For most of the country, the winter season has arrived and is in full swing. God bless you brave souls on the East Coast. For us in Los Angeles, winter officially begins when we actually order hot coffee from Starbucks and that typically lasts from late December to early February, then it’s back to the beach. This means our window time to enjoy delicious winter warmers, roasty-toasty stouts and ales so strong they come with a user warning, is very tight. That doesn’t mean we don’t give it the old college try though.
Since moving to the west coast 10 years ago, I can honestly say that I don’t drink as many heavy or dark beers as I used to but when the temperature drops a bit and the fire pit gets going, it just feels natural. Without further ado, these are the winter beers you should be drinking right now.
Oskar Blues / Death By Coconut / Irish Porter / 6.5% ABV
To me, this is what drinking in the winter time is all about. Snowfall, fire pits, roasting marshmallows and drinking rich, chocolate beers with the ones you love. Alone works as well. Sometimes we just don’t want to share and this is okay too. Death By Coconut is only available for a short time period each year so get your hands on this quick. It is a semi-sweet porter with intense notes of coconut and chocolate provided by Cholaca. The dark chocolate and caramel malt provide ultimate richness that pairs perfectly with a piping hot s’mores. Three words: PASS. DASH. HIT
Carton Brewing / Decoy / Winter Warmer / 12% ABV
If there is a beer that can tantalize your senses while delivering a knock out blow, Decoy is that beer. I am a New Jersey native but moved out west way before the craft beer boom so my knowledge and expertise of Jersey-bred beers are zero to none. When your beer is described as a direct influence from a dish at Eleven Madison Park, you have officially peaked my interest. Decoy packs a punch, that is no lie but the subtle spice notes evoke a feeling of Christmas spirit so a couple of these and you might see a few prospects waiting under the mistletoe.
Surly Brewing / Coffee Bender / Brown Ale / 5.5% ABV
Coffee. Coffee. And More Coffee. This is truly an exceptional beer especially if you love coffee. Did we say it tastes like coffee? Don’t confuse this as a stout or porter, it is a brown ale which makes it super refreshing and easy drinking. I might even go as far to say that you can simply replace your morning coffee routine with Coffee Bender but only if you are in a snowstorm and your boss closes the office for the day. Come on, I’m not that irresponsible.
Upslope Brewing / Oatmeal Stout / Oatmeal Stout / 5% ABV
You might not have guessed it by the clever name but this is an Oatmeal Stout and what is more needed after shoveling your damn driveway for 3 hours in a blizzard other than a bowl of piping hot oatmeal? Well, that answer is a delicious (or three), sessionable Oatmeal Stouts from Upslope. I typically eat cheese all year round but hearty cheeses taste better in cold weather so pair this baby with an aged, robust cheddar and you have the perfect pairing. Upslope also has a taproom series with a new featured beer each month. If you can get your hands on their Mexican Chocolate Milk Stout, please do and thank me later.
Reuben’s Brews / Robust Porter / Porter / 5.9% ABV
This beautiful Robust Porter is from a brewery in Seattle that you need to visit. Reuben’s Brews is simply a nice looking brewery that puts as much effort into their branding as they do their beers. Their Robust Porter is a perfect example of simplicity at it’s finest because who needs more stress during the holiday and winter season. Not me, that’s for sure. Chocolate, coffee and caramel are all present in this delicious beer and finishes with a hint of smoke on the end. Not to brag but this beer has plenty of hardware from several competitions throughout the country.
Fremont Brewing / B-Bomb / BBA Imperial Winter Ale / 13% ABV
This bomb of a beer gets released the Friday after Thanksgiving otherwise known as Black Friday but drink enough of this stuff and it will turn into Blackout Friday. Coming in at a whopping 13%, this should not be taken lightly. In fact, with distinct flavors such as bourbon, oak, cacao, leather, and dark coffee notes, it becomes the absolute perfect pairing for your Thanksgiving leftovers. Pro tip: pour an ounce of B-Bomb into your gravy and take your leftover sandwich to the next level.
Perennial Artisan Ales / Barrel – Aged Vermilion / Barleywine / 11% ABV
This 2016 English-style barleywine is aged for 12 months in Rittenhouse Rye barrels. Need we say more? The layers of stone fruit, vanilla and caramel are mesmerizing and linger for quite awhile, giving you that warm feeling on a chilly night. This is another great beer to pair with food and we know there is plenty of it going around throughout the holidays. Perennial suggests pairing this with a stinky bleu cheese and we wholeheartedly agree.
Funky Buddha / Last Snow / Porter / 6.4% ABV
A few years back during the third session of GABF, stumbling but of sound mind, I found myself at the Funky Buddha booth. At that time I didn’t know much about them but heard great things. I tried a few offerings and then after deciding this was my last sip before packing it in for the weekend, I tried Last Snow and it was everything I dreamed of and more. Coffee and coconut make for a truly exceptional winter offering so get your hands on this before the warm weather returns.
Jester King / Atrial Rubicite / Wild Ale / 5.2% ABV
7,500 lbs of raspberries straight out of Washington. If that doesn’t get you excited to want to try this and share it with loved ones, we don’t know what will, to be honest. This oak aged beauty is so easy drinking and delivers such a fruit forward punch that it will make you want to pair this with everything; cigars, chocolate, cheese, you name it. There is some subtle funkiness but with such bright raspberry notes, a mellow cheddar complements it extremely well.
pFriem / SBA Imperial Brown / Imperial Brown / 10.5% ABV
This stunner is aged is single malt scotch barrels and has all the flavors of the season stuffed into a single bottle. Vanilla bean, scotch and toffee are prominent so grab your favorite cigar and let the beer do the rest. Since it is aged in scotch barrels, the presence of smoke and wood come through so much that you will make even the biggest scotch enthusiast jealous. This is such an ideal beer for winter you might not even want spring to come anytime soon.
Double Mountain / A Zone / IPA / 6.8% ABV
When it comes to drinking in the winter time or winter beers in general, people don’t often throw IPAs into that category but I certainly do. First, I simply cannot drink dark, rich, heavy beers for too long so I need a break in-between. Second, when a beer like A Zone can capture citrus and pine so perfectly, what screams winter flavors more than that. Yes, everyone thinks of nutmeg and cinnamon but pine transports me to the mountains where the only thing I need while hitting the diamond slope is a nice, crisp A Zone.
Troegs / Blizzard of Hops / Winter IPA / 6.4% ABV
What is the best thing about a blizzard; no school? no work? I suppose both are pretty good but I feel the best thing during a blizzard is drinking, that is of course after the hours of shoveling snow. The next best thing to do during a blizzard is to eat of course and Blizzard of Hops pairs well with many delicious treats so remember to stock up on cheese and meat as soon as you start hearing the warnings. If you are on the east coast and haven’t had this yet, hurry because it’s almost Superbowl Sunday.