With the fall season over in Colorado that means there are only two things that you look forward to: the opening of the ski slopes and the tapping of all the different winter ales. After all it is the season of giving, and what better way to enjoy the offerings from breweries all over the state. The styles of ale are plentiful but all have one thing in common, they are unique and equally delicious in their own way. So if a hearty beer is your way of unwinding after a day on the slopes, or just relaxing in front of a fire then here are the five best winter beers Colorado has to offer.
Isolation Ale (Odell’s Brewing Fort Collins, CO): Definitely the lightest and most traditional ale on the list this beer still remains full flavored, and a treat during the winter months. The copper colored amber ale pours smooth, and that remains through the flavor profile. Caramel malts provide a malty but sweet, and smooth taste and mouth feel. The addition of English hops does not add a bitterness but instead balances the entire beer out into a smooth ale. The aftertaste is incredibly smooth and balanced leaving you only the craving of another sip. A beer that can truly be enjoyed any time of year but is best is best saved for winter, and one that will be enjoyed by new fans of winter ales and those that look forward to it on a yearly basis.
Old Jubilation Ale (Avery Brewing Boulder, CO): When it comes to beers at Avery it is always best to expect the unexpected, especially when it comes to their seasonal ales. The Old Jubilation is no different, which explains why it has been a winter tradition since 1997. An English Style ale this beer has a bold flavor while maintaining a medium-full body. A strong malty flavor leads to a smooth, slightly bitter hop finish with complex flavors on all levels of your pallet. Undertones of chocolate, hazelnuts, and toffee fill your tongue with each sip making this complex beer more enjoyable as you get deeper into it. At 8.3% ABV this beer is not for the faint of heart but this time of year when the frigid weather calls for a hearty beer that warms the body why reach for anything other than this one?
Cocoa Porter (Tommyknocker Brewing Idaho Springs, CO): As kids who didn’t love coming home and drinking a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows? Now as adults who doesn’t love coming home from work and relaxing with a beer? Thanks to Tommyknocker Brewing we can now have the beer we love as adults with the memories of hot cocoa we had as kids with the annual brewing of the Cocoa Porter. A full bodied porter base ale with the addition of chocolate and honey makes for not only a unique but also a festive beer fitting for the season. The chocolate adds an extra dimension of body and a slight bitterness, but the sweetness of the honey balances out the cocoa. All the flavors work well together but still have their own presence. Add all that with a clean aftertaste and this annual beer could replace hot chocolate entirely come winter time.
Hibernation Ale (Great Divide Brewing Denver, CO): Since 1994 this LoDo Brewery has been producing high quality award winning ales, and since 1995 they added to that with the yearly arrival of Hibernation Ale (an English Style Old Ale). This ale does not come with any unique flavors to the season, instead it is a strong, traditional ale that is hearty and warming for the coldest of winter nights. A strong malt flavor and aroma fills your nose and taste buds with each sip, but that fades into a complex hop flavor on the finish. Through it all there are undertones of figs that add a unique flavor. Now come holiday time people like to indulge and treat themselves, and if a regular six pack of Hibernation won’t suffice then how about a Barrel Aged Hibernation? Aged for 9 months in Stranahan’s Bourbon barrels this rare, limited edition beer brings forth the classic flavor, but with all the accents whiskey, and vanilla that come with barrel aging. The same beer two different ways, and one that brings out the best of the cold weather.
Christmas Ale (Upslope Brewing Boulder, CO): Once all is said and done the most popular Christmas Ales are those that have the spice flavors we are all used to this time of year. A darker ale infused with cinnamon, ginger, or cloves bring a sense of comfort and warmth during the holidays. In Boulder, Colorado at Upslope Brewing their Christmas Ale with the traditional flavors one would expect, but the beer still remains unique. A dark Belgian ale base mixed with the right blend of spices creates this well rounded ale. At first sip it is realized how surprisingly light the body on such a dark beer is, as well as effervescent. The sweet taste of caramel quickly fades to the spices of the season with notes of cinnamon and ginger hitting the tongue. This was all accented but a light citrus note due to the Belgian yeast. A traditional winter ale that has been crafted so well this ale could find a regular spot in your fridge on a yearly basis, and start a new tradition in ones household.
Fiver beers from five breweries, and while they were all different they have one thing in common with each other. They bring out the best and what is most enjoyable from the cold winter months. Whether the beers remain traditional, strong, spicy, or unique these are the beers that people look forward to every year, and each year they do not disappoint. The holidays come early when these ales hit the tap lines or shelves as these craft brewers give us an early gift each year.
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