(Our guest blogger today is Russ Seideman, a home brewer, nationally ranked beer judge, and previous owner of a local brewery in Phoenix, Arizona. And, yeah, he makes great beer!).
Beers described as “winter beers” can come from a variety of historical and cultural origins, but usually share some common traits.
- First-they are ‘big’, meaning on the high side of the alcohol scale. This is the snifter you might sip, relaxing around a blazing fire during a blizzard.
- Secondly- they have dominant malty flavors. The malt flavors enrich the beer, giving it a warming backbone. More maltiness means more alcohol, as well.
From there, winter beers may vary. California brewers make them hoppy (Sierra Nevada Celebration), Belgians make them ‘funky’ (Samiclaus, special abbey Christmas brews), Germans keep them rich and smooth (doppelbock, eisbock), and the British call them ‘winter warmers’.
Another special difference are the seasonal spices and flavorings brewers use to modify these beers during the winter. You may want to try Anchor Christmas or Sam Adams Winter Lager to discover these variations.
A great tip is to find a place where you can build your own 6-pack, and do a little sampling of your own! Many grocery stores or liquor stores in the US will allow customers to mix and match beer bottles in a 6-pack. If not, brew pubs often offer a beer sampler with a few ounces of several beers presented side by side, allowing a comparison.
Stay toasty, my friends!