Eight Great Winter Beers

If you live someplace that has a true winter, this is probably about the time when you start thinking about getting out of town. Sand, sun, an icy beverage. Not gonna happen this year? Look the plus side: Now is the best time to pour a rich, hearty glass of stout or barley wine. These eight robust brews won’t give you a tan, but they might help you endure the last, dreary weeks of winter.
winter beers

1. North Coast Brewing Company: Old Rasputin

This obsidian flavor bomb has a thick pour that releases aromas of chocolate-dipped raisins, yeasty bread, and espresso. Java also defines Rasputin’s rich, roasty flavor, with a balanced sweetness that masks the beer’s strapping 9 percent ABV. It all adds up to a dangerously drinkable imperial stout that’s best shared with a couple cohorts. (northcoastbrewing.com)

2. Brooklyn Brewery: Black Ops

The latest in a winning streak of successful experiments by Brooklyn Brewery, Black Ops is a Russian imperial stout strong enough to knock out any winter chill. The thick, coal-hued brew was aged for four months in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, before being bottled with a dose of Champagne yeast to create a secondary fermentation. The final product possesses bourbon, dark chocolate, and espresso aromas, with silky flavors of dark-roasted malts, mocha, and vanilla. (brooklynbrewery.com)

3. Captain Lawrence Brewing Company: Nor’easter Winter Warmer

Head brewer Scott Vaccaro’s winter-only Nor’easter is an aromatic tour de force: A blend of dark malts and elderberries is aged in bourbon barrels, resulting in a smoky wallop best served in a snifter. The potent (12 percent ABV) strong ale’s scent is bourbon-drenched berries with subtle vanilla notes, while each woodsy sip (no chugging, please) warms the stomach and reveals sweet nuances of chocolate, caramel, and wine-like fruit flavor. (captainlawrencebrewing.com)

4. Rogue Brewery: Old Crustacean Barleywine

Barley wine is related to wine, but only barely: While both beverages benefit from aging, and typically contain the same level of alcohol, barley wines exchange grapes for grain. The result is a thick revelation that’s best sipped from a snifter or chalice. Rogue’s Old Crustacean is the cream of the crop, a ruby-hued riot that tastes of toffee and licorice, with bitter hops remaining front and center. Note: If you want to wait to drink the Old Crustacean, store it in a cellar or dark cabinet until next year—like wine, barley wines get better with age. (rogue.com)

5. Troëgs: Nugget Nectar Ale

In a tasty departure from winter’s decadent stouts and porters, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s Troëgs instead uses the icy season as a platform for its floral masterpiece, the Nugget Nectar Ale. The amped-up version of its fragrant, year-round HopBack Amber Ale is crafted by circulating the coppery imperial ale through a hops-filled vessel. This process infuses the beer with a blooming, garden-fresh hop flavor and aroma, which is complemented by the brew’s sweet, malty caramel base. It’s a hint of spring in the heart of winter. (troegs.com)

6. Oskar Blues: TenFidy Imperial Stout

With its line of pop-top microbrews, Colorado’s Oskar Blues makes craft-beer drinkers rethink canned beer. Its tremendous TenFidy, unlike most pitch-black Russian imperial stouts, boasts an assertively bitter dose of hops that is blanketed by malts and roasted barley. It’s creamy, like a malted milkshake, and bursts with chocolate, dark-roasted coffee, and a piney jolt, while warming alcohol lingers at the end of each lovely sip. (oskarblues.com)

7. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company: Celebration

Whereas countless breweries mistakenly go gaga with cloves and nutmegs for their winter seasonals, Sierra Nevada’s cold-weather Celebration is instead a robust ale packed with the hop-forward aroma of Christmas trees and freshly peeled grapefruit. The copper-hued beer pours hazy, topped by a chef’s cap of foam that leaves lovely lacing on the glass. Celebration’s flavor bursts with bright, juicy hops, a blend of gentle grassiness and citric tang, with a sturdy caramel backbone keeping the bitterness from overwhelming the taste buds. (sierranevada.com)

8. High Point Brewing Company: Ramstein Winter Wheat

New Jersey’s High Point Brewing Company specializes in traditional German wheat beers, including the Ramstein Winter Wheat, its terrific take on the brawny, dark Weizenbock style. Ramstein pours inky black and is capped by a giant, coffee-hued head. Cloves and fruity currant and apple aromas soon give way to a mouthful of caramel and malty chocolate. (ramsteinbeer.com)

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