Winter beers are always exciting for me. Winter warmers tend to lack the style guidelines that can dictate how the beers are made. Don’t get me wrong, there are some generalities that might be followed. They tend to be malty. They tend to be high in alcohol. But I think that they are high in alcohol is really all anybody expects. Everything else seems to be up to the brewer. Is it malty and dark?
Is it bitter? Is it fermented with a Belgian yeast strain? Will it have a lot of wheat? There are so many great winter beers out there, and instead of going out and trying, you know, 30 different winter beers and taking notes on all of them, I just asked a few other brewers what they were drinking this winter. So, if you can’t decide which beer will grace the shelves of your beer fridge this year, consider what your brewers are drinking:
Jubelale (Deschutes, in Bend, OR)- Despite being found everywhere, I still enjoy it very much and it was one of the first winter beers I ever drank so it has that nostalgia thing going.
Walking Man Cherry Stout (Walking Man in Stevenson, WA)- Although not bottled as far as I know, this beer is simply one of the better brews around.
Fremont Abominable (Fremont, in Seattle)- I will be getting a growler of this recent discovery, these guys are putting out really good beer, and this winter brew is worth the hunt.
…actually Tony responded with a list of beers he was drinking this winter, but not necessarily winter beers. I pretty much got his beer-fridge inventory, which included mostly Sierra Nevada beers, a few other random bottles, and his homebrews. He mentioned Sierra Nevada Celebration, which is a beer I was going to have on my list. I am going to suggest that Tony is drinking Sierra Nevada this season. All of it. But specifically their Celebration Ale.
Powder Hound from Big Sky Brewing (Big Sky, Missoula, MT)- Growing up in Montana, I have always had a soft spot for this brewery and their beers. Powder Hound is a fantastic winter ale, malty and smooth and keeps you warm on those cold Montana nights.
Snoqualmie Falls Avalance Ale (Snoqualmie, Snoqualmie, WA)- this is one of the first NW winter ales I had when I moved out this way, and I still keep going back to it every year. I always find it in a 22oz bottle, which is a good thing, cause 12oz just wouldn’t be enough.
Sam Smith Winter Welcome Ale (Samuel Smith’s, Tadcaster, England). Going international with this choice, and I’m happy to crack this beer every winter. I haven’t seen this on the shelf at the local beer spots, but when I do you know I will be getting more than one.
Since nobody picked their own beers, I will go ahead and pick for them. I really like the Winterfish. Sierra Nevada Celebration was the first winter beer I remember trying, and I like that I can get a wintry IPA locally.
Dick’s Double Diamond was the first Dick’s beer I ever tried. It motivated me to go try the rest of their beers, which, of course, were delicious, but I always look forward to picking up a six-pack of this beer each winter.
Lazy Boy’s Mistletoe Bliss is exactly the kind of beer I think of when I think about winter beer. It is richly malty, with plenty of the ‘warmer’. It is always a welcome addition to my favorite winter fare: roast beast and roasted root vegetables.
Enjoy the Winter!
About the author
Adam Orrick is the head brewer at Grove Street Brewhouse in Shelton, WA. He has been brewing professionally since June of 2009, all of which has been spent at GSB, save a brief internship at Lazy Boy Brewing in Everett, WA. For more about Adam and Grove Street, visit their brewery, their facebook page, or the GSB blog at grovestreetbrewhouse.wordpress.com