Yes, there is going to be a lager on the list, so technically this is not just about ales. We know that. But “Top 5 Winter Ales and Also One Lager” just seemed like such a weak title for this list. Indulge us — we’re just here to help, after all.
For most beer-lovers winter is their favorite season. In the colder months, the “bigger” beers reappear on the shelves. This is the season of dark, roasted malts, all kinds of wild hops, and all sorts of exciting additions, like various spices, seasonally-appropriate fruits, etc. With no need for a light, refreshing pilsner to cool you down after you mow the lawn, the cold season is the time for robust, warming beers. And um, yes: the alcohol content tends to creep a bit higher with said brews, so there’s that too. And no, that wasn’t a complaint.
5.) Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale
Two beers from one brewery again? Yep. This here brew is only available in Sam Adams’ annual holiday/winter mixed packs, so prepare to have a lot of fine friends along with it! From a citrusy zest to a ginger and cinnamon, spices dance about in the big malty, hoppy wonder that is this fine, seasonally-appropriate beer. It has a big, specific flavor profile that would probably be a turnoff to light pilsner swillers and Pinot Grigio devotees alike, but that is fine by us!
4.) Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale
Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale is an annual treat that would often hold the number 1 spot on our list, save for this (fun) fact: it is different every year! Just a bit, mind you, but we still felt strange giving top point to moving goal posts. What a beer, though! The deep brown body and caramel colored head let you know you are in for a holiday treat. Big, burnt malts support a nice piney, hoppy, and spicy beer. We can’t say too much, because who knows what this year will bring, exactly?
3.) New Belgium’s Snow Day Winter Ale
New Belgium’s Snow Day Winter Ale clocks in at almost 9% ABV, so you know right off the bat that we’re going to have fun with this beer. Snow Day is technically a Black IPA, and it is not as heavy in the mouth as you may expect from such a potent beer, but that is just fine in this case. There is plenty of malts and hop interplaying to keep you busy!
2.) Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Samuel Adams Winter Lager is in the #2 spot. Yup, not an ale. Lager yeasts, cold fermentation, we know, get over it. This beer means Winter like the 4th of July means: “Hey, remember that, England? Do ya?” As most Sam Adams beers, you can taste notes of their flagship Boston Lager in this beer, but it has grown from there into a mildly spiced, hoppy brew that manages to be both refreshing and bracing. It is great cold; it is great at near room temperature. In the former state, go ahead and quaff it fast after you finish shoveling the walk. Warmer, it makes affine fireside or dinner companion.
1.)Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale
Without Sierra Nevada’s annual release of the Celebration Ale, it might as well not be the holiday season. Christmas would be that much less piney; Hanukah’s lights would shine a bit less bright, and Druids everywhere would chop down trees in righteous indignation were not for the happy, bright red labels of this fine winter ale to reappear sometime in November. Celebration Ale has a similar hop profile to Sierra Nevada’s fine Pale Ale, and that is no problem at all. It is braced by a fine, roasted malt flavoring and the happy addition of even more hops and spices than their Pale (in fact, it is almost double the IBUs!) and dry hopped for a big holiday aroma.
That’s it for IPAs for today! We encourage you to go do your own research, of course, but if any of the beers here have eluded you thus far, you may want to go ahead and start with them.