Despite what the calendar says, winter is here, as proven by that cold snap we had last week and Christmas merriment all about. With winter comes winter and holiday seasonal beers to keep your belly as warm and toasty as the rest of you.
I decided to put together a list of my favorite winter beers. A note–I personally HATE spruce tip beers, so did not include any on this list. To many a beer lover, they are delicious, but if I’m going to drink a tree, I’ll stick to gin. Secondly, I have no gluten-free options on this list. Sorry, celiac sufferers, but there’s literally dozens of great holiday cocktails out there for you. While wintery ciders do exist…I haven’t tried them myself so don’t want to endorse anything I don’t love.
All of these beers are from the west coast, and many can be found in specialty beer shops, if not a well-stocked grocery store. I love Toggle’s Bottle Shop in Everett for all of my bottles and cans.
Typically, a winter seasonal beer is dark and malty, with a name and label that involve snow or being cold. It sounds toasty even to think about! The higher alcohol content doesn’t hurt for keeping you warm, either. Two of my favorites are Kulshan’s Kitten Mittens (8.0% alcohol by volume) from Bellingham, Washington, and 21st Amendment’s Fireside Chat (7.9%) from San Francisco. Both get bonus points for names as well as delicious flavor, aided by chocolate malts. Belgian ales are also a tasty option for a winter seasonal, with Pfriem from Hood River, OR having a dubbel-y delicious Belgian Christmas Ale (8.0%) invoking a chocolate orange without the toothache.
Holiday Spice & Everything Nice
Some people take one look at a dark, toasty, malty beer and cower in fear. Luckily, winter beer options go beyond dark and full-bodied. In recent years, some breweries are taking the spices typically used for pumpkin beer and using them for their winter seasonals! Rooftop Brewing Co, located in Seattle, serves Up on the Rooftop (again with the clever names!), which packs a wallop of ginger spice flavor. At 6.3% and a rich toffee-color, it’s a bit lighter than the dark beers above while still being a special flavor. Also, Hellbent Brewing, from Lake City, WA offers the Warm Fuzzies ale (8.8%), with notes of stone fruit, cinnamon, and nutmeg almost making it a pie in a glass.
If you really prefer lighter beer or even sour ales, there’s still holiday options for you. Crux Fermentation Project, from Bend, OR makes a Cranberry Wit (4.9%) that is just tart enough to evoke a fruit beer, but won’t make you pucker up like a sour, wild, or gose. It’s perfect slightly chilled, especially if you’re celebrating the holidays somewhere warm. For those wanting to pucker up without any mistletoe, Reuben’s in Ballard, WA has their Holiday Gose (4.3%) with tart cranberry and orange zest mingling with spice and traditional gose sea salt. The can even got dressed up for the occasion, appearing as a festive holiday sweater.
Keep in mind, some Christmas beers vary slightly in taste year to year. If you use the app Untappd to track your beer tastings, you might notice some beers (like the Up on the Rooftop) are even labeled with the specific year for you to check in to. Anchor Brewing, from San Francisco, even changes the label of their Christmas Ale (6.9%) every year since 1975, along with the recipe!
No matter what beverage you reach for, enjoy this holiday season safely and responsibly–you wouldn’t want to end up on the naughty list! What’s your favorite holiday beer or beverage?