Welcome to the second in a series of arttcles, where I search my soul to share with you some of my favorite brews. In the extremely diverse world of craft beer, picking a single favorite beer is virtually impossible. So why limit your ‘favorite’ selection to just one beer? In this volume, which is a bit ‘late’ (I meant to post this last month) I’ll be talking about Some of my favorite Fall and Winter time craft beers.
Volume 2 Of A Series:
Anchor Christmas Ale: I believe this Winter ale, whose recipe changes each year, was the first ‘holiday’ beer I ever had way back in the mid 80′s. Anchor Brewing Company has been releasing it each year since 1975 and it’s always a solid choice for a great Winter warmer. It’s generally a dark beer with a subtle, piney hop character and, in some vintages, some holiday spice notes. Anchor never discloses the recipe – what grains, hops or other ingredients are used, but I’ve never been disappointed with one. Anchor Christmas Ale is also usually available in a 2 liter bottle; perfect for brining to that holiday get-together to share with good friends.
Winter Solstice: From our Northern California friends at Anderson Valley Brewing Company, home of their mascot Barkley Boont (he’s NOT a bear with deer antlers, he’s a BEER!), Winter Solstice was also one of my early choices for Winter Warmers. It’s a big, malty beer with hints of caramel and toffee and a very mild hop bitterness, and pours a beautiful ruby red/copper color. This one used to come only in 22oz bottles, but has now become available in 12oz bottles and even 12oz cans. Bring some along the next time you go skiing or snow camping.
Bifrost: Who says drinking a ‘Winter’ beer means you have to forego your love of hops? Certainly not Elysian Brewing Company. Their Bifrost Winter Ale is a Winter time Pale Ale that doesn’t skimp on the hops. Packed with Magnum, Chinook and Styrian Golding hops, it comes in at a respectable 58 IBUs, with enough sweet caramel malt character to nicely offset the citrus hop character. Bifrost has been one of my very favorite Winter seasonals since I first tried it years ago, and you should have no problem finding it this time of year in pretty much any Puget Sound area bottle shop.
Pumking: Pumpkin is just one of those Fall/Winter flavors that just say ‘The Holidays’. As soon as Summer ends and those leaves begin to turn, our craving for comfort food and Winter flavors kicks in. Who doesn’t love a good piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream? Well, with Pumpking from Southern Tier Brewing Company out of New York, that’s pretty much what you get – in a glass. Regarded by many as the yardstick by which all other pumpkin beers are measured, Pumking has won several well-deserved awards, and is definitely one of my favorite pumpkin/yam style beers out there. Around here, Elysian may be king of the pumpkin beers, with all the different varieties they brew, but Pumking is in a class by itself. If you’ve never had a bottle, I suggest you pick one up and give it a try this Holiday season.
Bourbon Barrel Abominable: I love Bourbon barrel-aged beers, and Fremont Brewing Company‘s Bourbon Barrel Abomniable (often referred to as B-BOMB) is an amazing example, which has already reached nearly legendary status for its amazingly complex flavors and aromas. Very rich and warming (at 9.5%), it has notes of caramel, vanilla, bourbon and wood, chocolate and just the right amount of hop character. Released once a year in limited quantities, you’ll have to pay attention to your local bottle shop’s release schedule to make sure you can get your hands on this one. If you have the will power, aging a bottle or two of Abominable for a few years wouldn’t be such a bad thing either. If you’re a fan of Bourbon barrel-aged beers, then this is definitely a Winter beer for you.
Sleigh’r: Another Winter warmer that doesn’t mean you have to leave the hops behind, Sleigh’r from Ninkasi Brewing Company is a double alt ale with a rich caramel malt character and enough Nugget hops balancing things out nicely. Per Ninkasi: “Regular alts are 5 to 5.5 percent ABV and 40 IBU’s. Sleigh’r has a deep, toasted malt flavor that finishes dry and has 7.2 percent ABV and 50 IBU’s keeping it in a perfect alt balance!“ This one should be pretty easy to find at any local bottle shop and even in many grocery stores that carry craft beer.
Jolly Roger Christmas Ale: A favorite around the Puget Sound, Jolly Roger Christmas Ale from Maritime Pacific Brewing Company is a delicious, dark copper/amber ale with notes of caramel, honey, biscuits, subtle chocolate and a very smooth flavor with just the right amount of hop character. Also available in a limited release Bourbon barrel-aged version, which only increases the complexity and depth of this wonderful Winter Warmer, Jolly Roger is one of my Winter time standards.
Hairy Eyeball: A very limited release from Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma California, Hair Eyeball is not, strictly speaking, a Winter ale. However, at 9.4% ABV, it’s a strong, robust ale that fits right in with the holidays and those times when you might overdo it a bit. Hairy Eyeball is – Per Lagunitas: “A roasty, toasty, malty, hangover-halting beer. Especially formulated for when you wake up feelin’ like you need to shave your eyeballs to see the new day.“ The first time I ever saw this beer I thought, what kind of a name is that? Yet, with it’s toasty, malty, dark fruit-laden flavors – including notes of biscuits, toffee, raisins, prunes, etc. Hairy Eyeball is one of those beers that can really warm you up in the Winter time. Look for the latest release of Hairy Eyeball to be hitting local bottle shops sometime this month.
That brings this volume of ‘No One Can Pick Just One’ to a close. These are some great Fall and Winter time beers that I highly recommend but are, by NO means, the only choices out there. So get out there, explore, don’t be afraid to try new beers and see if you can surprise yourself with a few new favorites. Leave a comment and be sure to tell me some of your favorite Winter warmers too. Watch for Volume 3 of ‘No One Can Pick Just One’ next Spring. I’m thinking I’ll be listing some of my favorite Barleywines in that volume.
Drink responsibly and stay safe out there.