Fall and winter are seasons beer lovers anticipate like kids at Christmas, as the holidays bring great gifts of darker, stronger ales and lots of limited edition offerings.
Classics such as Winter Welcome from England’s Samuel Smith and a host of Belgian Christmas beers join the likes of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale and Anchor’s Christmas Ale. Closer to home, there’s Sweetwater’s Festive Ale and Terrapin’s Big Hoppy Monster.
But Atlanta’s status as a growing craft beer market also means that some beers previously not seen here may suddenly pop up on store shelves and in beer bars this time of year.
Here are a few to look for now and in the coming weeks:
The follow up to Two Turtle Doves, the third verse of The Bruery’s Twelve Beers of Christmas series is the 10 percent alcohol by volume Three French Hens. It’s a spicy, oaky blend of Belgian-style dark ale and ale aged in French oak barrels.
For the Jewish holidays, there’s the kosher Hebrew Jewbelation 14. To mark its anniversary, every year Shmaltz Brewing adds one more hop, one more malt and one more percent alcohol. This one has 14 of everything. In coming years, it will be beyond Georgia’s beer alcohol limit, so enjoy it while you can.
Sierra Nevada’s 30th anniversary Brewer’s Reserve Ale is a marriage of three of the brewery’s most acclaimed ales, oak-aged Bigfoot, Celebration Ale, and fresh Pale Ale blended together and generously dry-hopped.
Terrapin’s much buzzed about new seasonal selection is Moo-Hoo chocolate milk stout — made with a big batch of malts, plus flaked oats, roasted barley, and cocoa nibs and shells from Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Company.
San Francisco’s canned beer champion, 21st Amendment Brewery, has a new winter seasonal called Fireside Chat. It’s a strong, dark English-style spiced ale flavored with cocoa nibs.
Leinenkugel’s surprisingly dark and complex 9.5 percent Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout is a very limited seasonal made with eleven different malts and grains and three hop varieties.
Bell’s Christmas Ale is always a very limited release. At 5.5 percent, it’s a sessionable holiday beer, made with Michigan-grown barley and a blend of hops from Michigan and the Pacific Northwest.
It’s not a beer, but J.K.’s Solstice Hard Cider is another Michigan homegrown winter warmer, made with organic apples and lightly spiced with cinnamon, vanilla, and syrup from the farm’s own maple trees.
While you’re tasting all those exciting seasonals, you can tune into the Discovery Channel’s new Brew Masters series, premiering Sunday, Nov. 21 at 10 p.m. The star of the show is Dogfish Head’s irrepressible Sam Calagione, who is featured traveling the world, sourcing exotic ingredients and discovering ancient brewing techniques.
The Fred in Sandy Springs is sponsoring a Brew Masters viewing party at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 with special Dogfish Head beers and schwag giveaways. Free admission.