Winter is here. The snow is falling along with temperatures dropping. Our heating bills have begun their slow rise, but fear not, there is a better way to keep warm this winter — drink great craft beers.
High ABV beers are a staple for many during the cold winter months. Many craft breweries release great winter seasonal beers that tread into double digit ABV territory.
Enjoying higher ABV beers may result in some lazy weekend afternoons, but it is great research. Many of the beers that fall into these categories are not for the timid or passive craft beer drinker. These are beer for the dedicated, but if you are brave enough to try one of them you will surely be rewarded.
Here is a short list of some great beers to enjoy during the winter months. They have an excellent shelf life and will last into future winters.
Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA: This 18 percent ABV behemoth may have the tag of an IPA, but this does not taste anything like a standard IPA. It is closer to a fresh barleywine, but does have a great hop punch. The sticky sweet malts and full body create a beer that drinks like a fine cognac. This is a great beer to age and will do so wonderfully for up to 8 years or beyond if you can hang on to a bottle that long.
Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout: Goose Island has brewed this much sought after imperial stout for a number of years. The brewery introduced other beers into its bourbon county line with great results. While the ABV varies each year it typically falls around 13 percent. The warming qualities of the bourbon are front and center, but do not overwhelm the beer. There is a slight alcohol heat present but it’s balanced with sweet notes of chocolate and coffee for a beer that is surprisingly easy drinking.
Deschutes Brewery’s The Abyss: Deschutes brews some of the most drinkable beers in the craft beer market. The brewers create some of the most delicious barrel aged beers as well and The Abyss is one of its best. Notes of black licorice, molasses, vanilla, oak, chocolate, coffee and hints of bourbon create an extremely decadent and smooth beer. As with most barrel-aged beers the ABV varies, but many finish around 12 percent or higher.
Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Olde Gnarlywine: Barleywines are a welcome sight throughout the year, but are especially delicious during the colder months. Fresh barleywines, especially those of the American variety, possess a great hop punch. As they age the malt qualities come forward. Olde Gnarlywine with its fresh floral and citrus hop punch, caramel sweet malt backbone, and 10.6 percent ABV, is one the lightest beers on this list.
Sam Adams’ Utopias: This is the most expensive beer on this list and it pushes the boundaries for what many consider beer. The nearly 30 percent ABV screams this is not a casual beer. It’s not carbonated and drinks more like a cognac. There is a bit of an alcohol kick, but the sweet malts and variety of barrels impart a complex array of flavors and aromas. This is a hard to find beer but is worth every cent. It will age wonderfully for years.
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.