Winter beers don’t mean much more than marketing these days. Any brewery can release a porter, white IPA, or amber ale during cold-weather months and give it a seasonally themed label. That said, there’s something undeniably appealing about seasonal spices, and, let’s be honest, it’s fun to get festive.
With that in mind, we’ve whittled down a multitude of holiday- and winter-themed beers to these nine nondenominational winter seasonals that fit any occasion. From a genre-appropriate “festive stout” to a snowstorm-defying “tropical IPL,” these are nine of our favorite winter beers, ranked.
Whether you love or hate the ugly sweater craze, Reuben’s Brews reinvigorates the festive trope with its Holiday Gose. The beer pours a pink-orange hue like sparkling rosé, with aromas of sour candy, strawberry kefir, and salted popcorn. A light and refreshing body wakes up the palate with notes of cranberry, orange peel, and Greek yogurt, finishing with a candy-like tartness.
Chicago, Ill., Baldwinsville, N.Y., and Fort Collins, Colo.
The winter-themed porter pours a dark reddish-brown, smells of marshmallows and bitter chocolate, and follows through with flavors akin to “a fruited chocolate bar,” one taster noted. The finish is bitter but bright. “It has the acidic tang of a single-origin, cold-brew coffee, and the comfort of a chocolate bar,” another panelist said.
Fort Collins, Colo., and Asheville, N.C.
As its bottle label suggests, Accumulation is “seasonally suited,” and not just because of its snowy theme. “The nose gives me warmth, but the palate gives me yacht in South Carolina,” one taster said, noting its spicy nose and vacation-friendly refreshment. “It could be a brut IPA,” another said, enjoying its zesty aroma, light body, and dry finish.
This hefty pale ale pours a cloudy, orange-gold with big citrus aromas. “Orange peel, orange blossom, all the orange,” one panelist said. Its creamy mouthfeel and citrus acidity reminded one taster of “white chocolate and preserved lemon dressing,” while another found its bold bitterness to be “like a white IPA, with extra oomph.” The cutting acidity and high alcohol beg to be paired with cow’s milk cheese.
Amber and clear, with aromas of caramel malt and grapefruit peel, this fruit-forward red IPA tastes “like fruit loaf with dried red berries,” one taster said. “It’s a food beer,” another taster agreed, continuing, “It’s crushable but would be even better paired with something sweet.” Other tasters were quite happy drinking this beer on its own, noting its chocolatey finish.
This black lager is roasty and chocolatey on the nose, yet light enough to give hints of each flavor without overwhelming the palate. Some tasters detected “funky fruit character, like fermented plum,” while others perceived savory, smoky notes “like beef jerky.” Deceptively full-bodied for a lager, Winter Landscape evoked seasonally appropriate feelings from one taster, who said, “I’d order this if I were in a cozy bar.” Another agreed, saying, “You need a fireplace for this beer.”
This self-proclaimed “festive stout” is minty, chocolatey, and fresh all at once. “The nose will knock your socks off,” one panelist said. On the palate, vanilla bean and baking spices meld decadently with a full, chocolatey body. This beer will please pastry stout lovers and Guinness devotees alike. It finishes “like a light dessert that won’t leave you too full,” according to one taster.
Pouring a shade “between cinnamon and nutmeg,” Hibernation Ale took our tasters into a dark, dank shelter. Dusty and toasty aromas, “like a wood cabin, or a campfire,” are followed by a silky mouthfeel. Flavors of toast, spiced bread, caramel, and brown sugar are present without overwhelming. Hoppy and bright, with a bitter finish, this herbal take on an English-style old ale slickly hides its 8.7 percent ABV. “It gets better every time I sip it,” one taster said.
Hoponius on Holiday, a seasonal version of Jack’s Abby’s Hoponius Union, was the clear winner of our tasting. This beer packs flavors of West Coast IPA pine and tropical fruit simultaneously. Its aroma evokes snow-dusted pine needles along with everything Northern Hemisphere winters aren’t – full of passionfruit and orange peel, or, one taster said, “like a juicy peach on a beach.” Our tasters agreed this nontraditional holiday beer’s crisp carbonation and cranberry-like bitter finish deem it winter-party-appropriate.