Five Alternative Winter Beers

Posted on December 9th, 2009

Winter will soon be here. Beer can be a great way to shake off the wintertime chills, so here’s a look at a few beers beyond the typical seasonal offerings that will warm your body and wet your tongue.

Baltic porter – This powerful porter was originally produced in England and shipped to the people of Finland, Poland and other countries near the Baltic Sea to help them survive the bitter winter. The alcohol in these beers is extremely intense, usually weighing in around 7 to 10% Alc. by volume. The taste is equally mighty and quite dry, usually with notes of dark chocolate and rye. It’s one of the most intense variations of porter available. Sinebrychoff is perhaps the most popular and tradition version. Smuttynose produces a wonderful version as well.

Quadrupel – Quads have developed a reputation among beer geeks as some of the most complex and interesting beers. Whether or not you agree with this sentiment, you have to appreciate quad’s ability to combine a strong alcohol percentage (frequently over 10%) with a smoothness and rounded maltiness that Baltic and other strong ales can’t pull off. Chimay Blue is the must try in this category, followed closely by St. Bernardus 12. If you can ever get your hands on a Trappist Westvleteren 12, which is only legally available from the Belgian monastery where it is produced, consider yourself lucky. It’s one of the most sought after brews in the world. There is even a black market of sorts for this beer in America, where people will pay $25 or more for a single 12oz bottle.

Milk Stout – Lactose, the type of sugar found in milk, is not able to be fermented by brewing yeast. As a result, the lactose remains in the finished beer, giving it a pleasantly sweet and slightly creamy flavor. Additionally, lactose can help smooth out harshness or excess bitterness that can occur in some heavier beers. Overall it makes a delicious and wonderfully accessible stout that will warm you all winter long.  Left Hand Brewing produces perhaps the most popular version of this in the US.

Russian Imperial Stout – Like Baltic porter, this dark beer was originally produced in England and shipped abroad to citizens of snowier lands. While the beer is similar to Baltic porters in strength and viscosity, Russian imperial stouts tend to be much sweeter and less dry than their Baltic brethren with plenty of dark brown foam for the head. Old Rasputin from North Coast is the most popular style among American craft brewers. Stone’s version and Victory’s Storm King are also worth trying.

Old Ale – This isn’t a name for beer that’s been sitting on the shelf too long. Old ale refers to a beer style specifically designed to be aged. While many different beers can be aged well, Old ales benefit greatly from maturation time. They are  lightly carbonated and very sweet with fruity notes of raisins or figs. In many ways, the flavor of old ales resemble brandy, which also benefits from aging.  The most well known version of old ale is Thomas Hardy’s ale, which has been produced intermittently since the 1960’s. Sometimes you can find 30 or 40 year old bottles of the stuff on Ebay.

What beers do you like to drink in the winter? Let us know next time you have one by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.

  • Salamander

    Have you guys tried Terrapin’s new Moo-Hoo? (Chocolate Milk Stout) It’s a thing of beauty!!