Big Time Beer For Big Time Winter

After a modest celebration on Saint Nicholas Feast Day, the patron saint of brewers by the way, it dawned on me that Christmas is quickly approaching, with the added treat of a full lunar eclipse on the Winter Solstice, but boy has it gotten chilly around here. Mind numbing wind chilled cold in the early morning, bright but frosty in the afternoon.
In such climate conditions, the true reason why Winter Ales exist, becomes abundantly apparent. Here is one scenario: you show up at a friend’s house with a six pack of assorted samples. Opening a couple of bottles, your host asks do want to put the rest in the refrigerator? You immediately give them a mild shock by saying no, these beers could use a little warming up. To the ice cold lager swilling crowd, this appears as an anomaly.
What kind of beers am I talking about? Well Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout for a start. The annual Russian Imperial Style Stout weighs in at 10% alcohol by volume, so there is absolutely no need for this coal black colored brew to be frosty. In fact doing so would only deprive you of the actual beer tasting experience.
The same can be said of Weyerbacher Tiny, an 11.8% smooth monster. An Imperial Stout made with a Belgian yeast strain, providing a delicious flavor twist in the finish. A fifth of this cork caged beauty would be excellent to share with a few friends. But well chilled? Absolutely not.
With freezing cold temperatures there is always room for Great Divide and their chocolate notes masterpiece Hibernation Ale. Somewhat from the same English Winter Ale school as Avery’s Old Jubilation Ale, Hibernation, at least for this year, seems to have more aromatic hops than usual, giving this an orange-chocolate dimension in the finish. Again: Don’t Drink This Cold. Slightly chilled would be best to start with.
Summit Winter Ale is a welcome sight this holiday season. Yet another winter beer that does not use spices to be festive, what I affectionately refer to as the non-wassail group, which usually malt showcases, with the notable exception of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, where hops are moved to the forefront. Which reminds me, I just recently got a chance to try the year round Summit Horizon Red Ale, a very classy American hops display that is India Pale Ale like in its floral complexity.
I almost forgot. Besides their big time chocolate stout, Brooklyn Brewery also makes their Winter Ale, one of my personal favorites, a glorious tribute to Maris Otter Malt, which, when served with fresh baked Scottish Shortbread, is a perfect wee-heavy experience.
Stay warm. Stay bright. All my best and thank you.
The Beer Doctor

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