Craft Beer Winter Seasonals 2011

By Meghan Storey

Shorter days and colder weather are here to stay, but with this season comes some of the most creative and distinct craft beer winter seasonals. The spices of the holiday find their perfect balance against dark roasted barley, bringing with them dimensional flavors and warmth.

To celebrate these special seasonal beers, we asked Brewers Association member breweries to share their latest releases. Here’s what they had to say:

Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale | Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Boonville, California

Brilliantly clear, dark copper color with a dense tan head. Caramelized malty and spicy aromas redolent of cinnamon, allspice, black currant and black licorice. Pleasantly creamy, with a silky body, sweet caramel flavor, hints of seasonal spices and a clean, malty finish.

Availability – nationwide

Winter Bock | Atwater Brewery
Detroit, Michigan

A German Bock: malty and sweet at 7.5% ABV, a perfect companion on a cold winter day or night.

drakesAvailability – MI, OH, TN, MA, NH, NY, PA, IL, MN, RI, VT, VA, MD

Jolly Rodger Imperial Dark IPA | Drake’s Brewing Company
San Leandro, California

We started with just the right blend of American two-row barley, dark roasted barley and rye to give the beer its smooth mouthfeel and intimidating darkness. Then we hit it hard with Chinook, Citra and CTZ hops to give it the classic West Coast-style hoppy aroma and flavor that we at Drake’s are known for. We like to describe this year’s Jolly Rodger as smooth, crisp and hop-forward but with a heart of darkness.

Availability – San Francisco Bay-Area and in limited quantities in Southern California


Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout | Great Divide Brewing Company
Denver, Colorado

Oak Aged Yeti is Yeti Imperial Stout’s sophisticated sibling. They may be from the same clan, but they have entirely different personalities. Oak-aging gives a subtle vanilla character, rounding out Yeti’s intense roastiness and huge hoppy nature. Who says you can’t tame a Yeti? 9.5% ABV

Availability – nationwide

Frosted Frog Christmas Ale | Hoppin’ Frog Brewery
Akron, Ohio

Our Frosted Frog, an Imperial Nut-Brown, is brewed in the European tradition with very little hop character, to let the rich, nutty malt flavor dominate. This also lets the great character of super-fresh cinnamon, ginger, orange and nutmeg shine through boldly, really reminding you of Christmas. We’re very proud of the spicy Christmas character of Frosted Frog, as it tastes and smells awesome.

hoppinfrogFrosted Frog Christmas Ale will be released for distribution starting November 1, whereas the Barrel-Aged Frosted Frog will be released from the brewery only, starting December 1. Expertly aged in oak bourbon barrels for 12 months, this is a whirlwind of taste sensations! As the angel’s share evaporates, the barrel-aging concentrates the malt flavor, and lets the spice character mellow for a different overall appeal from the fresh version. But, the really cool thing is a vanilla note and a very slight bourbon character is imparted from the barrels adding a wonderful, savory flavor combination.

Availability – Frosted Frog is sold in our traditional 22-ounce bottles, and is available for our distributors in 15 states including OH, CO, PA, IN, IL, MA, NY, NJ, RI, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, KS. The barrel-aged version is only available in limited quantities at the brewery.

hoppyclausHoppy Claus™ Holiday Ale | Hoppy Brewing Company
Sacramento, California

Hoppy Claus is an amped-up version of our flagship product – Hoppy Face™ Amber Ale, except we pump up the malt bill and add Celestial Seasonings’ Bengal Spice tea in place of the finishing hops.

Availability – CA, OR, IL, OH, PA, FL

Fullsuit Belgian Brown | Karl Strauss Brewing Company
San Diego, California

A Belgian-style Brown Ale that is brewed with a blend of caramel and brown malts for toasted and sweet coffee-like flavors, underpinned by the peppery spice of Belgian yeast. Aging on French oak adds vanilla notes to its slightly dry and warming finish. It’s an ideal match with this month’s Pot Roast Sliders.

laveryAvailability – Across California (primarily Southern California) in 12oz bottles and draft

Devil Bird Holiday Ale | Lavery Brewing Company
Erie, Pennsylvania

A rich, robust Imperial Porter aged in fresh bourbon barrels. Brewed with the finest chocolate, Munich and brown malts, locally grown hops and our special yeast blend. 8.5% ABV

Availability – PA

Christmas Ale | Olde Hickory Brewery
Hickory, North Carolina

oldehickoryChristmas Ale is made with local honey, freshly grated ginger, cinnamon sticks and fresh orange zest. (Side note: You haven’t truly seen the full brewing experience until you’ve watched a head brewer and assistant brewer zest 40 pounds of oranges. On their own. Using the fine side of simple box graters.) Brewed with fond memories of fresh baked cakes, cookies and Christmas parties, this ale is best enjoyed in the company of friends and family.

Availability – throughout North Carolina

Doppelbock | River City Brewing Company
Jacksonville, Florida

A deep ruby red lager; very malty, smooth and flavorful. Our big winter warming brew!

Availability – only at the brewery through the end of 2011

Imperial Java Stout | Santa Fe Brewing Company
Santa Fe, New Mexico

santafeThis is the kind of beer that gives the word “stout” a reputation. Extra generous quantities of barley malt, followed by vigorous fermentation leaves this “imperial” heavy weight with 8% ABV and a body as full as chocolate bread pudding. A complimentary and complex array of bitter notes comes from potent American hops, earthy British hops, black-roasted malts and, of course, coffee. Santa Fe Brewing Company uses only top-quality ingredients like organically grown East Timor coffee beans blended with New Guinea coffee beans, locally roasted at O’Hori’s Coffee House. Its heavenly flavor and aroma can’t be beat or imitated.

Availability – Throughout NM, CO, AZ  in 6-pack through the end of February. Also available on draft in select locations around NM.

Exodus Porter | SweetWater Brewing Company
Atlanta, Georgia

Availability – mainly Georgia, with limited distribution to NC, SC, FL

Northwind | Two Brothers Brewing Company
Warrenville, Illinois

Dark delights like this were once shipped to the Imperial Court of Russia. With a firm roasty maltiness balanced against a generous helping of hops, Northwind Imperial Stout can stand up to the worst its namesake can dish out! Enjoy it by a roaring fire.

Availability – Chicagoland-area, central Illinois, MN, OH, IN

Dark Intrigue | Victory Brewing Company
Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Victory’s popular Storm King Stout is taken up a notch and aged in Jim Beam and Heaven Hill Distilleries’ barrels.

Availability – Released 11/23. Limited distribution to PA, GA, SC, FL, DE, MD, VA, NJ, CT, NY, MA, RI, VT, MN, IL, IN, CO

Meghan Storey has been lucky enough to work in the world of craft beer since graduating from the University of Mississippi. Now living in Nashville, TN, with her big yellow dog Wally, she loves introducing friends to new craft beer and food pairings. Since beginning work on she can be found adding beer to just about everything she cooks.

Read more from Meghan Storey