Winter is here! Winter Beers are here!

Posted January 3rd, 2017 in Our Store

Craft Beer

Old Man Winter is here! (no pun intended, Southern Tier Brewing Co.)

Now, as I’m just sitting down and sipping on my fine libation, to whom I toast to all you hard working brewers all over Western NY. And all over the world. Bless you, Trappist Monks for making the finest ales and bread. We wouldn’t know what we would do if we didn’t have our never ending quest for the Westy 12. After one sip too many, I find myself typing away this blog to help you find the perfect beer for your upcoming holiday party, be it an Ugly Sweater Party, SantaCon, Bills holiday tailgating party, or just to help time pass at the dull Aunt Hillary and Uncle Don’s Christmas Eve Party which seems to go on for days, when you’ve actually been there for only a half hour (you are not alone here).

In the winter months, beer aficionados typically love to reach for a Porter or a Stout. Every now and then, we may enjoy a well-balanced beer like a Winter Warmer or a Spiced Ale. Occasionally we may like our beers with more character, like an Old Ale. Keeping in mind, most Belgian White Ales, Belgian Dark AlesSaisons, Dubbels, Tripels and Quadrupels are also fine Belgian examples that are regularly spiced and perfect for the holiday festivals! In extreme cases, we may resort to opening the emergency cupboard, breaking out the favorite goblet and a Double/Imperial Stout or a Belgian Strong Dark Ale – beers with alcohol contents that can really tip the scale!

Below, I have created a list of some common beer styles that are popular during the winter time, along with some fine examples that you will find at The Hop Shop Brew Market at the DiMino’s Lewiston Tops. But be quick, as they may go fast! So, enjoy one of these brewskis while seated in your favorite arm chair in the front of a roaring fire. Unless you don’t have a fireplace or don’t like to use the fireplace your home, pop in “The Fireplace DVD” (pretty sure you can get that on Amazon) and bask in the warm glow of your television while enjoying these beers.

Beers that have these ** asterisk in the front are beers that age well. You can cellar this beer! Typically, you can cellar age a beer for 1-5 years, given that the conditions are ideal. Ideal conditions are a dark, cool, and dry environment (like the rarely used basement bar at your parent-in-law’s house)

IPA

IPA is an abbreviation for India Pale Ale. India played an important role in the creation of IPA, but India was not the country that invented the brew. But, that’s not what we’re here to talk about. 

IPAs are commonly strong and bitter, owing this distinctive bitterness, aroma and flavor from the abundance of hops. The common smell (nose) of an IPA will be citrusy, piney, and/or floral. Several varieties of hops may be added at different times throughout the brewing process, giving way to the smell and taste. 

Today, the three main styles of IPA produced are American IPA, English IPA, and Double or Imperial IPA. The sub-styles includes Black, Session, Wheat, Red, and Belgian White IPAs. Each style and sub-style has its own characteristics. There are so many more varieties that the craft breweries may come up with. Just be warned, it’s an acquired taste, and is not for everybody. IPAs are typically between 5.5 -7.5% ABV

Examples

New Belgium Accumulation – Fort Collins, CO – Brewing a white IPA was not only a way to salute the white beauty falling from the sky, but a direct revolt to the longstanding tradition of brewing dark beers for winter and winter seasonal beers . In this beer, there are plenty of new hop varietals and a bit of wheat for a smooth mouthfeel. Stack up a few cases of Accumulation White IPA to keep your long nights glowing blizzard white – 6.2% ABV

Hamburg Frosty The IPA – Hamburg, NY – Frosty the IPA was a jolly HOPPY brew. With a two row base, some white wheat malt, and a juiced up hop review. Frosty the IPA is a fairytale, they say. He was made of wort, but the yeast all know how he came to life one day. There must have been some magic in those shiny tanks we found, for when he came out, the brewers danced around! – 5.5% ABV

Brown Ale

Brown ales commonly are deep amber to brown in color, and most often has caramel and chocolate flavors. In Northern England, brown ales are more malty, nutty and have slightly higher ABV percentage. In Southern England, their brown ales often are darker, sweeter and have lower ABV percentages. Brown ales in North America commonly are drier than their English relatives, with a slight citrusy characteristics. Thanks to the American hop varieties, they have more aroma, more bitterness, and a medium body. In the case of brown ales, the alcohol level typically ranges between 4.0-8.0% ABV.

