Craft Beer Winter Seasonals 2012

By Meghan Storey

We’ve made a list and checked it twice of some of this year’s most anticipated craft beer winter seasonals. The flavors and smells indicative of the winter months—cinnamon, spruce, allspice, gingerbread and smoke—are on display in these craft beers that will bring a new dimension to your holiday table.

“The holidays are a special time for everyone, particularly craft brewers who seize the opportunity to showcase their creativity with winter’s festive spices and robust ingredients,” said Julia Herz, publisher of and craft beer program director of the Brewers Association.

We asked Brewers Association member breweries to send us information on their latest winter seasonal releases, and here’s what they had to say:

21st Amendment Brewery
| Fireside Chat

San Francisco, CA

Like FDR’s Depression-era radio addresses, which were like a kick in the butt and a hug at the same time, our Fireside Chat is a subtle twist on the traditional seasonal brew. We begin with a rich, dark, English-style ale and then we improvise with spices until we know we have a beer worth sharing with the nation.

Availability: AK, CA, GA, ID, MD, MA, MN, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, VA, WA, Washington D.C.

Alaskan Brewing Co. | Alaskan Winter Ale
Juneau, AK

Brewed in the style of an English old ale, Alaskan Winter Ale balances the sweet, floral aroma of hand-collected Sitka spruce tips with the clean, crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol.

Availability: AK, AZ, CA, CO, ID, MN, MT, ND, NV, OR, TX, WA, WI, WY

Anaheim Brewery | Anaheim Winter Wheat
Anaheim, CA

Anaheim Winter Wheat is a darker, stronger version of Anaheim Hefeweizen. The same yeast that create a marvelous banana aroma in our Hefeweizen create a clove-like flavor for the Winter Wheat. This beer is smooth and rich, with a spicy aroma and toasted caramel finish. The label is a reproduction of an early 1900s label that John Cassou, owner of the Peerless Saloon, pasted on bottles of Anaheim Beer around 1914.

Availability: Anaheim and Orange County, CA

Anchor Brewing Company | Anchor Christmas Ale
San Francisco, CA

Since 1975, the brewers of Anchor Steam® Beer have created a distinctive Christmas Ale, which is only available from early November to mid-January.  A closely guarded secret, each year Christmas Ale gets a unique recipe and a unique label that is not only available in 6-packs, but also magnum sized bottles, making a nice champagne substitute and a great way to share the holiday spirit.

Availability: nationwide

Ass Kisser Ales | Chocolate Box ‘Dark Chocolate’ Oatmeal Stout
San Jose, CA

Chocolate Box ‘Dark Chocolate’ Oatmeal Stout, our rich, round and roasted oatmeal stout is a glass of pleasure. It’s a bold, smooth-bodied concoction that oozes aromas and tastes of dark chocolate. We round out these heady flavors with a dose of flaked oatmeal for a creamy texture and semi-dry finish.

Availability: MA, GA, VT, FL, AZ, VA, DC, CA, TN

Bayou Teche Brewing | Joie à Tous (Joy to All)
Arnaudville, LA

Our Brewmaster, Gar Hatcher brewed up a batch of our Biere Joi, and then doubled the amount of coffee added in the secondary fermentation. The beer was then racked into freshly emptied Jack Daniels whiskey barrels to age for several months. While in the barrel, the coffee flavors melded with whiskey flavors left in the barrel and picked up vanilla, toasted coconut, cinnamon, pepper, freshly baked bread, and caramel flavors and aromas from the barrel’s charred oak.

Availability: LA

Bison Organic Beer | Bison Organic Gingerbread Ale
Berkeley, CA

Bison’s ever-popular Gingerbread Ale is a delicately spiced holiday porter brewed with ginger, nutmeg and a touch of cinnamon. This medium-bodied ale boasts an intoxicating aroma of fresh baked gingerbread cookies straight from the oven. Well-balanced flavors of molasses, chewy dark malts and holiday spice dominate the palate, leaving behind a smooth, dry spicy finish.

