Winter weather blew in before Thanksgiving, with a wet, windy snap and temperatures dipping into the 20s. But the first chill in the air always means it’s time to celebrate with the special beers breweries offer this time of year to toast the holiday season and make the cold more tolerable.
We’re talking about some of most potent and distinctive styles of the brewer’s art, including winter warmers, Christmas ales, imperial stouts and barleywines. And that means classics like Anchor Christmas Ale, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Gouden Carolus Noël, Samuel Smith Winter Welcome and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.
Closer to home, Atlanta area breweries release plenty of winter seasonals, too. Here are a few to look for now and in the coming months:
Burnt Hickory Noggin Knocker — The 2013 version of this limited edition holiday imperial stout from the wild style Kennesaw nano brewery is due soon. Typically audacious at 13 percent alcohol, the 2012 version had flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, rum and chocolate.
Monday Night Blind Pirate — Not a seasonal beer per se but this new double IPA from the up-and-coming Atlanta brewery certainly fills the bill for a winter beer. At 8.2 percent alcohol with plenty of hop bitterness balanced by caramel malt, it will warm you up quickly.
Red Brick Sacred Cow — The brand new one from Atlanta’s oldest brewery is a 6 percent alcohol chai-spiced milk stout. Brewed with an organic tea blend, it features aromatic cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves wrapped around the chocolate milk flavors of this stout style.
Red Hare Sticky Stout — The Marietta brewery’s new winter seasonal is an oatmeal stout brewed with dark roasted malts that impart flavors of chocolate and roasted coffee and a sticky mouth-feel. At 6.5 percent alcohol, it’s not too big to sip more than one.
Sweetwater Happy Ending — While Sweetwater’s big and spicy Festive Ale hits the shelves for the holidays, Happy Ending is usually around from December until March. The smooth and roasty dry-hopped imperial stout checks in at 9 percent alcohol and features a rich chocolate center.
Terrapin Wake ’N Bake — One of the Athens brewery’s most beloved seasonals, this 8.6 percent oatmeal stout with Jitery Joe’s Wake-n-Bake coffee blend begs to be sipped at brunch or after dinner. But this year, there’s a limited release cinnamon-flavored version that just might define “breakfast beer.”
Three Taverns Theophan the Recluse — The Decatur brewery’s newest is a Belgian-style imperial stout brewed with eight specialty malts, dark Muscovado sugar and a Belgian yeast strain. At 9 percent alcohol, it will be available on draft and 750 ml bottles.
Frozen Pints Moo-Hoo Mint — This isn’t exactly a beer. But the latest concoction from the Atlanta craft beer ice cream company is made with Terrapin’s Moo-Hoo chocolate milk stout, cocoa nibs from Nashville chocolatier Olive & Sinclair, and a hint of peppermint. A winter wonderland.
— By Bob Townsend, for the AJC Drink blog.