Examples

New Belgium Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough – Fort Collins, CO – Diving into their favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes for inspiration, the hard working brewers whipped hefty doses of chocolate, brown sugar and vanilla into a dough-hued blonde ale base. The result is a full-bodied beer that seduces with a perfect balance of vanilla and chocolate, and finishes with just the right amount of sweetness. – 6.0% ABV

Ellicottville Lloyd’s Christmas Ale – Ellicottville, NY – Lloyd’s is a brown ale brewed with fresh ginger, figs and select spices with a full-bodied mouthfeel and just the right amount of character. – 8.0% ABV

Witbier

Witbiers are Belgian Style ales that are very pale and cloudy in appearance. This cloudiness is due to the beers being unfiltered and from the high level of wheat (sometimes some oats) used in the mash. Coriander, orange peel and other varieties of spices or herbs are always added to give Witbiers some characteristics. The wheat is what gives the witbier a crispness. Alcohol levels are in the medium-low range, clocking in at 4.0-7.0% ABV.

Examples

Bell’s Winter Ale – Kalamazoo, MI – An alternative to dark and heavy winter warmers and stouts, Winter White is a stylish and refreshing Wheat Ale. Fermented with a Belgian ale yeast, this blend of barley and wheat malts yields a mixture of clove and fruity aromas, all without the use of any spices. Deliberately brewed to retain a cloudy appearance, Winter White is a beer for embracing winter. – 5.0% ABV 

Belgian Pale Ale

Belgian Pale Ales differ from the other Pale Ale varieties, being less bitter, using aged hops for a mild hop finish, and yielding sweetish to toasty malt taste. Belgian Pale Ales comply have a brilliant color ranging from pale straw yellow to amber, granted that you pour the beer from the bottle properly, leaving the yeast in the bottle. Most Belgian Pale Ales will yield a thick and creamy head. Flavors and aromas will vary. Some have natural spice characters from yeast and hops, while others are spiced with orange peel, coriander, and various spices at the discretion of the brewer. Alcohol ranges in the medium-low levels, coming in at 4.0-7.0% ABV.

Examples

**Orval – Villers-devant-Orval, Belgium – Many agree that the somewhat unpractical addition of this sometimes undesired yeast strain is what grants Orval its age worthiness, not to mention unique aroma, making it a one of the few beers worth cellaring. – An Authentic Trappist Product  6.2% ABV

**Trappist Achel 8° Blond – Hamont-Achel, Belgium – A pale, strong, fruity, hoppy Trappist ale from one of Belgium’s six official abbey breweries. This blond, flavorful beer is a surprisingly refreshing brew at 8% alcohol by volume. It is lightly filtered, but still wholesomely hazy with yeast remaining and refermenting in the bottle. – An Authentic Trappist Product – 8.0% ABV

Belgian Dark Ale

Belgian Dark Ales commonly offer a huge range of characters. Colors can range within the amber to light brown to deep brown, with thick heads that typically never goes away. Aromas greatly varies, as it can be anywhere from traces of yeast, spiced, malty, or floral. Flavors can be either dry and spiced, to sweet and malty. The alcohol level ranges from 4.0-7.0% ABV commonly.

Examples

**Trappist Achel 8° Bruin – Hamont-Achel, Belgium – A dark amber, strong Trappist ale from one of Belgium’s six official abbey breweries. Achel 8° Bruin is shockingly easy to drink despite the alcohol and complexity. It is lightly filtered, but still wholesomely hazy with yeast remaining and refermenting in the bottle. – An Authentic Trappist Product – 8.0% ABV

Saison

Saisons, also known as farmhouse ales, were traditionally brewed in the winter to be consumed throughout the summer months. Saison ales are a very complex style, commonly very fruity or floral on the nose, with a semi-dry/fruity flavor and mild to moderate tartness. Usually finishes semi-dry, while some has a touch of sweetness. Saisons occasionally are refermented in the bottle with yeast. Lots of spice and with a medium bitterness.

