Frosted Window Panes And Beer Glasses

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winter brews
Samuel Adams White Christmas (Photos by Joseph Catrone)

Who says beer is the ultimate summer drink? As we reach this time of the year, seasonal winter brews are popping up all over, offering enthusiasts and neophytes alike a welcome respite from the same old choices. Like unwrapping a present, each new beer uncapped is a surprise, and there are loads to try. It’s enough to make you hope for a long winter.

Samuel Adams White Christmas

There’s a reason people yearn for snow on Christmas. It’s traditional, special and what everyone has come to know and love. This aptly named brew delivers on that promise—though it may be lacking in the surprise department, its smooth, crisp finish proves more than satisfying. A few seasonal spices add a slight kick, but otherwise, White Christmas brew is a mild, lighthearted seasonal drink, as natural as catching a snow flake on one’s tongue.

Stone Xocoveza

Stone Xocoveza

Feeling Festive? Xocoveza is a sweet and spicy extravaganza, paying homage to Mexican hot chocolate and stimulating the senses with a barrage of flavors. Whereas the sweetness of the cocoa, nutmeg and coffee flavors provides tranquility from the cold, the heat of the pepper flavor could melt the frostbite straightaway. Be thankful, then, that the hint of cinnamon provides a steady compromise between the two disparate sensations. No individual spice comes on too strong, making for a truly excellent blend.

Bell’s Christmas Ale

Bell’s Christmas Ale

When people think winter brews, this is more than likely what they’d have in mind—a brew that effortlessly captures the spirit of the season without being unabashedly gimmicky. Dark and sweet, with moderate touches of caramel, Bell’s Christmas ale is classified as a scotch ale/wee heavy, strong and bold but not overwhelmingly so. It would serve as a nice complement for holiday gatherings, striking the difficult balance between relaxed and assertive, lively yet composed.

Ommegang Lovely, Dark and Deep Oatmeal Stout

Omnegang Lovely, Dark and Deep

Some purists are quick to balk at the more eclectic beer flavors available, but there’s no denying that these charming oddities are good for a change of pace. If you’re looking for something way out there, this stout has all the graininess of real oatmeal, yet is deceptively rich. If the first sip is off-putting, don’t be alarmed—before long its taste begins to gel, and eventually, the premise of oatmeal beer seems less and less crazy. Much like the food it pays tribute to, it’s ideal for a warmup drink, an auspicious beginning to a perhaps grander selection of brews. Just don’t have it for breakfast.

Harpoon Winter Warmer

Harpoon Winter Warmer

It’s all too easy to suffer from holiday overload, particularly when every other food and drink item seems to reflect all of the most obvious fads of the season, from peppermint to gingerbread. At a glance, Harpoon Winter Warmer may seem to fit that bill, but its taste suggests a way out of the December madness. It’s a beer that feels standard, timeless, even a little on the safe side, until you notice the hint of cinnamon and nutmeg emanating beneath the surface. It’s recommended for those who like their seasonal cheer served with a little subtlety.

Blue Point Winter Ale

Blue Point Winter Ale

The label on the bottle proudly boasts of its hearty, robust flavor, and to be sure, this is a beer that startles the taste buds at first. Yet it eventually mellows into a pleasant aftertaste, transitioning seamlessly from bold to subdued. Don’t plan on rushing anywhere—this is an ideal sipping beer, perfect for mulling over your plans for the weekend.

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Joseph Catrone is the former editor of Farmingdale Observer, Hicksville News, Levittown Tribune and Massapequa Observer.

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