7 Seasonal Microbrews To Try This Winter

There are dark days ahead. I mean literally dark, cold, stormy, miserable winter days, at least for those of us North of Florida. Winter has already struck in some parts of America, coating several states with unseasonable snow. It seems like just a week ago we were wandering into the outside wearing just our shorts and t-shirts, and it seems like a decade before we’ll do it again. Luckily, there’s a silver lining to the late-Autumn/early-Winter dreariness, as America happens to be a hotbed of high-quality local microbreweries who take the dropping temperatures as a call to action to produce their finest brews of the year. They’re local, unique, they’ll keep you warm, and they pack a punch.

1. Even in the warmer climes of California, microbreweries are producing winter-ready beers by the cask-full. The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico brews its Celebration Ale on a seasonal basis.

Its unique aroma comes from adding the hops quite late in the brewing process, after the wort has cooled and is fermenting. This technique is known as dry hopping, and it really amplifies the hops’ aroma.

2. The Lost Abbey, based in San Marcos, brews an ale named “Gift of the Magi”. With a stout ABV (alcohol by volume) of 9.5%, it won’t take too much of this beer to have you feeling comfortably cozy.

The brewers at The Lost Abbey have even gone so far as to add a dash of Myrrh to their recipe, making this one a conversation starter as well as a delicious complement to your meal.

3. In San Diego, the AleSmith Brewing Company produces their YuleSmith twice a year, winter and summer. The winter version is an Imperial Red Ale, which is as imposing as it sounds. 9.5% and abounding in both malt and hop flavours, this is another beer to help keep you warm on those frosty (California?) winter evenings.

4. Up the coast slightly, in Bend, Oregon, is Deschutes Brewery, creators of the world-renowned Jubelale. Called a ‘Festive Winter Ale’, this beer won a gold medal at the World Beer Championships in 2006.

Yes, the World Beer Championships exist, and yes, they’re kind of a big deal. And with a pedigree like that, you can bet this medium-bodied beer will be one to savour.

5. The Great Divide Brewery is located in Denver, where the winters have been known to hit pretty heavily. In respect to that kind of climate, Great Divide created their Hibernation Ale, a strong, dry-hopped beer which is available from October to January. Brewed to be eaten with hardy foods like strong cheese and beef tenderloin, this one may well have you fighting the urge to hibernate even before you’ve worked your way through that Thanksgiving spread.

6. Dexter, a small town in South-Eastern Michigan, is home to Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, who brew a seasonal beer called Noel de Calabaza; Pumpkin Christmas. Despite it’s hardy 9.0% ABV and an almost bewildering complexity of flavours (figs, cashews, “rum laden truffles”), this one might be worth the asking price for the label alone. The artwork depicts a pumpkin sporting a Santa hat, blanketed by snow, with somewhat of a resigned smile carved into it’s facade.

7. Based in tiny Milton, Delaware, Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales has made a name for itself with a wide variety of inventive and playful beers. The Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, their winter seasonal, is brewed with both chicory and Mexican coffee.

It’s one of the brewery’s oldest beer, in circulation since 1995, so it’s certainly been tried and tested. Plus, with a more mainstream ABV of 5.2% and a wider distribution than most of the other beers on this list, the Chicory Stout is the perfect beer for a slightly less adventurous beer drinker to try this Holiday Season, and a good introduction to the world of craft beers and microbrews.

So while Coors, Bud, Molson, and Labatt all continue churning out the same run of the mill lagers, and while your friends stick with the same old, same old this winter, why not be the one to buck the trend, and try some beers that are created especially to warm the chill that’s found its way inside of you.

The seven beers listed above are guaranteed to surprise and delight, whether you’re a long-time beer geek, or someone just looking for something new. And with all the dinners, parties, and family events filling up your calender, you’ve now got a different beer for every occasion!

Got a microbrew to recommend? Tell us in the comments!


Judy "B" at 06 Dec 2011

Well done Clark! I feel a B's occasion coming on to taste a few cold ones!

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