Availability: AL, AZ, CA, FL, GA, ID, IN, KY, NE, NC, OH, OR, VA, WA

Boundary Bay Brewery | Cabin Fever
Bellingham, WA

Specially brewed and bottled for the Pacific Northwest winters, this winter warmer’s dark red-brown color and rich, malty flavor will complement any hardy meal as well as your favorite spicy dish. Cabin Fever is deceptively strong, but tastes very smooth thanks to its extra long cold conditioning.

Availability: On tap at bars throughout Whatcom, Skagit, and King County, Washington. Limited distribution to Eastern Washington, Idaho and Canada.

Breckenridge Brewery | Christmas Ale
Denver, CO

Breckenridge Brewery first introduced Christmas Ale in 1993 and has been brewing this recipe for the holiday season since. This beer is known for its heartiness and rich flavors of caramel and chocolate. Unlike many holiday and winter beers, Breckenridge doesn’t add any spice to its Christmas Ale. The spicy characteristics of this ale come from the Chinook and Mt. Hood hops.

Availability: AZ, AR, CO, FL, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, PA, RI, SD, TX, VT, VA, WV, WI

Cambridge Brewing Company | Big Man I.P.A.
Cambridge, MA

Big Man was originally brewed with a malt bill equal to the combined weight of CBC’s first bartenders and manager, who have since gone on to great fame and fortune. Our “winterized” I.P.A. is robust and malty enough to balance its huge hop character and to warm you up in the face of winter’s winds.

Availability: MA

Carolina Brewery | Santa’s Secret
Pittsboro, NC

Santa’s Secret is a spiced amber ale. Our winter holiday brew boasts a combination of six different malts working together to produce a rich beer with a soft creamy mouthfeel. Without revealing all of Santa’s secrets, we can say that this tasty ale contains a careful blend of coriander, cinnamon, orange and allspice. We think you’ll agree—it is the closest things to Christmas in a glass.

Availability: NC and Charleston-area of SC

East Coast Beer Co. | Beach Haus® Winter Rental
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

Winter Rental brings the smoothness of a traditional Bavarian Lager together with the satisfying flavors from generous amounts of dark-roasted malts. At the same time the beer is not overwhelming which lends itself to repeated pours.

Availability: NJ, NY, CT, PA, SC, NC

Epic Brewing | Blue Law Porter
Salt Lake CIty, UT

We added blackberry puree to the fermentation of this English-style porter and finished it with house-made spruce tip extract harvested from Blue Spruce trees found on the grounds of Utah’s State Capitol building. It has a roasty profile with a fruity tartness and an aftertaste of resinous spruce.

Availability: AZ, northern CO, ID, OR, southern CA, OH, VA, NC, MI, MN, NJ, DC, UT

Flat 12 Bierwerks | Glazed Ham Porter
Indianapolis, IN

Our Glazed Ham Porter balances the spices of a favorite holiday platter and the deep roasted malt of the finest porter. Next Christmas, volunteer to bring the Glazed Ham…in a glass. Everyone will thank you for their favorite gift of the season.

Availability: IN

Flying Dog Brewing Company | K-9 Winter Ale
Frederick, MD

K-9 is a winter warmer at its finest. It has a rich malt base with roasted, nutty and slightly spicy notes.

Availability: CA, CO, DC, DE, IL, IN, MD, MI, MN, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, TX, VA, WV

Front Street Brewery | Tiny Tim’s Christmas Porter
Wilmington, NC

This imperial vanilla java porter is blended with 24 gallons of cold steeped French vanilla coffee. Ironically, this beer was named after our former Assistant Brewer, Tim, who was in fact, much taller than our Head Brewer, Kevin.

Availability: Front Street Brewery and local bars and restaurants in Wilmington, NC

Full Sail Brewing Company | Full Sail Wassail
Hood River, OR

This year’s Wassail is brewed with a range of caramel malts and dark chocolate malts giving it a deep mahogany color and a full malty body, perfect for the holidays. We used a blend of European noble hops and Pacific Northwest aroma hops for a pleasantly hoppy finish creating a deliciously balanced beer that appeals to both hop and malt lovers alike.

