I love seasonal beer. No matter what the season, when the selection becomes available, I have to try it.
Winter brings an abundance of seasonal warmers with hints of spices associated with cookies baking, logs in the fireplace and Christmas trees glowing with lights.
Alaskan Winter Ale has been around since 2000. It boasts glacier-fed water originating on the Juneau ice field and spruce tips from the sitka tree. One might expect spruce tips to lend a juniper flavor, but instead imparts a sweetness to the beer. Alaskans can trace a history back to the 1700s of homebrewers using spruce tips, which are rich in Vitamin C.
The Alaskan Winter Ale (ABV 6.4%, IBU 22) is light amber in color, clear and a bit thin in the mouth. The taste is sweet with a subtle citrus finish.
Breckenridge Brewery, the third oldest craft brewery in the state of Colorado, provides a full-bodied winter warmer with their Christmas Ale. Food & Wine magazine describes winter warmers as English Strong Ales with ABVs (alcohol by volume) between 5.5% and 8.9%. Winter warmers usually include flavors that fit the season such as dried fruit (raisins, prunes), caramel and molasses, sweet bready and toasted winter spices. Low hop bitterness is also a characteristic – these are all 22 IBU (International Bitterness Units).
The Christmas Ale (ABV 7.1) from Breckenridge Brewery is a dark brown nicely effervescent beer with a toasty caramel finish.
Samual Adams never disappoints. No matter what seasonal beer this Boston brewery offers, I love it and the Winter Lager is no exception. The label correctly boasts that it is a "festive bock with warming spices."
A bock is a bottom fermenting lager that generally takes extra months of cold storage to smooth out the strong brew. Centuries ago, German brewers developed bock beers to fend off winter chills. Today the tradition continues with spices and winter fruits. To learn more about the history of bock beer, go to hopculture.com/definitionbock-beer.
Sam Adams' Winter Lager, with its new label this year, is deep amber with a hint of red. The spices are more pronounced in this beer than the two beers previously mentioned – cinnamon and ginger hit both the nose and tongue.
There are many more winter ales to choose from - brewers include anything from nutmeg, cloves, allspice and oranges as well as sweeteners such as raisins, plums and more. Enjoy sampling these winter warmers and find your favorite.