When the nights get long and temperatures drop, breweries tend to go big: winter seasonals are known for their raucous flavors and double-digit ABV. From boozy imperial stouts to sweet and spicy winter warmers, cold-weather brews have a way of overwhelming the palate and the senses.
So where do you turn for a break from the madness? Bucking the trend, these widely available seasonal offerings viable alternatives to standard winter fare.
A classic bit of counter-programming if there ever was one, 2016 marks this fresh-hop IPA’s 35th birthday. Although most of us don’t expect to see the best produce in winter months, US hops are typically harvested in September and October, which makes November the perfect time to cash in on the crop. For best results, smuggle a six-pack to any beer-friendly holiday gathering: a hop procession led by Sierra Nevada mainstay Cascade marches confidently along the palate, clearing the remnants of fatty dips and getting you ready for more.
At only 5% ABV, this session-strength witbier is light enough to enjoy at that family brunch or while recovering from last night’s cookie exchange. The beer pours beautifully, its straw body and white foam evoking a snow-covered field. Take your first sip and the snow melts, with wheat malts and spiciness from the Belgian yeast giving way to a dry and extremely clean finish.
Never mind the name: this beer isn’t a winter warmer at all. Although the recipe and nuances have evolved from year-to-year, Six Point’s glowing amber ale always manages to convey a subtle spiciness without leaning on additives. Like lily pads in a frozen pond, the 70 IBU in this year’s offering float just beneath the surface of a caramel malt base.
The perfect companion for a heavy holiday meal, New Belgium’s white IPA uses peppery hop oils and a bone-dry finish to cut through the most cloying foods. Combined with a lemony aroma and moderate 6.2% ABV, Accumulation can help you justify that third trip to the buffet table.
After five straight days of forced smiles and force feedings, even the act of assembling lunch can seem like a chore. The solution: slap a few slices of leftover baked ham onto some fresh bread and grab a Winter Cheers. Victory’s offering drinks like hefeweizen champagne, with notes of honey, banana, and bubblegum riding wave after wave of strong carbonation.