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For many beer enthusiasts, winter brings dreams of a few very distinct flavor profiles: big, roasted, malt, and dark stout beers, barley wines whose alcohol by volume pushes the limits of many states and are so sweet they could rival any dessert course, anything aged in any sort of barrel, from the common bourbon to the extreme banana cognac barrel (yes…that’s a real thing). If those flavors aren’t big enough for you, there are beers infused with vanilla or cherry or fig or cocoa. Some of these beers are over the top and more than a handful are delicious, but nearly all will keep you warm in the sub-freezing temperatures. That said, now for something completely different…
For me, a certified and unapologetic “hop head”, the winter season doesn’t mean chocolate stout or anything resembling a traditionally “cold weather” beer. Some of the best breweries in the country pump out tart, piney, citrus forward IPA style beers with fresh hops throughout this time of year. Your winter doesn’t have to be full of dark pints alone; there are other options out there for you to enjoy all season long. Without further ado, here are three seasonal winter beers that will fulfill your cravings for the hop:
Arguably one of the most famous, if not the most famous, double IPA winter beer releases comes for Bells Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Hopslam has been known to incite backroom deals, casing out bottle shops, and endless phone calls to distributors for a chance to secure a 6-pack of the insanely popular beer. This year, released in cans for the first time, Hopslam has a great floral aroma and a powerful, sharp hop note balanced out by a honey-like sweetness on the finish. Hopslam does not age well, so grab a few friends, pop those cans, and drink it fresh. You won’t be sorry.
Brewery: Sixpoint Brewing
The follow-up release to Sixpoint Brewery’s most popular beer Resin, Hi-Res takes dank flavor and bitter IBUs (International Bittering Units scale used in the measurement of the bitterness of beer) to the next level. Coming in at whopping 115 IBUs, you might think this beer is so extreme it’s going to burn your taste buds off, but I promise that’s not the case. The “Mad Scientists” at Sixpoint have created a recipe that balances the hop onslaught with enough malt to make this high alcohol (10.5% ABV) surprisingly, easily drinkable. Sticky, juicy, orange peel, mango, and biscuity are all words that come to mind when sipping on these suds. And sip you better; chugging Hi-Res is absolutely not recommended.
Brewery: Sierra Nevada
There are nearly as many Christmastime beer releases as pumpkin beers in October (or even August now, for some reason, but that’s a different topic.) Technically, Sierra Nevada Celebration is a Christmas ale, but because its style doesn’t fit the conventional profile of a typical seasonal beer, I enjoy it throughout the winter months. You won’t find any clove, or cinnamon, or anise spice in this beer; Celebration is a fresh hop-forward American IPA with a sweet pine nose that pours a nice dark amber color. The flavor profile is pretty standard for an IPA with pine, peach, and citrus being the major players and a bready backbone to create balance. I’ve been known to drink this beer all the way up until St. Patrick’s Day, so don’t let the red label with the festive snowy scene on it deter you from picking some up well into the New Year.
written for Cliff Original by Dan Reeve