10 Best Winter Beers, Ranked



As a beer connoisseur any time of the year and generally one who sticks to the bottles produced year round, it’s always a nice change of palette when the winter beers start rolling out. Pumpkin and harvest ales of the fall season just can’t compete against the spicy, nutty, hearty beers of winter. Forget curling up with a cup of hot chocolate (though you can curl up with Joe Latte’s Vanilla Coffee Stout) this holiday season; it’s time to impress the co-workers, the in-laws, and the friends from afar with some quality—and easy to find—holiday beer.

10. Southern Tier’s Old Man Winter Ale. This hearty ale is moderately bitter with a presence of hops, but not overwhelming. Although this ale doesn’t pack as much of a punch as an IPA, the 7% ABV should be a good indicator that this drink is best for sipping on. Old Man Winter provides a nutty, bittersweet cocoa, and earthy taste. If this seasonal proves difficult to find, their year round beers don’t disappoint—you can’t go wrong.

9. Goose Island’s Nut Brown Ale. From Chicago comes a great classic American brown ale. This chestnut colored beer not only includes a nutty flavor, but also hints of honey, chocolate, and even tobacco. With a frothy head and a mild hop, this makes for the perfect after dinner treat and pairs well with a rich chocolate or caramel-flavored dessert.

8. Sam Adams’ Winter Lager. Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without the standard, All-American, first choice beer for the holiday party. Found in up to packs of twelve, this traditional lager won’t disappoint any of your beer-drinking guests with it’s deep caramel color and perfectly seasoned holiday spice taste. Be sure to pick up more than just one pack!

7. Angry Orchard’s Cinnful Apple. For those with a gluten intolerance or those who want a break from their Bud Light, this seasonal hard cider is just as flavorful as beer. As with any hard cider, you’ll find an initial crisp and refreshing body as it enters the mouth, but cinnamon spice and a hint of cocoa quickly follow. Found in packs of six or twelve, your non-beer drinkers will love you for your creativity and varied taste.

6. Dogfish Head’s Piercing Pils. Labeled as one of America’s most inventive and adventurous microbreweries around, this pilsner packs a taste that is nothing short of that description. Most winter beers we expect to be full-bodied, spiced, and hoppy; this pilsner instead is a hybrid beer with pear juice. Although the Czech-style ale is still hoppy, the pear notes will surprise both your palette and your guests with a bit of zest and crispness.

5. Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Fresh Hop Ale. Here’s the IPA style beer of the list! Although it says ale, there’s no doubt that hops are the main event in every swig of this rich red-gold beer. You’ll find a winter citrus scent as well as some earthy notes, but it’s all hops from there. As expected from a Sierra Nevada IPA, this beer doesn’t mess around; this one is purely for the hop-lovers of your holiday party. Not to mention the label sticker is gorgeous.

4. Blue Moon’s Mountain Abbey Ale. For a change of pace, hand your guests a wheat-flavored beer—Blue Moon’s signature taste. Wheat beers tend to reveal infused flavors such as citrus and spices better than other kinds such as IPAs. Drinking the Mountain Abbey you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find rich caramel and toffee notes along with the usual roasted malts expected in a winter beer. What’s great about this one? It comes in a twelve pack.

3. Magic Hat’s Heart of Darkness. It can be challenging to find a good stout without having to pay a few dollars more for one brewed locally (which I suggest you do for your personal stash anyways). But Vermont’s Magic Hat has done the choosing for you with its slow roasted barley and chocolate flavor. However, don’t expect to find that smooth, milky taste similar to Guinness—which is the only let down of this otherwise delicious beer.

2. Smuttynose Winter Ale. Don’t be intimidated by the dark, reddish brown color of this ale; although it may be full bodied, the hops are somewhat muted by the slightly fruity flavor it leaves in the mouth. This New Hampshire based brewery knows full well how to make a complex beer to warm you up with just the right amount of hops. Recommended for those looking for more than just a Sam Adams but not an IPA.

1. Saranac’s Rudy’s Spiced Christmas Ale. This northern NY based brewery dishes out some of the finest beer for the price. This winter seasonal beer is so popular that it’s sold in it’s own pack of twelve, and for good reason. Each bottle is delicately balanced with malt, slightly sweet, and perfectly spiced flavors. This light caramel-colored beer will satisfy even the stingiest of guests.

Now that the hard part of trying to satisfy everyone of age at the party is over, the only thing left to worry about is, of course, the food. If you’re really getting into the holiday beer spirit, don’t be afraid to check out the websites where you will find suggested food pairings for each beer. Cheers!

Audrey Strasenburgh

Audrey Strasenburgh

Associate Editor at The Chiefly
Born and raised in Rochester, NY, a graduate of St. Lawrence University with a passion for the sport of rowing. A current rowing coach, avid hiker and skier with the lifetime goal of sampling every beer ever made.
Audrey Strasenburgh
Audrey Strasenburgh
Audrey Strasenburgh
Audrey Strasenburgh

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