Availability: AK, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, ID,KY, LA, MA, MD, MN, MT, NC, NJ, NH NM, NV,NY, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, TX, VA, WA, WY, UT

Funkwerks | Dark Prophet
Fort Collins, CO

Dark Prophet was first released mid-February 2012, and is expected to be released again in January 2013. A dark, strong saison aged in oak bourbon barrels, we think it’s perfect to drink during the cold winter season when you’re looking for something to warm you from the inside out.

Availability: Funkwerks taproom and various CO Front Range locations.

Great Divide Brewing Company | Hibernation Ale
Denver, CO

Hibernation Ale has been our celebrated winter tradition since 1995. This robust, dry-hopped ale has a malty richness balanced with a complex hop profile and hearty, warming character.

Availability: 25 states and Sweden

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery | Hullabaloo Winter Beer
Redlands, CA

Experience a world of hearty flavors and aromas with this special winter beer. This beer starts as a Scottish Ale featuring European and domestic malts, giving Hullabaloo intriguing caramel and roast nuances. A blend of American and English hops delivers ample bitterness and a unique hop profile. This is a big, rich beer with a nice, underlying complexity—toast to the season!

Availability: Southern California and California’s central coast

Heavy Seas Beer | Winter Storm
Baltimore, MD

Imperial extra special bitter: ruddy-hued winter ale with full, malty flavors dancing with hop aromas and a firm hop bitterness

Availability: MD, AL, CT, DE, GA, IN, KY, MA, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, VA, Washington D.C.

Hopworks Urban Brewery | Abominable Winter Ale
Portland, OR

This mythological beer emerges from our brewery every winter. Made with Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops and six organic malts. “A-bomb” has a complex floral, spicy and citrus hoppiness backed up by just the right amount of malt sweetness.

Availability: OR, WA and British Columbia

Karl Strauss Brewing Company | Mouette a Trois
San Diego, CA

As part of our non-traditional 12 Days of Christmas series, we’re releasing Mouette a Trois, a holiday fruitcake ale. We brewed a Belgian dubbel with apricot and cherries then spiced the beer with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, orange peel and clove, before adding brandied oak chips. The finished beer tastes like a fruitcake—no re-gifting required.

Availability: CA

Ladyface Ale Companie | La Trappistine® Belgian Dark Strong Ale
Agoura Hills, CA

A Belgian-style dark strong ale, brewed with locally-grown Syrah grapes imbuing a wine-like character and rich, dried fruit flavors. Malty and dark in color, highly carbonated with a very dry finish, it pairs beautifully with traditional Thanksgiving meals. La Trappistine® is also moderately high in alcohol, and therefore just the thing to take to your crazy family dinner or holiday feast.

Availability: at the brewery and Los Angeles and Ventura counties

Left Hand Brewing Company | Fade to Black Volume 4
Longmont, CO

This beer pours pitch black with an off-white head. Citrus (bergamot) and roastiness dominates the nose. Slight sweet malt flavors are initially pushed back by citrusy hops followed by powerful Italian Amaro hop bitterness. Fade to Black finishes with a pleasant duality of dry roasted malts and hop bitterness.

Availability: AL, AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WA, WI

Mad River Brewing Company | John Barleycorn Barleywine 2011 Cellar Reserve
Blue Lake, CA

This vintage has an enticing golden-red clarity with a light cream head. Floral and citrus aromas abound, with flavors of fresh challah baked with candied orange peel and golden raisins. A smooth lingering bitterness is buoyed by a fine carbonation and subtle malt finish. The ideal winter warmer best served in a snifter in front of the fire throughout the Harvest Season. Ages extremely well with optimum maturity reached at one year and beyond.