Examples

**Anchorage Rondy Brew 2016 – Anchorage, AK – Saison brewed with Motueka hops. Fermented in French oak foudres with saison yeast and brettanomyces. Dry hopped with Motueka hops. Aged on hibiscus. Refermented in the bottle for natural carbonation. – 6.0% ABV

Dubbel

The Belgian Dubbel is a rich malty beer with some spicy and mild alcoholic characteristics. Fruitiness is not as prevalent as the Belgian Strong Dark Ale but mild fruit aromas and flavors may be present. Hop bitterness are mild. Usually has a medium to full body. The head on this beer normally lingers for a while. Alcohol levels are normally found in the range of 6.0-9.5% ABV.

**Chimay Première (Red) – Chimay Red is noted for its coppery colour which makes it particularly attractive. Topped with a creamy head, it gives off a light, fruity apricot aroma produced by the fermentation. The taste perceived in the mouth is a balance confirming the fruity nuances noticed in the fragrance. Its taste, which imparts a silky sensation to the tongue, is made refreshing by a light touch of bitterness. To the palate, the taster perceives a pleasant astringency which complements the flavour qualities of this beer very harmoniously. – Chimay, Belgium – An Authentic Trappist Product – 7.0% ABV

**Westmalle Dubbel – Malle, Belgium – A reddish brown Trappist ale, malty and fruit, featuring a 3 week secondary fermentation. This ale has a full, pale yellow head. The bouquet is full of esters and fruitiness. Notes of ripe banana predominate. The taste is fruity and slightly bitter, with a long, dry finish. – An Authentic Trappist Product – 7.0% ABV

Tripel

This style ”Tripel” name origins from part of the brewing process. In a triple, the brewers use up to three times the amount of malt than a standard Trappist “Simple.” would have. Tripels commonly are bright yellow to gold in color with a creamy and dense head. Aroma and flavor most of the times are complex, spicy, yeasty, fruity, and finishes sweet. The sweetness in a Tripel commonly comes from the pale malt used to brew this. There are a slight level of bitterness. The lighter body comes from the use of Belgian candy sugar, which not only lightens the body, but also adds complex alcoholic aromas and flavors. Small amounts of spices often are added. Tripels commonly are highly alcoholic, in the range of 8.0-12.0%. But beware, Tripels brewed by reputable brewers or Trappist monks can really deceive you, masking the taste and smell of alcohol. So, remember, these are sipping beers!

Examples

**To Øl F*$k Art Winter’s Coming – Frederiskberg, Denmark – A new release Christmas beer, this bottle is a traditional Belgian Tripel twisted and spiced with Cardamom, Coriander and Orange Peel. – 8.0% ABV

**Chimay Tripel (White) – Chimay, Belgium – Chimay Tripel, with its typical golden colour, its slightly hazy appearance and its fine head is especially characterised by its aroma which results from an agreeable combination of fresh hops and yeast. The beer’s flavor, as sensed in the mouth, comes from the smell of hops: above all it is the fruity notes of muscat and raisins that give this beer a particularly attractive aroma. The aroma complements the touch of bitterness. – An Authentic Trappist Product – 8.0% ABV

**Westmalle Tripel – Malle, Belgium – A strong, dry and spicy Trappist ale. The product of a secondary fermentation lasting 5 weeks. This is a complex ale with a fruity aroma and a nice nuanced hop scent. It is soft and creamy in the mouth, with a bitter touch carried by the fruity aroma. An exceptional ale, with a great deal of finesse and elegance, and with a splendid long after taste. – An Authentic Trappist Product – 9.5% ABV

Quadrupel

Compared to the Dubbel and Tripel styles, a Quadrupel is a Belgian style ale of great strength with bolder flavor. Typically a dark creation that ranges within the deep red and brown hues. Full bodied with a rich malty palate. Sweet with a low bitterness yet a well perceived alcohol. Alcohol levels can range between 9.0% – 13.0% ABV

