Winter beers (aka, winter warmers, winter seasonals and holiday beers) are now out in full force, and there are dozens to choose from in the Pacific Northwest. Stylistically, these ales and lagers range from English strong ales to imperial stouts and dunkels to bocks – or whatever a brewer wants to call a winter beer. Although, most winter beers tend to fit within the broad, English strong ale style category.
Here is a random sampling of winter beers from Washington and Oregon:
Abominable Winter Ale by Fremont Brewing Co. (Seattle, WA)
This beer has a milkshake-like texture that is smooth, creamy and mildly carbonated. It has a good amount of residual sweetness, but it’s a rich and complex sweetness. Big notes of milk chocolate and sweetened espresso follow. Soft carafa malts come through nicely, and they blend seamlessly with its 8 percent ABV and its rounded hop bitterness.
Kitten Mittens Winter Warmer by Kulshan Brewing Co. (Bellingham, WA)
Kitten Mittens is roasty, wholesome and chewy, and it has tasty notes of sweet grains, dark fruits and chocolate. These malt flavors are complemented by a healthy amount of Apollo and Palisade hops and a surprisingly hidden 7.65 percent ABV, making it a very drinkable beer. If you get the chance, also try Kulshan’s recently released Royal Tenenbaum Christmas Ale.
Bifröst Winter Ale by Elysian Brewing Co. (Seattle, WA)
In Norse mythology, Bifröst is a burning rainbow bridge that stretches between earth and heaven. Bifröst Winter Ale has a fitting name because it offers a rainbow of heavenly flavors. Light in color but bold in flavor, this 7.5-percent-ABV beer is smooth and full bodied. Its malt flavors are rich, and it has a candy-like sweetness at its core. Meanwhile, its hop flavors are pleasantly fruity, and they provide a moderate and balanced bitterness.
Overcast Espresso Stout by Oakshire Brewing Co. (Eugene, OR)
This one’s not necessarily a “winter” ale, but its name reflects the climate of the season, and it offers the perfect combination of cozy roastiness, comforting sweetness and pick-me-up espresso, all of which brighten these dark days. Overcast is a sweet stout with deliciously rich flavors of espresso, sweet cream, deeply roasted grains and dark chocolate. If you like coffee stouts, this is a must-try beer.
Winter Warmer Ale by No-Li Brewhouse (Northern Lights) (Spokane, WA)
This beer’s rich malt flavors have notes of bread crust, dark-grained crackers and brown sugar, and they’re complemented by a balanced, pine-like bitterness. Spices linger nicely in the background. As the brewery says, it is a festive brew that’s sure to warm the soul during your winter holiday celebrations.
Wassail by Full Sail Brewing Co. (Hood River, OR)
Wassail is a classic winter warmer that is toasty, tasty and highly sessionable. It’s smooth on the tongue and richly malted, and it has a piney and citrusy hop finish.
Slippery Slope by Cascade Lakes Brewing Co. (Redmond, OR)
This sweet and wholesome English strong ale has hints of sweet bread, caramel and syrup. It’s definitely malt-forward, with a healthy amount of residual sweetness that’s reminiscent of sugarcoated pines and gummy candy, but it still has a slight hop snap in the finish.
Cabin Fever by Boundary Bay Brewery (Bellingham, WA)
This limited-edition winter ale is now available on draft and in 22-ounce bombers at select stores. It is a strong (just over 7 percent ABV), burgundy-brown beer that is rich, malty and hoppy with a syrup-like sweetness and a balanced bitterness. Thanks to an extra long cold conditioning, it has a velvet-like smoothness and a soft and rounded roastiness, plus some pleasant hints of sugar-coated nuts, toffee and brown sugar.