night with, as it’s incredibly sweet. I would say split it with a few friends and skip dessert.
Southern Tier Brewing’s Warlock Imperial Stout
If you have experienced Southern Tier’s Pumking and liked what you had, then Warlock is for you. Although it’s seen far and wide in early Autumn given it’s pumpkin flavor, this makes for a great winter beer. I actually prefer this to Pumking as the dark malt flavor balances out the sweet characters much more present in Pumking. Expect the seasonal flavors accompanying holiday beers such as nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon.
Lion Brewery’s Lion Stout
Lion Stout pours an ominous dark color but may surprise you with its extremely soft mouth-feel, a little thinner than I would have expected, but also making it very drinkable. Anticipate flavors of mocha and roasted malt up front with a fair amount of alcohol bite to finish. Not for your light beer drinkers–but then again, a good beer for those looking to broaden their horizons.
MOA Brewing’s Imperial Stout
Marlborough, New Zealand
MOA’s Imperial Stout is a perfect beer for those who love wine as much as beer. An extremely rich beer aged in Pinot Noir barrels almost overwhelm the drinker’s palate. Smokey, sweet and lightly sour with not too much but just the right amount of boozy warmth. I have only had a handful of beers that bring wine into the brewing game, and this is by far my favorite so far.
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
“Dessert?” “No thanks.” “Chocolate Stout?” “Yes please!” My recommendation would be to hold this beer in your hands to let it warm up a bit and enjoy the aroma teasing your taste buds. When you have to give in, you’ll taste a dark chocolate creaminess. Unlike other chocolate stouts, Young’s can actually be enjoyed as a session beer as it is very well balanced and the sweetness is not overpowering. I have had many chocolate stouts, some too sweet (to me) and others extremely mild, and this is one I would recommend to those on either side of the chocolate spectrum.
Brewery Ommegang’s Three Philosophers
Three Philosophers is truly fantastic Belgian ale blended with cherry Lambic. It’s a fairly heavy carbonation, so I suggest letting it breath a bit before drinking. An aroma of yeastiness will surely remind you of freshly baked bread. If the thought of lambic scares, you fear not! The tart cherry is very much present but not too sweet and accompanied by an almost 10% ALC.VOL. I assure you, you will not feel like you just opened a wine cooler.
Gizmo BrewWorks Forgeworks Smoked Porter (Raleigh, NC)
The first whiff and the initial smoky aroma will have you reminiscing of nights spent around a campfire. A vast array of flavors jumped through my head, including smoked meats and jerkies, dried chilies and tobacco to name a few. If you are looking for something different to share with friends this weekend, give the Forgeworks Smoked Porter a go! You will not be disappointed.
Coronado Brewing Stupid Stout
First off, a word of caution if you are having a tasting session: Do not drink other stouts after this beer. If you do, you will not taste them. Stupid Stout is a ferociously bold beer that pours dark as night and slams your taste buds with dark bitter chocolate, roasted nuts and even a taste of bourbon on the back end. Coronado has quickly become one of my favorite breweries in the past few months in part because of brews like these.
When he’s not training himself or his clients, Allen is an avid beer enthusiast. For over a decade, he’s been growing a collection of nearly 500 unique beer bottles–every single one of which he’s tasted–and that doesn’t include all the brews he’s tried fresh from the tap and breweries and restaurants.
Got a favorite cold-weather brew? Pass on the beer love with us in the comments!