As spring draws closer we anxiously await the glorious thaw, but why wait for the weather to change when we can create a thaw of our own? Winter is most definitely the best time of year to enjoy rich high ABV beers but even though spring is near there are still some great big beers to enjoy.
The high ABV has served as a source of heating during cold winter nights, but it now acts as a thawing instrument within our bodies as we try to balance the cold nights with the upcoming warmer days. While the principal may be the same, the beers to enjoy now are a little different.
Here is a short list of some great beers to enjoy as a transition from the cold dark winter to the slightly warmer and brighter days of spring ahead.
Kane Brewing Company’s Vengeful Heart: This beer is the perfect combination of a rich malty English style barleywine and a juicy New England style IPA. The rich, sweet malts are perfectly balanced against the fruity hops for a beer that despite its 10.4 percent ABV, is very easy drinking. While fresh barleywines are typically a bit harsh with some alcohol burn and bitter hops, this beer is perfectly rounded, flavorful, and quite easily the best drinking barleywine you will ever enjoy. If you are not familiar with Kane Brewing go visit the brewery in Ocean Township, New Jersey and you will quickly become one of the many devoted followers!
Avery Brewing Company’s Tweak: If you are looking for a brewery that knows its way around a barrel then look no further than Avery! The brewery has long been at the forefront of barrel aging beers with phenomenal results. Last year the brewery decided to kick things up a notch with its world class Tweak and thankfully it was released again. This imperial, and I mean imperial, with a 17.2 percent ABV, barrel aged stout received a hefty dosing of coffee. The wonderful notes of vanilla, chocolate and coconut blend seemlessly with the fresh roasted coffee. Tweak is an absolute must try beer for all barrel aged beer fans and coffee lovers!
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s Double Jack: A good, solid DIPA is a beer that can be enjoyed any time of year regardless of temperature and Double Jack is most definitely a world class DIPA. The over the top tropical and citrus fruit notes with backing dank resiny flavors are balanced against a semi sweet malt bill giving way to a textbook dry finish. Double Jack is one of the best West Coast DIPA’s you will find and will brighten up the darkest day and make the sunniest day even better!
Lagunitas Brewing Co.’s Hairy Eyeball: Lagunitas describes this beer as “A roasty, toasty, malty, hangover-halting beer. Especially formulated for when you wake up feelin’ like you need to shave your eyeballs to see the new day.” It’s the perfect summation for this 9.4 percent ABV big beer that seems to have something for everyone. The rich and sweet malts impart notes of chocolate and caramel but the beer still has a nice, yet subtle hop bite for balance. Lagunitas loves to brew beers for flavor and worry about style, well, never. Hairy Eyeball might be hard to categorize into a specific style but one thing is for sure, it is delicious!
Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co.’s Blitzkrieg Hops: Here in Pennsylvania we are lucky to have some of the best craft breweries in the United States and among them Neshaminy Creek is one of the best of the best. It’s world class DIPA Blitzkrieg Hops is perfect to aid in the transition from winter to spring. The 9 percent ABV is completely hidden under a barrage of hops that is never ending and finds perfect balance against semi-sweet English malts that finishes bone dry. This is a DIPA that must be tried by all who love and worship hops. Find some now to enjoy it in it’s freshest state!
The most important factor in choosing a beer for this transitional period is not just one with a high ABV, but one with an impactful flavor. The beer should awaken the senses while also still being very enjoyable. Slight warming characteristics don’t hurt either. No matter what beer you decide, just remember to take time and enjoy and experience it, not just drink it.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.