Availability: AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MD, MN, NM, NY, NE, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, VA, WA, WI, Japan

Mayflower Brewing Company | Winter Oatmeal Stout
Plymouth, MA

Embrace the season with Mayflower Winter Oatmeal Stout. Brewed with three types of oats and several varieties of dark barley malts, this beer adds a little sweetness to the roasted flavor of traditional stouts. The result is a rich and smooth brew that will help sustain you through the short days and long nights of winter.

Availability: MA, RI, NH

Mother Earth Brewing Company | Silent Night – Bourbon Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout
Kinston, NC

Invite friends, stoke the fire, and uncork a bottle of indulgence. Silent Night offers a coffee aroma and the taste of an exceptionally rich, malty flavor. Robust yet smooth and black as coal, each sip is a delightful gift.

Availability: NC, GA

Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant | White Christmas Spiced Winter Lager
Novato, Ca

A malty and smooth lager with holiday spices such as cinnamon, mace, coriander, white pepper and a light, tart and zesty finish, this holiday lager will warm any beer lover from the inside out!

Availability: CA, OR, WA, NV, AL, NE, ND, WY, NJ, ID, OH, PA, CT, MT, IN, GA, LA, NM, AZ, TX, MI, CO, NC, AR, VA, SD, IL, AK, OK, WI, HI, MA, NY, Puerto Rico, Japan, Australia, British Columbia, Guam, United Kingdom

Natty Greene’s Brewing Co. | Red Nose Winter Ale
Greensboro, NC

Full-bodied winter warmer with a rich, dark malt body, spiced with cinnamon, Curacao orange and ginger for festive flavor.

Availability: NC

Oakshire Brewing | Ill Tempered Gnome Winter Ale
Eugene, OR

With its complex malt profile, this American brown ale provides, bitter, roasty, chocolate, pine resin, citrus, dark fruit, coffee and sweet flavors all in one glass. Enjoy!

Availability: OR, WA, N. Idaho

Pelican Pub & Brewery | Bad Santa
Pacific City, OR

You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry, you’d better not pout the brewers at Pelican are telling you why: Bad Santa has arrived. This mysterious, dark nectar is filled with complex malt flavors and aromas. Toasted malt and roast character blends seamlessly with the alluring herbal hop aroma that comes from copious amounts of Fuggle hops.

Availability: OR, WA

Rogue Ales | Yellow Snow: India Pale Ale
Newport, OR

This golden, hoppy ale with a fruity aroma was originally introduced for the Winter Olympics. Yellow Snow is Rogue’s tribute to winter sports everywhere—downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross country, ice-hockey, ice fishing, snowmobiling and even curling. Yellow Snow is dedicated to common sense. Rogue is a Revolution which expresses itself through handcrafted artisan ales, lagers, stouts, porters, meads and spirits.

Availability: nationwide & 32 countries

Reuben’s Brews | Roasted Rye PA
Seattle, WA

We’ve only been open since August 2012, so this is our first winter. This November, we will be releasing the beer that started it all for us—the Roasted Rye PA. We were lucky enough to pour the beer as homebrewers in 2010 at a local festival, and the 800 attendees voted us the people’s choice! Two years later we will be returning to the festival as a commercial brewery pouring that very same beer. The Roasted Rye PA is a chocolate rye IPA, a hoppy IPA, with a smooth mouthfeel and chocolate and rye notes.

Availability: In the Reuben’s Brews taproom and in select local bars and restaurants.

Samuel Adams | Samuel Adams Winter Lager
Boston, MA

Samuel Adams Winter Lager is a spiced wheat bock. German brewers may have been on to something centuries ago when they created bold, rich bock beers for the winter. For our beer, we brewed a dark wheat bock subtly spiced with fresh ground cinnamon, ginger and orange zest for a deep, smooth flavor and malty finish that will warm you on a cold winter’s night.

Availability: nationwide

SanTan Brewing Company | Rail Slide
Chandler, AZ

Rail Slide is the big focus this winter, especially since it’s new and will be our first seasonal available in a can! Rail Slide is brewed with winter flavors that add an edge to this smooth, spiced ale. This seasonal reflects the adventurous efforts that have come to symbolize the American craft beer movement and celebrates the constant innovation that evolve our very pallet.

