Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tuesday Top Ten: Winter Beers

I love beer, and I love dark beer, which is why winter is a great time for my palate, but a bad time for my gut. Winter is by far my favorite beer season. In the winter, breweries put out heavy, darker beer, often with higher alcohol content, to warm our souls while we patiently wait for the snow to melt. I'm not a big fan of hoppy beers, which is why winter beers generally appeal to me. They tend to be malty and full of flavor and spices, but not bitter (except for Alpha Klaus -- damn you, Three Floyd's).

Every year, my favorite neighborhood bar, Rocks, has a "12 Beers of Christmas" promotion during the month of December. If you drink 12 winter beers (out of a possible 18 this year) during the month of December (or, in the case of Gregerson, during the early afternoon and late evening of December 4), then you get a t-shirt with your name on it and listing all the beers of Christmas from that particular year. The nice thing for someone like me is that they have a bunch of different beers that are not widely available. As a result, I have been able to sample a bunch of winter beers I would not otherwise necessarily have thought to have tried. I have also sampled a couple beers that I will never try again, including Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout, which had the consistency, look, and taste of motor oil, and should be drunk only from a snifter, two ounces at a time.

Here are my ten favorite winter beers (in alphabetical order):

1. Abita Christmas Ale
I saw this at Target a few weeks ago, and I had no idea Abita put out a Christmas ale. I liked several of Abita's other beers (Turbodog, in particular, is awesome), so I figured I would pick up a sixer of the Christmas Ale. It was really good.

2. Anchor Christmas Ale
Every year, Anchor puts out a Christmas ale with a different recipe. This year's edition is full of spices. It's almost like a chai beer.

3. Blue Moon Full Moon
This is Blue Moon's winter ale, although I think it might have been replaced this year by Winter Abbey Ale, which I have not yet tried (so I'm not sure if it's the same thing, just a different name). I was pleasantly surprised by Full Moon. It was a smooth and flavorful winter ale. It's too bad it appears to be discontinued.

4. Delirium Noel
You may be familiar with Delirium Tremens, a Belgian ale that packs both deliciousness and a punch. Delirium Noel is Delirium's winter ale. It's nice and dark, and it clocks in at 10% ABV, but it's too smooth for you to tell, which make it dangerously good.

5. Goose Island Christmas Ale
Chicago's own Goose Island makes a pretty damn good Christmas ale. Like Anchor, each year, they switch up the recipe, and it's always good.

6. Great Lakes Christmas Ale
This is a great winter beer, and it's definitely one of the more popular Christmas ales in the Midwest. It's known colloquially in some circles as "The Time Traveler" because, after a few pints, the next thing you know it's morning and you're in some stranger's manger wearing nothing but jingle bells around your neck and ankles, with no recollection of how you got there.

7. Harpoon Winter Warmer
I had this a few days ago at Rocks for the first time, and I really liked it. As far as Christmas ales go, it was a little lighter tasting than most, but that's not a knock. It was dangerously smooth. There was no aftertaste at all.

8. Magic Hat Howl
This is another one I had recently at Rocks for the first time. It's a black lager, although it kind of has a stout flavor to it (which I like), and it went down really easily.

9. Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale
Just about every year, Santa brings me a Sam Adams winter sampler pack, since he likes to encourage my vices. (He also usually brings me a carton of Lucky Strikes, two speed balls, a subscription to Bestiality Today, and a lot of mild cheeses.) Old Fezziwig Ale is probably my favorite of the Sam Adams winter brews, especially since they apparently stopped making the Cream Stout. It has a lot of spice to it (although not too overpowering).

10. Shiner Holiday Cheer
This was Rocks's beer of the month last December, and it has a lot of flavor, while maintaining smoothness. It has a hint of apricot, which I don't normally like, but it works well here.

Honorable mention: Bell's Winter White Ale, Breckenridge Christmas Ale, Goose Island Mild Winter, He'Brew Jewbelation, Little Fat Dog CHEWiE Oatmeal Stout, Samuel Adams Winter Lager, Samuel Adams Holiday Porter

Any other recommendations?

1 comment:

Jason Collier said...

keep your eyes open for Upland's Schwartz Black Lager, available in January 2011. In Bloomington, mostly, but what am I, a teleporter?