Cold snaps in the weather make for fine opportunities to sip bold winter beers, bursting with spices, roasted malts and complex flavors. There’s a great scene in the 2007 documentary American Brew where late British author Michael Jackson (a.k.a. the Beer Hunter) describes a perfect scenario for sipping a dark ale. He’s in a pub, holding a full pint of heavy ale. “This would be even better on a cold night,” he says, “just as the rain is hammering against your window panes, and you’re in a nice, comfortable leather chair, and your wife’s gone to bed, and you’ve a got a bit of peace. You can have a bit of beer and some quiet time.” That’s all fine and dandy, but winters beers are also better on a cold, rainy day served in a flight at a lodge-like beer store/taproom in the middle of Tacoma’s Proctor District. Enjoy Craft Beer Crosscut 12.29.17: A Flight of Winter Warmers.
9.5% ABV, 20 IBU
Backwoods Brewing Company and The Pine Box in Seattle collaborated on Spruce Springsteen, a winter warmer ale brewed with brown sugar, cinnamon, orange peel, and, of course, spruce tips. Inspired by the Boss, and red amber color with a beige head, Spruce Springsteen hits the nose with roasted malt, toffee and spruce, followed by notes of pine, cinnamon, chocolate, berries, oranges, vanilla and caramel. It’s smooth throughout with a velvety finish.
10% ABV, 28 IBU
Brouwerij St Bernardus is famous for both their beers and their heritage. The brewery used to brew the famous Westvleteren beers before the monastery returned all production back to within the abbey’s walls. Their Abt 12 quad represents what Westvleteren 12 used to be before the abbey changed their yeast strain. St. Bernardus’ Christmas Ale is brewery’s Abt 12 offering, but gussied up with rich malt, dark dried fruit, fig, hints of anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar … basically a fruitcake.
6.8% ABV, 62 IBU
When it comes to cheap winter fun, few activities match the thrill of gliding down a good hill. All that is needed? A toboggan, decent snow, and the stamina to keep climbing back to the top. So, no snow but we’re in for climbing back on the Toboggan — Two Beers Tipsy Toboggan. A dark and toasty warming winter ale, Tipsy Toboggan offers notes of chocolate, date, plum and orange with a dash of hops. The deep dark color and full flavored finish pair perfectly with outdoor adventures.
George and Jane Hancock founded the ma-and-pa Maritime Pacific Brewing Co. in an old transmission shop in 1990 in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. In 1997 they opened the Jolly Roger Taproom named, as they say, “in honor of our most popular holiday brew”: Jolly Roger Christmas Ale. A beer fridge staple, Jolly Roger English strong ale combines rich malt character with a blend of fresh Northwest Chinook and Cascade hops. The addition of ginger compliments the oak, vanilla and caramel flavors of the beer making it a unique, smooth winter warmer perfect for the season.
7.5% ABV, 72 IBU
Dry Fly Distillery sits on the Spokane River in its namesake city. It produces a wonderful Triticale Wheat Whiskey using 100 percent Eastern Washington soft white wheat distilled twice in traditional American whiskey style then aged a minimum of three years in American Oak barrels. Frequently, Dry Fly’s neighbor, No-Li Brewhouse, grabs the used Wheat Whiskey oak barrels and ages its beers, like its Winter Warmer, for two years. The whiskey aging muscles its way through in a big way with honey and brown sugar notes.