It’s Christmas… What Are You Drinking?
Tis’ the season, as they say. Fall is finally coming to an end, and as we enter the month of December, we say goodbye to our pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest inspired brews. I always look forward to pumpkin beer season, but I’m always glad when it’s over because that means it’s my favorite season of all…Stout season.
As winter rolls in, we have a wide variety of beers to choose from. While some of your friends may be sucking down White Claws and Bud Lights through the holiday season – and yes, I am sometimes that friend – maybe it’s time to expand our horizon with some of the more popular winter beers. Open your palate to any of these possibilities.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
It took me a long time to get into stouts and winter beers. Luckily, my wife, worked at a World of Beer franchise when we first started dating and upon seeing me order a Corona at her restaurant filled with over 500 types of beer, she about lost her shit. So, if I have anyone to thank for turning me on to more expensive, albeit, better tasting beer, it’s her.
Let’s start with Stouts and Porters though. Here’s what you should know. There is a lot of confusion surrounding what constitutes a stout vs. a porter. Personally, I don’t care what the difference is, although I’ve always felt that porters weren’t quite as thick as a stout. It really all goes back to England where these beers were created though. Stouts gained their fame from the Irish Guinness, but really, the first time the word “Stout” was used, was in an English manuscript. To sum it up though, the only difference that brew masters really agree on is the type of malt used to brew the beer. Porters are made with malted barley while stouts are made with unmalted roasted barley. Even as I drink more stouts and porters now, I can’t tell the difference and I truly believe the two are interchangeable at this point.
Stouts and Porters are dark beers, tend to have coffee flavors with a malty taste; stouts tend to be slightly hoppier. Porters may be fruitier in nature, but it truly depends on the brewer.
I want to recommend some stouts and porters to try if you’re a beginner. These five are a great start and are available in most places that sell craft beers.
Youngs Double Chocolate Stout: sweeter, obviously chocolatey, milk stout.
Saugatuck Blueberry Maple Stout: one of my favorites, especially on nitro. The name describes this one perfectly. It’s a smooth beer with a deep maple taste and a tinge of blueberry.
Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout: milder tasting sweet stout and can be bought in bottle or nitro can, usually available at Total Wine or Target
Founders Breakfast Stout: This is a bit more serious of a Stout, being an imperial stout and coming in at the highest percentage of the five at 8.3%. It’s hoppy, bold and coffee-forward.
Deschutes Black Butte Porter: Richer and more chocolatey, with a strong malt taste and higher in hops than some of the milk stouts.
Now, imperial stouts aren’t for everyone because they are a bit stronger and hoppier than your regular stouts. I’m always down to try an imperial stout. My general rule of thumb is that I’ll try anything 3 times to give it a fair shot, and that includes more than beer. I tend to enjoy imperial stouts more when they are on nitro because they will come out slightly smoother, allowing it to fight off some of the bitterness.
Some other types of beers that are great during the winter – if you really can’t stand porters and stouts – are Spiced White Ales, Brown Ales and anything Bourbon Barrel Aged.
Spiced White Ales, you’ll start to see on sale in the next few weeks, because right after Christmas no one, I REPEAT, NO ONE, will drink these. So, I usually see them for $8.99 for a six pack. You’ll sometimes see them in a seasonal pack from Sam Adams, Blue Moon, or Saranac. I’m not a huge fan of spiced ales but one that I have enjoyed is the Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale. It comes in the Blue Moon winter Pack. It’s worth a shot. These are great beers to put in your fridge for the holidays for all of the craft beer drinkers who come to your house, because at least they won’t bitch that you only have bud light in your fridge. I think we all know that ungrateful son of a bitch as we probably all have one in our family.
I also occasionally have a Brown Ale, if someone puts it in my hand. Brown Ales from England tend to be slightly maltier while from North America they may have a slight citrusy taste. I have a deep hatred for malty beer. I hate the way it coats my mouth. I continue to try them though, because occasionally I find one I like. Two that I would recommend, would be the Well’s Banana bread, which isn’t technically a Brown Ale, but close enough. I’d also recommend the Southern Pecan Nut by Lazy Magnolia.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Sours are a whole different animal. Generally speaking, you will only find these from a microbrewery because of the lack of widespread support. Go support your local brewery and ask if they have any bourbon aged sours. There are some good ones, but often I find that they can be really brown and malty and unfortunately, that’s not for me, but maybe it is for you.
Get out there this Christmas and try some new beers. Of course, have a night of spiked seltzer with your friends, maybe even drink some alcoholic hot chocolate. I have already had enough spiked hot chocolate for this year in the span of four hours, so for the rest of this season, I’ll be sticking to beer, may it be Stouts, Porters, or the occasional Brown Ale.
Grab your beer and have a drink or two, of course responsibly, because don’t be fooled, Santa isn’t getting those red cheeks from the cold weather.
Vince Del is a therapist living in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is originally from New York where he grew up and went to college. Vince has been writing for four years now creating his blog about the unfortunate events that happen to us on a daily basis – mycousinvinny.blog. In his spare time, he drinks beer, and now writes about that as well.