Last week, I decided I’d spend the Christmas/New Year’s holiday drinking a variety of seasonal beers because I feel like I’ve never actually done something like that. I’ll have one or two different ones every season, but I’ve never made a conscious effort to try, y’know, a lot of them.
And I didn’t want to get super obscure here — I’m sure there are dozens of amazingly tasty (and expensive) seasonals out there, but I wanted to keep this tasting basic, limited to things you’d find in your average Total Wine or BevMo.
In this case, I used Triangle Wine Co., a nifty little shop that opened up near my house this summer. These beers are listed in no particular order.
New Belgium’s Snow Day
6.2% ABV • 190 calories
I really enjoyed Snow Day, much like I enjoy all of New Belgium’s offerings. The chocolate and caramel notes definitely stood out for me. There was a good amount of hoppiness, and I found the bitterness a little on the heavy side for a “winter ale,” but I still appreciated its roast factor.
Brooklyn Winter Ale
6.0% ABV • 205 calories
Brooklyn Brewery is easily my favorite in terms of consistency of product, and their Brooklyn Winter Ale is no exception. It’s a very malty beer with lots of flavor, the kind of beer that goes great with cheeses and more succulent meat, like lamb. It’s breadiness made it a pretty filling beer, but it’s one I’ll definitely return to.
Four in Hand Winter Brew
6.2% ABV • 186 calories
I’m not sure how best to describe this beer. The first thing that immediately jumps out at your is the orange zest, which was a bit overpowering for my taste. But once you get past that, this is a warm, hearty beer thanks to notes that include allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. If memory serves, I had it with chicken and some finger food and it paired nicely.
Shiner Holiday Cheer
5.4% ABV • 193 calories
This was probably my second-favorite beer of the experiment. It’s dark copper color combined with the taste and aroma of peaches, caramel and a nutty flavor actually felt like some kind of Christmas baked good. It wasn’t too hoppy, which I prefer in a holiday brew, and, not for nothing, the festive packaging was the perfect touch.
Bell’s Winter White Ale
5.5% ABV • 165 calories
Okay, I know I said I don’t prefer hoppiness in a holiday brew, but for this one, I’ll make the exception. The Bell’s Winter White Ale was a fantastic mixture of spicy hops and fun seasonal flavors — I got banana, citrus and clove, but I’m sure there were others. This one easily was my favorite beer of the experiment.
Harpoon Winter Warmer
5.9% ABV • 165 calories
Nutmeg and cinnamon, and lots of it. That’s what I got when I first tasted the Winter Warmer, Harpoon’s first seasonal beer. It actually tasted a lot like pumpkin pie, and when I went to Harpoon’s site to read about it, lo and behold, they compared it to pumpkin pie. Seemed more appropriate as a fall seasonal, but, as it is, it’s an okay beer to pair with white meat or dessert.
Natty Greene’s Red Nose Winter Ale
6.8% ABV • 210 calories
There’s a lot going on in this beer — many different flavors gave it a complex taste, but I have to say they worked decently together. Cinnamon was there (noticing a trend here?), but so was ginger, some citrus flavor and, I could’ve sworn, cherry and chocolate. But really, it was too much of everything, not enough of one particular thing to give it a distinct character.