Examples

**La Trappe Quadrupel – Berkel-Enschot, Netherlands – Quadrupel is La Trappe’s heaviest ale with a stunning amber colour. Its warm and intense flavour is rich and finely balanced. Malty sweet, slightly burnt, and pleasantly bitter with a sweet aftertaste. Quadrupel continues to ferment after bottling and offers aromas of banana, almond, vanilla and others. – An Authentic Trappist Product – 10.0% ABV

Oatmeal Stout

If you like sweeter stouts, this is for you! Medium to full bodied stouts with oatmeal added to the mash-in process for a smoother mouthfeel and a touch more sweetness compared to other stouts. The levels of roasted flavor and hop character varies by brewers. Alcohol levels usually falls within the range of 4.0-7.0% ABV

Examples

Great Lakes Ohio City – Cleveland, OH – Dark and roasty yet light and smooth as a fresh coat of snow, our Oatmeal Stout will kick your cabin fever and inspire you to toss another log on the fire. Oh, what fun it is to ride through a flurry of flaked oats o’er a field of rich roasted malt flavors! – 5.4% ABV

Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout – Akron, OH – BORIS stands for Bodacious Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout and it will crush you like no other stout! Named for its intensely deep roasted and full bodied flavor and extreme weight of barley used to make it, BORIS The Crusher will crush your taste buds under its intense flavor and full body. – 9.4% ABV

Porter/Stout

Porter is a dark style of beer developed in London from beers brewed from brown malts. The history and development of stout and porter are  The name “stout” as used for a dark beer is believed to have come about because strong porters were marketed under such names as “Extra Porter”, “Double Porter”, and “Stout Porter”. The term “Stout Porter” would later be shortened to just “Stout”. Stouts were traditionally the generic term for the strongest or stoutest porters, stronger beers were called “stout porters”. For this holiday blog, these following porters and stouts listed are usually spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peels, anise and some others at the brewer’s discretion. Alcohol levels are typically in the range of 4-7.5% for Porters and Stouts,  7-10% for Baltic Porters, & 7-15% ABV for Double/Imperial Stouts

Examples

Community Beer Works Oh Snap! – Buffalo, NY – A “gingerbread stout” made with ginger and cinnamon – 5.4% (On tap only)

Prairie Christmas BOMB!Tulsa, OK – An Imperial Stout that will bring you great comfort and joy. You’ll find the coffee, ancho chilies, vanilla, and cacao nibs you know and love, but they brought a friend this time. The addition of cinnamon warms this brew evoking the seasonal spirit of spice and cheer. – 11.0% ABV

Spiced Ale

Beer that are specially herbed and or spiced. For winter season, Christmas beers are typically spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon. Some brewers will throw just about anything into the brew kettle; hot peppers, hemp, ginseng or spruce needles. Keep you mind open when you are trying some as brewers will always keep on trying to expand the limits of what beer is. Traditionally in the alcohol range of 4-8% ABV

Examples

Southern Tier 2XMAS – Lakewood, NY -Brewed to pay a tribute to a Nordic tradition of Glogg drinks. 2XMAS Ale combines traditional brewing ingredients with figs, orange peels, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger root – 8% ABV

Woodcock Brothers Stiff Mitten – Wilson, NY – A winter warmer for the celebration of the holiday season. Up front holiday spicing melts into the malts and hops with a warming effect from the high ABV – 7.2% ABV (On tap only)

Winter Warmer/Christmas Ale

Occasionally known as Christmas Ale. Winter seasonal style of beer. Color range can be from dark red to nearly black. Usually sweet and malty. Winter Warmer beers are typically higher in the alcohol range, in the range of 5.5%-8.5% ABV.

