We want you to look fondly on the deep, dark suck of winter. You may be shrouded in darkness by 4 p.m.—but you can dull the bite of a bone-chilling frost with winter ales, our seasonal brew of choice. Like imperial stouts, barleywines, and porters, winter ales are dark and robust—nice and malty and sometimes spiced. They’re usually higher proof, which helps warm you from the inside out.
Like many contemporary beers, winter ales aren’t actually a specific style. They’re a seasonal beer that many brewers produce. None are more synonymous with winter than the iconic “winter warmer.” Known for being sweet, malty, and slightly hoppy, winter warmers are true to their name.
If the brewer makes theirs in the classic British wassail style (and many do), various wintry spices are added to amp flavor and that belly-warming sensation.
So, stoke that fire, find a comfortable spot to relax, and crack open one of these winter ales. You’re tired of hazy IPAs anyway.
10 Best Winter Ales to Warm Your Spirits
1. Anderson Valley Winter Solstice
This 6.9 percent ABV brew is Anderson Valley’s foray into the winter warmer world. It’s brewed with Northern Brewer and Chinook hops; Pale Two-Row, Crystal, and Munich malts; Oat Flakes and House yeast. Expect a malty brew with plenty of caramel and vanilla notes with a bit of spice.[$10.99, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
2. pFriem Winter Ale
This isn’t your usual winter ale. A smattering of floral, slightly bitter hops (including Chinook, Mosaic, Citra, Nelson, and El Dorado) gets married to a medley of caramel malts (Rahr Pale, Simpsons Munich, Simpsons Crystal Dark, and Carafa III), and Christmas spices.[$48, 12-pack; store.pfriembeer.com]
3. Odell Isolation Ale
Snowed in? Odell created this winter ale specifically for snow days. This 6 percent ABV winter warmer has a great combination of sweet malts and crisp hops that’ll make you almost forget about all the shoveling you need to do…almost.[$10.99, 6-pack; drizly.com]
4. Deschutes Jubelale
Deschutes is the kind of brewery that cranks out nothing but winners. Its winter seasonal Jubelale is no exception. This highly awaited beer is brewed with Pale, Crystal, Extra Special, and Carapils malts as well as Bravo, Cascade, Delta, Us Tettnang, and East Kent Goldings hops, and roasted barley. The result is a spicy, malty winter ale with a nice hop presence.[$12, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
5. Sweetwater Festive Ale
Consider this the fast track to getting in the festive spirit. The 8.1 percent ABV winter ale is brewed with lots of malts as well as Centennial and Golding hops. It gets its wintry flavor from the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg. The end result is a spicy, malty, nutty beer perfect for cold-weather sipping.[$12, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
6. Shipyard Prelude Special Ale
Portland’s Shipyard Brewing Company might be most well-known for its Pumpkinhead beer. While that’s great for the early fall, it’s time to turn your attention to its Prelude Special Ale. This 6.7 percent ABV winter warmer is made in the English style with tons of malts and just a hint of spicy hop flavor to tie everything together.[$9, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
7. Boulevard Nutcracker Ale
Boulevard’s Nutcracker Ale is loaded with various malts and gets its spice, not from seasonal spices, but Chinook hops. You’ll get bold, rich, caramel and vanilla flavors up front with a slightly bitter, hop-fueled finish.[$11, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
8. Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome
This English brand makes one of the best winter warmers around. This 6 percent ABV brew has a great combination of caramel and toffee malts, dried fruits, and gentle, floral, spicy hops that make it just as appealing in late fall as when the snow begins to fall.[$10, 4-pack; totalwine.com]
9. Harpoon Winter Warmer
Brewed the same way since 1988, Harpoon’s Winter Warmer boasts Pale, Dark Caramel, Victory, and Chocolate malts as well as Apollo and Northern Brewer hops. This beer gets its seasonal flavor from the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s sweet, spicy, and more or less tastes like winter in a glass.[$10, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
10. 21st Amendment Fireside Chat
Inspired by Franklin Roosevelt’s Great Depression radio broadcasts to the nation, this winter warmer is brewed with Pale, Munich, Wheat, Crystal, De-bittered Black, Chocolate, and Abbey malts as well as Columbus and US Goldings hops. It gets an added kick from winter spices and cocoa.[$10, 6-pack; totalwine.com]
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