Here's a little winter brew 101 for you: Did you know that these specialty winter beers were originally created by brewers to give as a gift to their good customers and friends around the holidays? Pretty soon they became so popular that breweries (and their marketing and accounting departments) decided it would be a good idea to distribute them to a larger audience.
"Typically, summer beers are expected to be quenching; they are less strong and have higher notes of flavor and are crisp and aromatic," says Craig Hartinger, marketing manager at Merchant du Vin, a specialty beer importer, about the difference between summer and winter brews.
"Winter brews are for when the weather is cold, so they have deep, richer flavors. They are the beers you want to curl under a blanket with."
So do what the man says: Grab a blanket and read on for a few good partners.
Usually when you think of a winter seasonal, you think of darker beers. Not so with this Weizenbock from the German brewery, Ayinger, which has been cranking out brewskies since 1878. For their winter brew, they amplified a traditional wheat beer to make it taste like a wheat beer on steroids.
Newcastle Winter IPA
The limited edition Newcastle Winter IPA boasts a copper color with a strong hop aroma, subtle caramel notes, a full body and a balanced finish, staying true to the traditional characteristics found in British-style IPAs. Very balanced and drinkable.
Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale
The Winter Welcome Ale isn’t as thick as you would expect from the noted brewer’s winter seasonal. In fact, the Winter Welcome Ale is a pretty accessible, balanced brew with hints of malt and caramel hops.
Guinness Generous Ale Winter Selection variety pack
With a festive red label festooned with gold script, Guinness Generous Ale will match any holiday party quite nicely. It can be found in their Winter Selection Variety along with Guinness’ Draught, Foreign Extra Stout and Black Lager (three of each). Unlike a traditional Guinness, the amber Generous Ale is surprisingly crisp and carbonated.
Innis & Gunn Winter Beer 2012
Innis & Gunn’s Winter Beer was inspired by a 19th centurybeer recipe that their CEO discovered in an old book. Their Winter Beer is heavy on the malt with hints of molasses, fruit and chocolate.