Availability: AZ

Sawtooth Brewery | Out Cold Winter Ale
Ketchum, ID

Out Cold is brewed for the long winter nights. Brewed with a hearty grain bill, molasses and British yeast and hops; this beer will likely have you “out cold” before midnight and ready for the slopes the next morning.

Availability: available on draft in the tap room and a few locations in Sun Valley Ski Resort and Boise

Schlafly Beer | Schlafly Christmas Ale
St. Louis, MO

Our Christmas Ale is a warming winter ale that blends the spices of the season with sweet caramel malt. Orange peel, juniper berries, ginger root, cardamom and cloves are added for spiciness. We use honey in the fermentation process, which raises the ABV without producing too much heat from the alcohol content.

Availability: MO, IL, IN, KY, TN, KS, IA, AR, DC, VA, MD, NJ

Shmaltz Brewing Company | Jewbelation Sweet 16
New York, NY

A complex, enormous brown ale with a dynamic labyrinth of multi-layered flavors, Jewbelation Sweet 16® is brewed with 16 malts, 16 hops and soars to 16 percent ABV.

Availability: 30+ states

Sebago Brewing Company | Slick Nick Winter Ale
Gorham, ME

Slick Nick Winter Ale is brewed in the strong ale style. The caramel and black malts used to brew Slick Nick give it a deep amber color. With a creamy head, medium carbonation, and a slight fruity hop aroma, this “insidious” brew is best enjoyed during New England’s freezing winter months.

Availability: CT, ME, NH, RI, VT

Ska Brewing Company | Hibernal Vinifera Stout
Durango, CO

An oak-aged, foreign-style stout brewed with Malbec grape juice. The Malbec grape juice and oak-aging offer a richness and depth that is perfect for the winter season.

Availability: AZ, CO, IL, KS, MO, NE, NM, NC, TX + U.K. and Sweden

Smuttynose Brewing Company | Smuttynose Winter Ale
Portsmouth, NH

Smuttynose Winter Ale is a full-bodied, amber beer brewed with a special Trappist ale yeast. Stylistically reminiscent of a Belgian abbey double, it features fruity aromas and flavors, balanced by soft Crystal hops. Warming, mellow and pleasantly complex, Smuttynose Winter Ale is your perfect cold weather companion.

Availability: CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, Washington D.C., WI

Swamp Head Brewery | Hoe Hoe Hoe
Gainesville, FL

After the primary fermentation for our Cottonmouth Belgian Style Wheat Bier is finished, we add fresh ginger, cranberries and Florida Orange Blossom honey and re-ferment to produce this slightly tart and colorful seasonal specialty. Hoe Hoe Hoe is an outstanding complement to holiday meals, and a refreshing change-of-pace that complements the wide variety of stronger winter seasonal ales.

Availability: CT, ME, NH, RI, VT

Telegraph Brewing Co. | Winter Ale
Santa Barbara, CA

Inspired by Mexican hot chocolate, Telegraph Winter Ale is brewed with cinnamon, allspice, and sweet ancho chiles. Using generous amounts of chocolate and caramel malts, we brew this beer in limited quantities as a special treat for our friends and families and to celebrate the coming of the new year.

Availability: CA, IL, PA

Terrapin Beer Co. | Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout
Athens, GA

This is a stout made with lactose and cocoa nibs and shells from artisan chocolate maker Olive & Sinclair in Nashville, Tennessee.

Availability: GA, FL, AL, TN, SC, NC, VA, PA, NJ

Triple C Brewing | Up All Night Breakfast Porter
Charlotte, NC

This behemoth of a beer has flaked oats, German Chocolate Wheat and Special B in the mash, giving a rich creamy chocolate flavor. Honey and Lactose are added in the boil, and after fermentation the beer is aged on oak chips. After a month of aging, coffee from a local roaster is added to produce a roasty flavor and add some pick me up.

Availability: Charlotte, NC

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