Examples

Great Lakes Christmas Ale – Cleveland, OH – A Yuletide’s worth of holiday spices and sweet honey to keep you a-wassailing all season long. – 7.5% ABV

Dark Horse 4 Elf – Marshall, MI – Holiday cheer in liquid form. Spicy aromas like cinnamon and clove give this dark brown winter warmer a proper holiday welcome. Balanced between malt, hops, and spices – 8.75% ABV

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome – Tadcaster, UK – The full body resulting from fermentation in ‘stone Yorkshire squares’ and the luxurious malt character, which will appeal to a broad range of drinkers, is balanced against whole-dried Fuggle and Golding hops – 6.0% ABV

Anchor Christmas Ale – San Francisco, CA – The 2016 Christmas Ale is a deep mahogany brown with a creamy, tan head and boasts aromas of fruitcake, molasses, and fresh cut wood. The beer tastes of a roasted caramel malt, with notes of spiced chocolate and nuts. And it has a rich, smooth, and velvety mouthfeel. Also known as “Our Special Ale” – 6.5% ABV

Scottish Ale

Scottish Ales have a deep copper to brown color, due to a long boil in the kettle for the caramelization of the wort. The longer boil also yields a higher level of unfermentable sugars which create a richer mouthfeel, and malty flavors & aromas. hop character typically is low, light floral or herbal, drawing attention to the malt profile. Smoky characters are also common with Scottish Ales, which is perfect for you Scotch whisky lovers. Typically falls in the range of 4.5-8% ABV

Examples

Bell’s Christmas Ale – Kalamazoo, MI – A sessionable alternative to traditional spiced winter warmers, this Scottish Ale features Michigan grown malt from the Bell’s Farm in Shepherd, Michigan to impart dry, toasted notes along with subtle toffee flavors. – 5.5% ABV

Old Ale

May also be referred to as a Stock Ale. These beers have a full malt body with plenty of character. Rich dark amber in color to a very dark brown; near black. Tamed aromatics. Commonly are fruity, malty and higher in alcohol. For Old Ales, the alcohol levels are typically in the range of 4.0% to 12.5% ABV.

Examples

**Southern Tier Old Man (Winter Ale) – Lakewood, NY – a rich and complex amalgam of hops and barley that will put the feeling back in your toes and lift your spirits above the snow. Old Man Winter throws a deep and inviting hue with a thickness that clings to the glass and the warmth of an open flame – 7.2% ABV

**Great Divide Hibernation – Denver, CO – Hibernation’s massive flavors are so intense that it requires over three months of aging each year. This lengthy aging process gives Hibernation its revered malty richness, complex hop profile and hearty warming character, which is perfect right out of the bottle or cellared for longer periods of time – 8.7% ABV

Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Usually have a lot of complexity. The hop and malt character usually varies by breweries. Commonly has a fruity flavor. Some beers in this style could have mild dark malt flavors. Much higher in alcohol compared to the Belgian Dark Ale, typically in the range of 7.5%-12%

Examples

**Delirium Noël – Melle, Belgium – The appearance is a superb warm copper to red color, recalling “Nocturnum” except in its taste. It hides its subtlety by multiple levels of flavor and should be approached with confidence, with a tinge typical Christmas, sauced with a sweet touch, then bitterness – 10.0% ABV

Tröegs Mad Elf – Hershey, PA – A cheerful ruby red creation reminiscent of ripened cherries, raw honey and cocoa with notes of cinnamon, clove and allspice. – 11.0% ABV

**Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper – København, Denmark – Orange peels and coriander seeds, along with the extreme fermentation temperatures, give a massive mix of fruity nuances – 10.9% ABV

**Unibroue La Résolution – Chambly, Quebec, CAN – This extra strong dark ale is a perfect balance between spicy, caramel and roasted malt flavours complemented by a nice roundness and persistent finish – 10% ABV

**Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue)Chimay, Belgium – Originally brewed as a Christmas beer in 1948, this dark ale has rich flavors of mulling spices and caramel, with a smooth palate and warming finish – An Authentic Trappist Product – 10% ABV

Now, I’ve actually found myself on my third glass of beer, so it might not be a bad idea to say that I’ve done enough to lead you to the dark side. Now, enjoy your newfound favorite pick-me-up, and may the holiday festivities be ever in your favor.

Until next time.

Proost!

 

Matthew J. Cipolla
DiMino’s Lewiston Tops

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