It’s winter — time to drink some big, boozy beers.
A lot of folks are scared off by these “darker” beers, but they’re much more approachable — and often far lower in alcohol content — than you might think. Their “heft” is perfect for colder weather, and they stand up well to the heavier dishes and stronger flavors of winter and holiday meals.
These options that I enjoy on a cold winter’s evening (or day) are in the 8 percent and above category.
The beer is labeled “imperial milk stout” meaning that it’s almost black in color and brewed with lactose (milk sugar) and coffee beans. It’s rich with hints of hazelnut and enough coffee taste to help offset the sweetness without being bitter.
If you’re new to craft beer, and the deep dark stuff scares you, simply treat this brew as its own luscious dessert or even like an Irish coffee.
ST. BERNARDUS CHRISTMAS ALE, brewed by Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV, is an outrageously good take on a traditional Belgian Quadrupel.
The beer pours a wonderful reddish brown with little hints of violet. Approach this beer looking for dark fruits like fig and raisin, hints of brown sugar, and noticeable hints of spices like nutmeg and clove, with a decent kiss of banana.
Yes, this beer is that complex. If you have friends who are leery to sample this ale, purchase a 750 mL bottle and tell them they’re helping you drink the best piece of fruitcake they’ve ever had — in liquid form, and with alcohol.
This ale is also a standout selection and great pairing to bring to an elegant Christmas dinner with prime rib or beef tenderloin.
Boulevard Brewing Co.’s BOURBON BARREL QUAD is a monster of a beer.
Take a beer similar to the style of the St. Bernardus offering mentioned above; age it in bourbon barrels, and then add cherries for an extra, fun dimension.
The beer has notes of brown sugar, oak and vanilla, dark fruit, and a pleasant hint of cherries to finish.
To enjoy more of those rich bourbon, vanilla and cherry tastes, make sure you let the beer warm up a bit. Better yet, take your time when sipping this “beast” and enjoy these great notes as they emerge when the beer gets closer to room temperature.