Celebrating the Season of Winter Ales
‘Tis the season for seasonal beers. Between Oktoberfest and Christmas beers, this season has many beers that are only available at this time of year. Whether you are bringing beer to a holiday party or grabbing a gift for the beerdoe in your life, these warming brews simply fit the foods and moods of the season. Winter beers are often brewed with spices like cinnamon and clove with an increased alcohol content to provide some heat to the chest. Winter beers are not as popular as they once were, given the storm of IPAs that has been sweeping through craft beer for years, but luckily there are still some winter brews being produced.
Many of which can be found in the extensive tap list and bottle selection of Lama Dog Tap Room + Bottle Shop. For example, Suite C is a collaboration between Wild Fields Brewhouse and Green Cheek Beer Co. Since it is an Oktoberfest, there is not much stock left so make sure to grab a four-pack while they’re still available. This mahogany colored Märzen has 5.4% ABV and is aged on oak cubes to give it a soft wood tone to the aroma of honey and grain. There is a slight mouthstick and firm bitter finish to its flavors of toasted bread and brown sugar that would make a nice accompaniment to a holiday ham. The Foliage Autumn Pale Lager from Enegren Brewing Company is another fall beer that won’t be around for much longer.
Of course, there are winter beers as well like the Winter Ale from Fremont Brewing Company. The cutting alcohol and cherry-mocha character of Avery’s Old Jubilation Ale make it a nice fit for a decadent dish like a Christmas goose or duck. While recently visiting the bottle cooler in back, there was a keg of the iconic Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. that they will soon be putting on tap. The hoppy brew uses the fresh hops from the fall harvest and is only released this time of year. When perusing the bottle cooler, you’ll also notice it is stocked with other holiday and winter-themed beers in bottles and cans that can be brought home or gifted. Of note is the Gouden Carolus Noël / Christmasbeer. This is the first time in years that the Christmas Ale has been brewed and would make for a special treat with a holiday dessert like pecan or blackberry pie. The 10% ABV winter brew has a burnt sienna hue and prominent aroma of black licorice with a rich dark fruit character of figs, prunes, and concord grapes. The beer has flavors of fig pudding and milk chocolate with a boozy finish that lingers gently in the chest.
This time of year also brings around some annual events. Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is set to celebrate their 11th Anniversary with a release of a Baltic-Style Porter lagered in both Four Roses Bourbon, and Pinhook Rye whiskey barrels. Join Figueroa Mountain and their staff at the Buellton brewery this Saturday, November 20, from 11 am to 8 pm for a taste of this special brew and a day full of activities.
December 4 is Saint Barbara’s Day and each year Third Window Brewing Company hosts a feast and special beer release called Bierbara in her honor. The beer dinner is still in planning so keep an eye out for details while visiting the brewery. And if you are swinging by Third Window, try the Rodney’s Vineyard Saison. This is arguably one of the more engaging beers I’ve tasted in a long time. Aged in Chardonnay barrels, this Saison has a zippy nose of gooseberries, kiwi, and lemon peel with a subtle spice lingering underneath. Served in a large wine goblet, the beer has a brisk body with a swish of honey malts broken apart by a flash of acidity. Its gripping flavor can perk up the conversation between old friends meeting for holiday drinks.