The Best Winter Beers
Think local produce is the only thing that should follow the seasons? Think again. Craft brewers have a long tradition of introducing limited-run seasonal beers. Spring brings light and refreshing Hefeweizens; autumn means slightly darker ales flavored with pumpkin and other fruits and veggies in harvest; and winter means stouts—hearty, rich, flavorful dark beers that leave an impression long after you’ve finished sipping them.
“I think winter is the best time to drink beer. That’s when you have the most variety to choose from, and the most interesting flavors,” says Jason Oliver, brewmaster at Devil’s Backbone Brewery at the base of Wintergreen Resort in Virginia. “Winter beers are typically stronger, sweeter, and heavier.”
After a cold day outdoors, prop your feet up by the fire, and sip one of these intriguingly flavorful winter brews from local craft brewers operating in the Southern Appalachians.
Moo Hoo Stout
Terrapin Beer Company, Athens, Ga.
Terrapin has gained a reputation as being one of the most inventive craft breweries in the nation, with a head brewer who likes to experiment with bizarre side projects. The Moo Hoo falls into this experimental category. It’s a chocolate milk stout, with chocolate provided by Olive and Sinclair that delivers a creamy, sweet finish.
Gnutty Gnome Ale
Heinzelmanchen Brewery, Sylva, N.C.
Heinzelmanchen has a very specific focus: alternative beers created to be paired with specific foods. The Gnutty Gnome is a nut brown ale style released in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas meant to be paired with pecan and pumpkin pies. It’s sweet and nutty, with a tart bite and a sweet finish. The brewery also creates a weekend keg, with a different beer every weekend.
Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company, Roseland, Va.
Devil’s Backbone has six different seasonal offerings during the winter, far more than most brewers, but their best might be Morning Bear, a coffee version of their popular Imperial Stout. It’s a strong, black ale that blends the fresh aroma of locally roasted coffee with the rich, malty flavor of the stout.
Belgian Chocolate Porter
Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, Va.
Blue Mountain is another brewery that likes to get innovative with their seasonals. Their Belgian Chocolate Porter, which releases in November of each year just in time for the snow, is fermented with organic Peruvian cacao nibs and barrel aged with Bing cherries.
Bourbon Chipotle Porter
Craggie Brewing Company, Asheville, N.C.
Craggie is one of Asheville’s newest breweries and is beginning to stand out from the crowd because of their willingness to experiment. The Bourbon Chipotle Porter is the perfect example. This English-style porter is fermented with chipotle peppers then aged on bourbon flavored oak chips. The result is a robust drink with just a hint of spice that goes well with a fire.