Winter Beer


The firm grasp of winter is upon us; frigid winds are howling and the snow is piling up. Even if you don’t have a fireplace to curl up next to, a winter beer can help bring relief.

Winter/Christmas Ales

Winter beer tends to pack a punch – both in alcohol content and a generally sweeter flavor. Winter warmers have traditionally been based on the rich dark stouts and ales, which have been kicked up with seasonal spice blends and flavors. The range of flavor profiles varies greatly and can include allspice, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, cookies, gingerbread, molasses, maple syrup, fruit (citrus/raisins/plums), nuts, spruce, and even smoke flavoring.

The higher alcohol content is oftentimes buried in the bouquet of the beer due to the complexity of the spicy ingredients competing for your senses. Don’t be fooled, though – winter warmers can be as strong as 12 percent ABV, which will certainly make you not care about how cold it is outside.

Also included in the winter seasonal arsenal are the lighter in color Barley Wines and Wheat Wines. These strong ales are very malty and often have a strong fruitiness or caramel-like aroma. Brewing these beers requires a complementary amount of hops (technical term: A LOT) to balance the malt load, which ensures an extremely long finish with every sip.

Check out these Michigan-made examples of traditional winter offerings:

Arbor Brewing Company – Figjam
Atwater – Winter Bock
Bell’s – Christmas Ale, Third Coast Old Ale
Dark Horse Brewing – The Holiday Stout Series, 4 Elf Winter Warmer
Dragonmead – Jul 01 Christmas Ale, Imperial Stout
Founders – Imperial Stout, Smoked Porter
Kuhnhenn – Solstice Releases (Solstice Event Sales Only)
North Peak Brewing Company – Ring Them Bells
Rockford Brewing Company – A Chocwork Orange, Belgian Multigrain (Anniversary Ale)
Royal Oak Brewery – Whiskey Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
Short’s – Juicy Tree
The Great Baraboo – Dr. Stoutlove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love The Boo
Woodward Avenue Brewers – Nitrous Oatmeal Stout

Non-traditional Winter Releases

Bucking tradition and exhibiting their brewing prowess, many Michigan breweries have been brewing non-traditional beers for winter releases. These offerings can include almost anything under the sun, with the one common denominator being that they are released during the winter months.

Check out these winter releases:

Bell’s – Hopslam
Brewery Vivant – Hubris
Founders – Red’s Rye
Short’s – ControversiALE

Even though Christmas and New Year’s Eve have passed, these beers will provide relief from the cold and help you enjoy the winter season a little bit more. Stay inside, relax, and enjoy – the roads are icy and dangerous anyway.