As the weather changes, so does the type of beer you’re likely craving. Summertime is great for light lagers, fruity IPAs and citrus- and spice-flavored ales. But when the mercury drops, darker, more robust beers like stouts and märzen come into favor, along with barrel-aged ales and saisons. (Of course, rules are meant to be broken, so if a juicy tropical-fruit-laden IPA is right up your alley on a cold winter night, we won’t judge.)
Beer industry experts shared their recommendations for what to sip this winter. Several of these are of limited availability, often available only at the brewery or in their local area. But they’re worth the special effort to seek out.
Basqueland Brewing Churros Con Chocolate (price unavailable)
Spanish beer generally isn’t at the top of drinkers’ minds when thinking about winter sips, but Colm Kirwan, the manager at New York City’s Jeffrey Craft Beer & Bites, says this one from Basqueland is a favorite. “It’s brewed using real churros, cocoa nibs, cinnamon and vanilla,” he says. “It transports me to a chilly late night or early morning trip to a churrería in Spain. A very limited number of kegs make their way to the U.S., via Shelton Brothers Imports, and we’re lucky at Jeffrey to snag one when they arrive.”
Bell's Hopslam ($20 per 6-pack of 12-ounce bottles)
“Winter beers are more than just dark ales,” says Kirwan, reaffirming that rules for what to drink in a particular season are made to be broken. He recommends this floral, hoppy beer from Michigan brewery Bell’s for cold-weather drinking. “This one is released in January of each year,” he says. “It's a 10% double IPA brewed with a touch of honey, which balances out the copious amount of Pacific Northwest hops used.”
Brauerei Hofstetten Original Hochzeitsbier Von 1810 ($5 per half-liter bottle)
“I love this beer from Brauerei Hofstetten dearly,” says Mark Verling, the beverage director at Brooklyn beer bar Tørst. “It's a recreation of the original märzen recipe from the very first Oktoberfest in 1810—a really beautiful, velvety, smooth amber lager that’s dangerously crushable all at the same time. It’s so damn good.”
Four City Crescent Moon Chai Latte Imperial Stout ($22 per 32-ounce crowler)
Kevin Bradford, a partner and “resident beer expert” at NYC’s Harlem Hops, is a fan of Four City Brewing, located in nearby New Jersey. This winter-spiced beer, available primarily in the tristate area, clocks in at a hefty 9% ABV. “This is an imperial stout with honey, lactose vanilla and chai spices,” says Bradford. “A strong, spicy masala chai tea aroma is balanced with vanilla and honey for a smooth, sweet finish.”Continue to 5 of 10 below.
Greenport Harbor Black Duck Porter ($15 per 6-pack)
Way out on the tip of Long Island, you’ll find Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. Kirwan recommends one of the brewery’s porters for winter drinking. “This one is certainly more malt-forward with roasty notes of coffee and cocoa, he says. “It’s such a well-made beer from a local brewery. It's a regular fixture on our menu during the colder months.”
Grimm Super Spruce ($20 per 4-pack of 12-ounce bottles)
Verling recommends checking out Brooklyn-made gose. “Grimm releases this beer every year around the holidays, and we're always so excited to pour it,” he says. “It typically gets released around the beginning of November. It's a white-oak-barrel-aged gose that is both dry-hopped with Chinook hops and conditioned on spruce tips. It's festive, refreshing and utterly delicious.”
Kuhnhenn Brewing Bourbon Barrel Fourth Dementia Olde Ale ($35 per 4-pack)
Michigan’s small Kuhnhenn Brewing doesn’t just make beer; it also makes wine, spirits and mead and has added hand sanitizer to its output over the past few months. Bradford is a fan of the Fourth Dementia Olde Ale in particular. “This bourbon-barrel-aged ale has an intense sweet caramel malt flavor and an aroma that develops into a toffee- and toasted-marshmallow-like character,” he says.
Porterhouse Oyster Stout ($20 per 4-pack of 11.2-ounce bottles)
The key flavor in this stout made by Irish brewery Porterhouse comes from the shellfish in its name. “It’s a dry Irish stout that's best served on nitro,” says Kirwan. “Brewed with oysters, it has got a touch of sweet minerality that pairs beautifully with food. At 4.6%, it's on the more easy-drinking end of the spectrum.”Continue to 9 of 10 below.
Sand City Hygge Dome Imperial Stout (price unavailable)
Sand City Brewing Co., located on Long Island’s North Shore, collaborated with Evil Twin and Great Notion to come up with this high-ABV dark winter beer that hits a massive 14.5% ABV and is available only at the brewery. “It’s brewed with espresso powder, chocolate, caramel, coconut and a touch of lactose,” says Bradford. “This is a Sand City fifth-anniversary collaboration beer. Hygge Dome is a blended recipe of Evil Twin’s Even Mo’ Hygge and Great Notion’s Lava Dome.”
Weaver Hollow Salmagundi Vol 2 ($24 per 750 mL bottle)
“It's no secret that we adore Weaver Hollow and its beers here at Tørst,” says Verling. “Winter nights often call for opening something special when out for dinner or staying at home. Right now, I'm particularly enjoying Salmagundi Vol 2. It’s part of its series of blended oak-barrel-aged saisons, this one being conditioned on the fruit from the rose plant and the petals from hibiscus. It’s tart, deeply complex and a real special treat.”