Winter’s dark nights—and long, loud parties—are perfect occasions to celebrate the ancient tradition of winter seasonal beers, which tend to be bigger, stronger, spicier, and generally more boisterous than any other beers in the spectrum. There’s no one style; the variety is endless. But generally speaking, these tend to be beers brewed once a year to stand up well to richer seasonal fare (braised shortribs; roast poultry) and crackling fireplaces. Their darker hues and higher alcohols come from an abundance of roasted malts; their spice is sometimes derived from special hops, herbs, and (you guessed it) spices from cinnamon and nutmeg to vanilla bean, mace, even myrrh.
What beer would you want to find in your stocking? Tell us below.
Read on for three delicious suggestions you should be able to find at your local Whole Foods or good beer bottle shop.
Mikkeller, Copenhagen, DEN
A sort of hybrid British red ale and “imperial” Belgian witbier from Denmark’s acclaimed gypsy brewers, it's got the caramel-y roundness of the former with the spicy kick of the latter, overlaid with tangy, citrusy hops and a lashing of bitter orange peel. 8%abv; sold in a festive magnum.
Troeg’s Brewing Co., Hershey, PA
Spicy, noble hops meet cherries, local Pennsylvania honey and robust chocolate malts in a strong but drinkable holiday elixir (11%abv). And you’ve got to love the name.
Hair of the Dog Brewing Co., Portland, OR
This fireside-ready brew from the Portland, Oregon barrel aged beer pioneers is strong, viscous, intensely malty and a touch sweet (thanks to wild flower honey collected on Mount Hood), minimally carbonated (so sip it, Santa), and highly hopped in the West Coast style (with Simcoe and Amarillo hops). At 11.5%abv, it’s ideal for an after dinner snifter and, with its high hopping and alcohol levels, also ought to age interestingly for years to come.