Beer can get a little overlooked this time of year. By January, the novelty of Christmas beers has worn off a bit. Casual beer drinkers may not necessarily think of cracking open a cold one when the windchill is below zero, and many people might opt for a hot cocktail like a hot toddy, an Irish coffee or a spiked hot chocolate to warm them up instead. A whiskey neat works pretty well, too. And with most bars across the country still limited to outdoor service with patrons shivering next to heat lamps due to the pandemic, who can blame them? But true aficionados know that it’s never too cold for a beer — especially if you choose the right one.
Of course, what that is exactly depends on your preferred style of beer. For some, it’s something extra boozy to provide a nice warming sensation. For others, it may be something dark and full-bodied that’ll stick to your bones. Whatever it is, we’ve got you covered with some recommendations from the pros.
We asked a handful of professional brewers to tell us which beers they reach for on the coldest day of the year. Some offered up a single cold-weather go-to, while others gave us a few recommendations to choose from. So grab an extra blanket and find out which beers you need to stock up on to survive the harshest part of winter below.
Victor Novak, Brewmaster at Golden Road Brewing
De Dolle Brouwers Stille Nacht
Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale
When I think of cold weather beers, I immediately transport myself back to chilly, sometimes snowy days and nights when I lived in Philly. Yes, we get down to the 40s here in SoCal, but that’s tank-top weather back East. One of my favorite winter warmers is Stille Nacht (Silent Night) by De Dolle Brouwers from Belgium. I need a sipping beer that warms the body and soul like a great Carbonnade de Boeuf or Pozole. It comes in at a hefty 12%, has a rich malt sweetness, hints of tropical fruit, spice and funk from their incredible yeast, and a warming but not “hot” finish. Helluva beer to hang out by a fire with!
Jason Santamaria, Co-Founder at Second Self Beer Co.
Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
Style: Oatmeal stout
My favorite winter beer is actually what got me into beer in the first place: Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. It is everything I want in a winter beer: dark, rich and flavorful. It is full-bodied, but not too sweet. It stands up to robust winter foods and is perfect for enjoying outside by a fire pit on a cold night.
Eric Warner, Head Brewmaster at Karbach Brewing Co.
Golden Road Get Up Offa That Brown
Style: Brown ale
Get Up Offa That Brown from Golden Road is one of the best brown ales in America if you’re looking for something with a little less octane. The beguiling nutty, caramel and chocolate flavors are well-balanced, as is the finish — not too sweet, not too dry. At only 5.5% ABV, you can easily have a couple of these if the first one doesn’t warm you up!
Bierstadt Lagerhaus Dunkel
Style: Dunkel lager
Known more for their Slow Pour Pils, Bierstadt Lagerhaus in Denver also makes a dynamite Bavarian-style Dunkel (also known as a dark lager). Brewed on a system imported from Germany and using German-produced malts, it’s no wonder this reminds you of being in a beer hall in Munich. The beauty of the Bierstadt Dunkel is the sweet malt aromas and flavors of bread, toffee and chocolate without the beer actually drinking overly sweet.
Danny Connors, Innovation Brewer at Rogue Ales
Montavilla Brew Works Palo Santo Wood Aged Porter
Palo Santo Wood Aged Porter from Montavilla Brew Works here in Portland, Oregon, is one of my favorite cold-weather beers. Palo Santo is a crazy wood that gives off some peppermint and coconut notes. It tastes sort of like a little Baileys in your coffee, and I’m a huge fan.
Stephen Hale, Founding Brewer at Schlafly Beer
During the long, dark season of cold weather and gloomy days, winter is the time to take stock of our favorite beers that are more akin to the “snowblower” style than “lawnmower” — beers that complement the chilly, challenging conditions brought on by inclement weather, polar vortices, sleet and, let’s hope not, a real blizzard. I’m going old-school with traditional German Doppelbock — a lager that’s all about strong, rich, malty characters. Salvator is the progenitor, but it keeps exceptional company with Celebrator. Numerous smaller breweries make fabulous examples, but the key is to get the best one you can find and enjoy its complexities slowly, savoring the nuances that expose themselves as the beer warms slightly. It’s an extraordinary style with remarkable complexities to savor amidst a winter chill.
Kevin McGee, CEO of Anderson Valley Brewing Company
North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin Imperial Stout
Style: Imperial Stout
Cold weather has always strongly pulled me towards big, complex dark beers, and North Coast Brewing’s legendary Old Rasputin has been a go-to for as long as I can remember. An Old Rasputin in front of a fireplace right after getting off the mountain is my ski or snowboarding recovery protocol, and it places my soul right where it needs to be. Packing for Tahoe always includes a 4-pack. Old Rasputin is a legend for a reason — it’s an extremely well-made, big, complex beer that encourages you to settle in and contemplate your beer and your day in best ways.
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