It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and it’s also the most wonderful time for a beer. Winter is upon us, and with it, cold weather. What better way to make it through this holiday season than with the best beers on the market?
It’s that special time of year where seasonal beers stock all the shelves of every establishment, offering unique flavors and textures to accompany you beside the fireplace. But with so many to choose from, how can you choose the best of the bunch?
In this article, you'll discover the best winter beers of 2021 and what makes them so perfect. You’ll be blown away by each one of these brews!
History of Winter Beers
Winter-style beers have been around for a while. Also known as Christmas ales and winter warmers, these kinds of beers aren’t necessarily all one specific style. The common thread is that they are known for defining and celebrating the season. They’re a beloved tradition.
Back in the 1400s and 1500s in Europe, brewers would make a particularly strong dark ale to comfort peasants and townsfolk during the coldest months of the year. Over time, they started to add spices like ginger or nutmeg to fit the festive seasonal spirit.
These days, you'll find most winter ales to be dark and malty, while the occasional few can be fresh and hoppy. Nearly all of them include holiday ingredients like maple syrup, molasses, plums, raisins, and cinnamon.
Leaving aside strict definitions, these kinds of winter beers are meant to be enjoyed when the weather is cold, you’re feeling festive, and you want a really good beer to feel warm and full.
What Makes Winter Beer Work
Winter may be magical, but it’s also a dark and cold time. The sun sets sooner; the world freezes over. It can be just as isolating of a season as it is one that brings us together. As a result, the beer you’re drinking must reflect on the warmer, cozier elements of the season.
Winter beers tend to be darker and heavier than their summer counterparts, but also embrace a certain interior warmth that perfectly balances the outside conditions.
Here’s a quick list of the most common types of beer sold during the holiday season:
- Stouts are one of the most common types of beer sold during the winter because they’re heavy. Their dark, roasty flavor is irresistible.
- Porters are also dark and heavy, with a deep brown color and a creamy head. As one of the heaviest beer styles, it is best to drink when you need something to warm your insides.
- Imperials are known for a high ABV, and the extra alcohol content provides a pleasant warmth, which helps on cold nights.
- Bourbon-aged beers are also popular in the winter. Brewers age their beer in aged bourbon barrels. As a result, the beer soaks up the oaky flavor of the wood and the taste of the bourbon. This process works best with heavier, higher-alcohol beers.
- Chocolate and coffee notes are common in winter beers. These flavors add a rich darkness that mimics popular dessert dishes of the season.
- Eggnog-inspired beers are pretty new to the world of craft brewing but have shot up in popularity. They are inspired by the creamy, spicy flavors of eggnog and should be savored much like a stout.
Best Winter Beers
Without further ado, here is our list of the best winter beers of the 2021-2022 season. These beers have proven to be delicious, beloved, and unbeatable for anyone who tries them.
Spicy Hot Chocolate
This zesty, delicious stout Inspired by Mexican hot chocolate and churro dipping chocolate and was created by the Talea Beer Company of Brooklyn, New York. It’s perfect for drinking under a blanket and beside a fire.
This beer invokes heat, complexity, and a hint of sweetness by using three types of dried peppers and cinnamon to create spicy notes. It also embraces roasted flavors from whole bean coffee, chocolate from cacao, and sweetness from vanilla beans and milk sugar.
Mayflower Oatmeal Stout
This rich, smooth stout was brought to us by the Mayflower Brewing Company of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Inspired by the pilgrim landing of its namesake, this beer is brewed with three types of oats and several varieties of dark barley malts.
The result is a powerful, hearty stout with seasonal availability. It’s perfect for this time of year!
This delicious red spiced ale is brewed by the RH Brewing Company of Staten Island, New York, with the goal of keeping your sanity intact this holiday season.
Holidaze is made with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and chicory root and results in a strong, rich, warm drink.
Frau Holle American Dark Lager
A winter lager with style! This beer offers a rich, malty drink created by the Alewife Brewing Company of Queens, New York.
Frau Holle embraces subtle notes of chocolate, herb, spice, and coffee. A soothing beer for the colder, darker days of winter.
Jingle Zombie Apocalypse
A more aggressively marketed holiday staple, this beer comes to us from KCBC out of Brooklyn, New York, and is known for being fruity, festive, and fresh.
This beer embraces the fruitiness of your typical holiday flavors by utilizing cranberry, tangerine, boysenberry, and plum, with an added sprinkling of vanilla and milk sugar to create an insanely sweet treat.
Differing from other winter beers on our list by being a sour gose rather than a deep stout or imperial, this zesty beer comes to us from Grimm Artisanal Ales Brewing Company of Brooklyn, New York.
This beer sports an intense pine flavor from a double dose of resin. Super Spruce uses Chinook hops to create a complex profile of fresh pine that includes floral, citrus, cola, and bubble gum undertones.
Seasonal beers are what make beer drinking fun year-round! Summer beers are light and refreshing, winter beers are dark and complex, and fall and spring beers find a place between.
Seasonal beers incorporate holiday-specific flavors and are designed to pair well with certain foods that are popular during those times. There’s a reason pumpkin is such a popular flavor in the fall and why cinnamon is so popular in the winter.
Regardless of the reason, enjoying seasonal brews is a perfect way to try new drinks while expanding your knowledge of craft beers. Go get yourself a nice winter beer, and enjoy everything this season has to offer. If you’re looking for new types of winter beer to try, check out the wide selection of stouts, imperials, porters, and more available at TapRm!