Want a winter beer? That doesn’t mean it has to be a porter or stout. It doesn’t even have to be dark. While there are lots of great beers within those style parameters, here are a few lesser regarded, but still winter appropriate beers to keep in mind over the season.
Sierra Nevada Celebration (Fresh Hop IPA, 6.8% ABV)
Maybe it’s a weather thing. California winters just don’t need warming or thick-bodied beers. Whatever the case, each year Sierra Nevada gives a new batch of their fresh hop IPA Celebration. In 2015 the beer is piney and light, incredibly smooth and floral. It pours a modest amber in color and uses the floral element of the Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook hops to offset any bitterness. It’s soft and refreshing.
Deschutes Jubelale (Christmas Ale/Winter Warmer, 6.7% ABV)
Deschutes keeps it balanced in this winter warmer, a beer to satisfy that desire for baking spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves but without overpowering the regular ol’ hops and barley. The spices come through more in aroma and in biting off the finish than in the flavor itself, which is dominated by sweet malts with an underlining dark fruit layer and a bitter hop finish.
Lagunitas Brown Shugga (American Strong Ale/Barleywine, 9.9% ABV)
While billed as an American Strong Ale, Brown Shugga comes with the hop punch of a DIPA. It’s a uniquely flavored beer with a sweet, citrusy profile. Orange and pineapple lead the charge before a big dose of caramel-butterscotch and brown sugar that lay the groundwork as a boozy pine cleans off the palate. Built like a barleywine, sips like a DIPA, mid-bodied and dangerously easy drinking for its ABV.
Oskar Blues Old Chub (Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy, 8.0% ABV)
Scotch ales are a hit or miss breed. Oftentimes too sweet, but sometimes deliciously balanced between smoky roast and a subtle malt sugar. Old Chub is rooted firmly in this camp, with a delicate roast that dominates the beer with a hint of smoke that’s overtaken by that sweetness, giving an almost cocoa essence. It’s subtle and light bodied, a winter beer without the weight.
Ommegang Adoration Ale (Belgian Strong Dark Ale, 10.0% ABV)
Spice is nice, but the best profiles always come from the yeast. Adoration is a true winter warmer, heavy on spice, malt, and fruity esters that are born from Ommegang’s yeast. Malt takes the dominant role here with a strong, but even, blend of orange peel, coriander, cardamom, dark fruits, and more. There’s a lot going on, but it’s also a light bodied beer, frothy and bubbly and perfect for sipping both warm and cold.