Before you go cuddling up by the fire on a bearskin rug with your love, or head outside to gather up the freshly fallen flakes into lovable snow children, you might want to stock the fridge with the most desirable of winter beers; those bottles of suds with the ability to warm your skin despite their frosty goodness. If it’s winter cheer you seek, look no further as we offer our interpretation of the 10 best winter beers, especially good for making drunken snow angels and caroling from your rooftop in your bathrobe.
St. Bernardus Abt. 12 Christmas Ale (10.5% alcohol)
You best sit down before you indulge in easily the tastiest (and most powerful) beer to potentially leave you blinded in the night. This Belgium classic is one of the top-rated brews by beer advocates across the entire Interweb, as few beers can taste this good, go down so lightly and yet be this strong all at once.
Abt. 12’s thin, dark appearance is quickly offset by its soft and smooth delivery. The only spoiler alert is that, aside from being the best of St. Bernardus’s seven available crafts, it’s also the highest in potency, coming in at a strong 10.5%. Meaning, you might as well sip slowly and enjoy its bodacious taste because you’re not likely to surpass a handful of these quality drinks, unless you’re planning on having somebody help you find the light switch.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (6.8%)
You awake to freshly fallen snow, the kind of lightness that makes your eyes twinkle and tear up with joy. All that’s missing is 1994’s United States Beer Tasting Champion IPA, Sierra Nevada’s brightest star, the Celebration Ale.
The IPA is well regarded around this time of year, and if you haven’t had a lick, expect a rich and intense hop flavor, the kind that sets the holidays right into place. Its cascade and centennial hops provide medium range bitterness, which mix just right with its flowery and citrus aroma, just what you need for a cozy night with family and friends around the fire.
Or if you want to drink alone and set off the smoke detectors, that’s fine too.
Kona Koko Brown (5.5%)
Coconut is definitely the snowflake of the drupe community, am I right? No, but seriously, coconut is a wonderful thing to add to any already-delicious recipe, and with Kona’s frosty wintry-brewed Koko Brown, it’s no exception for coconut lovers everywhere.
Paired well with spicy and flavorful meats, the brown ale reveals its nuttiness through its real coconut and toffee flavor, toasted to perfection. The nut-brown beer is so light that it’s still offered in the springtime, just in time for the water to warm up for a nice swim.
Allagash Black (7.5%)
If we didn’t already know that Santa’s pockets were lined with chocolate, oats and generous portions of sugar, we’d think he had a fresh Allagash Black Belgium stout waiting for us in his drawers. But that would just be creepy, wouldn’t it?
The dark roasted, full-flavored (cliché, but true) stout goes well with anything rich, dark and oatmeal, which basically sums up the holiday season in three words, especially the dark part.
No need to fret if you miss it before the holidays, as this bold, beautiful coffee teased with dark chocolate mixture is around all year long. But we know it’ll sit best with you during those brisk winter months while you eat pot roast and beef stew, or whatever wild things the kids are eating these days.
Blue Moon Winter Abbey (5.6%)
Is it bad if the first thing we think of when we hear Christmas bells is Blue Moon’s holiday classic, Winter Abbey? Well, at least we have something we can trust to get us through the holidays calmly while the relatives are out strangling each other with Christmas lights and extension cords.
This light brown ale has both a pale and wheat malt taste with a secret little ingredient — dark Belgium candy sugar — which leaves peppermint bark and fudge as the only things missing from making this Santa’s wettest dream.
Despite its small lack of hoppiness in flavor, it does have some chocolate malty happiness that can stick to the walls of your mouth well past the time you’ve finished your last drop. But it’s the caramel taste that sticks out the most, and who doesn’t like caramel? Crazy people. Excellent choice for a light winter classic!
Amnesia Sleigh Jerker (7.2%)
And now for a more hard-to-find, worth-it-if-you-find-it type beer that is almost as special as the idea that you can soak it up in your mustache for days on end during this winter season. Quickly becoming popular in the Portland area, this beer is one cool cat that deserves to be let out of the bag.
Brewed up in Amnesia Brewing’s warehouse with a quaint little beer garden on the north end of Portland, local bicycle enthusiasts are known to stop for a Sleigh Jerker during the cool months. The dark brown porter is noted for its dark fruit aroma, and a dark roasted flavor with a sweet afterglow. Sounds like your last girlfriend, doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t yell at you for sucking at hanging Christmas lights.
If you happen to see this beer on the street, sweet-talk it and take it home with you — as much as you can fit in the car.
Full Sail Wassail (7.0%)
They know how to make a good beer every time, and it’s winter time, so you do the math. We present Wassail, Full Sail’s full body beer, brewed in Oregon — available only while we’re on the dark side of the Earth this winter.
The rich mahogany flavor that would make Ron Burgundy’s lip hairs curl and the spines of his leather-bound books tighten with every deep burning, sensational drop we let hit our mouths is what manliness, visions of sugarplums and great literature are made of, gentlemen.
With its carefully selected hops and wide range of caramel and chocolate malts, this Northwestern brewed winter heart warmer is better than any gift you’ll find under any Christmas tree. Doesn’t matter if you’re Clark Griswold or Mr. Rockefeller, we’re serious.
It’s enough to make you yell “Timber!” for no apparent reason, except for the fact that you feel the spirit of a lumberjacking woodsman in your blood as you drink this fine, nurturing treat.
Deschutes Jubelale (6.7%)
Celebrating its 25th year of existence, Deschutes Jubelale is another Oregon-brewed beer, known for its strong English ale taste, meaning its hoppy and malty presence is ever-present with every glug you get.
With five varieties of hops and light woody flavor, this is the beer you’ll want with you if you get stuck under a rock in the middle of the woods while you wait for the snow to melt or some unexpecting hiker to find you, frozen to death with a big smile and your arms clasped lovingly around a case of Jubeale.
Aside from its wonderful local artistry on the bottle, the beer is commonly mentioned for its unique, but welcoming taste. Drink up, my lads!
Odell Isolation (6.1%)
A Colorado rocky sensation, the Isolation brew from Odell will rock your socks off with its straight-to-the-point traditional flavor, leaving out the fruits and spices, and served until the barrel runs dry.
Available beginning in November, the English amber ale comes across as more of an Oktoberfest type beer, considering its color, earthy taste and lack of the holiday bells and whistles, but it adds more of an extra punch than most harvest beers, making it just right for a lighter winter ale.
If you were to run into Santa in a deserted dive bar, he’d likely be taking down one of these so is not to weigh down his sleigh too much. The man has a weight problem as it is.
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Anchor Christmas Ale (5.5%)
One of California’s greatest breweries is joining you for the holidays with its Christmas Ale, but you’ll be glad Anchor Brewing stopped by when the family starts raving over politics and holiday porcelain starts flying.
Known best for its yearly classic, Anchor Steam, the holiday version is a ruby black — that is, a very dark brown with a reddish hue, which offers a bold dark malt taste with a lighter, sweet touch of an almost pumpkin-like spice.
If you’re any fan of the classic Anchor brews, this one is not going to disappoint — unless, of course, you run out while trapped in the cellar again this Christmas.