Our Favorite Winter Beers
Ugh. January and February suck so bad.
The holidays are over, meaning that, even though we all had a good time, now we’re all fat and broke. Not only that, but March is two months away, so we don’t even have the reprieve of St. Patrick’s Day or the NCAA Tournament to look forward to. Instead we have 3-hour long days, cold, gray weather, and regular season basketball. It’s awful.
But luckily, winter beers are the booziest beers of the year! Here, I wrote a song, set to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year:”
They’re the most booziest beers of the year
They’re malty and hoppy
You’ll get drunk and sloppy
Even after New Year’s…!
They’re the most booziest beers of the yearrrrrrr!
Now, the reason for the extra hooch is the same reason those hysterical St. Bernards walk around with casks of brandy around their neck: alcohol makes you feel warmer (yes…that’s why I sweat at the bar all the time…it’s the alcohol…). Now, notice that I said “makes you feel warmer” and not “makes you warmer.” That’s because all booze does is push the warmth to the outside of your body. So you’ll feel heat, but that’s all the heat escaping your bones. But guess what? It’s the 21st century and we have houses and shoes (presumably. If you’re able to acquire the internet in order to read this article, but you don’t have those things, maybe you need to get your priorities straight). So if brewers want to keep slinging 10% beers our way, I’ll take ‘em.
A quick note on these selections: you might take umbrage with the fact that I’m including Christmas and Holiday beers on this list, even after the Holiday Season is over. But to that, I say:
1) Time is an artificial construct of man, created only to mark the passage of permanent regrets
2) I was drunk for most of December so I couldn’t write this article
3) Christmas beers are great. If this is the biggest problem of your life, I envy you
Got it? Awesome. Let’s roll!
I likes my Jubelale like I likes my women: annually 6.7% alcohol since 1988. The two things I especially dig about this brew are 1) the label is different every year. They usually employ a local artist to give Jubelale a new identity every year. Here’s a look at the labels from 1988-2009. And 2) “Deschutes Jubelale” kind of sounds like a man with a thick German accent lecturing me. Even better – the more you drink, the harder it’ll be to say! Soon enough, you’ll be up there slurring “Gimme a ‘shoots zhublay.” And drink a lot you will! This is actually one of the easier drinkin’ winter beers — full of dark, fruity flavors, a hint of cocoa and a nice, dry finish, this beer is one of the few that won’t leave you floored after 2 bottles.
Unless you’re into that sort of thing.
Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza
Weeee! Look at that label art! That reminds me of The Nightmare Before Christmas! But now I’m sad because, in that movie, Halloweeners lived behind the Halloween Door, but I was always DYING to know what was behind the St. Patrick’s Day door (second from the right). I just imagine a 24-hour fight, while Irish bar music plays in the background. ANYway, this 9% booze monster of a belgian dark ale is dry, complex, and oaky (which comes from some nice oak aging). Some people aren’t keen on the sour kick this beer has, but that’s part of what Jolly Pumpkin hangs their hat on. Even if this isn’t a beer you can drink ten of, it’s certainly worth enjoying in the cold weather.
Anchor’s “Our Special Ale”
Ever since 1975, the folks at Anchor have been brewing up one of the most famous winter beers around, Our Special Ale. Now, I can’t tell you what this tastes like, now or ever, because they’ve changed the recipe every year since it started. The best I can tell you is that it usually has a warm winter spice, and frequently tastes a little like a Christmas cookie (to me, anyway). That means you can finally accomplish your goal of getting drunk on marzipan, you weird drunk. Here’s a gallery of every tree they’ve featured on their label for the past 37 years.
Sierra Nevada Celebration
If it feels like I’m putting Sierra Nevada on pretty much every one of these lists, it’s for the same reason that Muhammad Ali is always on a “Best Athletes” list. In an era where good beer is sometimes overlooked for the sake of sharp labels or extreme marketing, Sierra Nevada has remained on a straightforward path, straying only occasionally from the “normal” (see: Torpedo). Since 1981, Sierra Nevada’s Celebration has been the standard bearer, not only as an American IPA, but as one of the few hop-driven winter beers out there. That said, it still has a nice, malty backbone to hold up the bitterness. It’s just awesome. And I recommend drinking one. In fact, I recommend drinking 12 and confronting your boss over that time he called you out for showing up to work hungover. It’s about time you showed some backbone anyway.
As always, these beers are some of our favorites, but by no means are they an exhaustive selection. So you know the drill, team. Get out there and sample some winter brews, and let us know your personal favorites.