December and the holiday season are officially upon us and this is when breweries all over the country will give us their gift of winter ales. Beers that are so complex in flavor that they are highly anticipated each season and rarely disappoint. In Colorado the winter beers are plentiful and all very different, and with so many to choose from it can be overwhelming. So this week I felt it was better not to talk about one brewery, but to sample and offer my recommendations on the best six winter beers from the mile high state.
Tommyknocker Cocoa Porter: When we were young hot chocolate with marshmallows was a favorite drink, and now this Idaho Spring brewery has made a beer that brings back the memories of drinking that. A porter is a dark beer that is commonly confused with a stout but it typically lighter in body and slightly sweeter. They are also known for taking on interesting flavors such as vanilla or in this case both chocolate and honey. This is one beer that was made for the winter. The heaviness of the beer warms you from the inside on the coldest nights, and the subtle flavors and sweetness from the chocolate and honey cuts the bitterness from the beer. A must try for anybody who is a fan of porters or winter seasonal beers in general, this beer is one you will not want to have to wait another year for.
Great Divide Hibernation Ale: The holidays are all about tradition and starting in 1995 this LoDo brewery started the annual tradition of offering up Hibernation Ale every winter, and every winter I look forward to it. A very warming English style ale this beer provides a much needed warming factor on the coldest of winter nights, and a flavor profile of rich malts that coats your pallet. This beer can be slightly bitter, and the malts can leave a strong aftertaste, but as far as English style ales are concerned there is not a better one out there. This 3-time medal winning beer is worth every sip, and I bet you cannot drink just one.
Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale: Who would of thought that a beer/brewery as mainstream as Blue Moon could still produce such high quality and flavorful ales? Well their winter abbey does not fall short with its light body, rich, complex flavor, and slightly sweet but clean finish. Traditionally Belgian style beers are unfiltered, light, and have a subtly spice and citrus note. With the Winter Abbey you get the light body of a Belgian but nothing else. The rich flavor has a slight toffee flavor, and the hint of sugar provides more balance than sweetness. While some of the flavors are reminiscent of the winter season, the rest of this ale is the furthest thing I would have expected. A light body and a beer more refreshing than hearty in cold weather? Because of how unexpected this ale was it is definitely one worth sampling this holiday season.
Breckenridge Christmas Ale: Breckenridge Brewery has been producing their Christmas Ale since 1993 and it is living proof that when you make something right, then why change it. This beer is very dark in color but the taste is where all the surprises are. At first sip there was a slight bitterness due to the hops it was brewed with, but then there were undertones of caramel and chocolate due to the malts that were used. Lastly the heavy body this beer had with it only added to the warming effect this beer had (the seven percent alcohol might have something to do with that to). When a beer is made for the months of November and December, and it is brewed at over 9,000 feet there has to be a warming feeling, and comforting feeling that the beer can provide. A strong American style ale is the perfect fit, and Breckenridge Christmas Ale is a must try right now, otherwise it will be a long 11 months before it can be enjoyed again.
Avery Old Jubilation Ale: Complexity is the best word used to describe this annual, limited edition ale. But how is it complex? It probably has to do with the five malts that are used in the brewing process. It could also be the slight taste of hops, nuts, chocolate, and coffee finish. It is actually all of the above due to the depth of flavor in this ale. Upon first sip the beer has a very light body and a strong malt flavor, and as it moves to the back of the tongue the hops kick in. A very clean aftertaste with a subtle coffee flavor creates one great sip of beer, let alone a very enjoyable pint. It’s no wonder this beer has been extremely popular since 1993, because it is just that delicious. Avery Brewery is known as a small brewery that makes big beers, and the Old Jubilation is living proof of that motto. This is one limited edition beer that is a must try, it is not worth missing out on this one.
Ska Euphoria Pale Ale: A lot of people know about the breweries in the Rocky Mountains, but what about in the San Juan Mountains? In one of the most southern parts of Colorado is the town of Durango where Ska Brewery is located, and they are number six on our holiday beer list with their Euphoria Pale Ale. Most winter ales are heavy with more interesting flavor combinations, but the Euphoria ale is very simple. It is a pale ale that is made with golding hops which adds a small hint of spice in the aftertaste. All you get in this beer is the taste of hops followed by spice; it is that simple of a brew. With that being said it will either be loved or hated by drinkers who either love or hate hops, but to try something so simple during the holiday season this is one brew worth trying.
So there you have it, the best six winter seasonal beers to try during the holiday season. All of these beers are distributed to liquor stores throughout the state so try a six pack, or certain liquor stores sell bottles individually to make your own custom six pack. Cheers to you during the holiday season, and I hope you enjoy, and find time to relax.
Like what you are reading? Join the official Mile High Brews Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Mile-High-Brews/300062080014536