Looking for a craft beer up to the task of keeping you warm and cozy this winter? A panel of five very cold, thirsty New Yorkers was recruited to put five such craft beer selections to the test.
Winter is proof that all humans experience, to some extent, mild amnesia. It happens every year: The spring thaws all that winter left behind, summer arrives with its scalding temperatures and sunny days, followed by the crisp perfection of autumn’s leaves falling. It’s so easily forgotten: The year consists of four seasons. Winter arrives with the unanimous question: “Was it this cold last year?”
The frigid climate turns many into the little boy in Shakespeare’s "Henry V", crying, “I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety.” Good news: Ale is rather easy to come by these days. One of beer’s greatest attributes is its versatility and seasonality. Come June, the cravings for a crisp IPA will rise again, but for now, there’s clamor for heartier brews and these craft beer picks are sure to do the trick.
1. Great Divide Hibernation Ale
Even after 20 years of significant growth, this Denver brewery is still boasting a laundry list of socially responsible actions, from crafting bottles with recycled glass, to re-investing 100 percent of revenue from beer samples into area not-for-profit organizations.
The panel unanimously voted the Hiberation Ale seasonally spicy and hearty enough to be classified as an official winter beer, carrying a flavor that stirs memories of Christmas for Vince, a chief product officer.Adds Jan, owner of a marketing agency, “You could even dip a cookie in it.”
2. Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout
Based in Vermont, Wolaver’s is renowned among eco-beer enthusiasts for its organic libations and sustainable operations. The Oatmeal Stout, described as “surprisingly refreshing” for a winter beer by Jan, is made with real, organic oats, which are possibly among the brewery’s many locally-sourced ingredients.
3. Bear Republic Brewing Company Big Bear Black Stout
Healdsburg, California is widely recognized as a staple of wine country. In 1995, Bear Republic stormed in to add craft beer to Sonoma County’s identity and has since become a two-time Good Food Award.
The Big Bear Black Stout certainly lives up to its name, with its distinctive weight and smoky aftertaste, certain to warm up a chilly evening. Take heed before buying an entire six-pack, warns Charlie, an entrepreneur, noting that it might be difficult to “drink more than two of these.”
4. Anderson Valley Brewing Company Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale
“This reminds me of root beer,” Hill, a software engineer, gleefully states upon tasting. Striking a balance of sweet and comforting, the Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale is often found on dinner tables during Thanksgiving and December holidays.
Anderson Valley Brewing Company, too, is rather sweet to the environment, with its proclaimed “Ecological Commitment” to such sustainable practices as chemical-free pest management, thanks to the brewery’s resident insect- and rodent-chasing cat, Crystal.
5. Brooklyn Brewery Chocolate Stout
When Jay-Z raps about Brooklyn’s Finest, we suspect he may be alluding to the borough’s namesake brewery, which runs entirely on energy produced by wind, according to a 2012 interview in Triple Pundit. Its Black Chocolate Stout is by far “the thickest beer on the list, “ according to Vince, suggesting that it’s best enjoyed with food.
“This is an eating beer,” adds Ana. “Sip, cut your steak, and sip again.”
Bundle up, fire up (the grill), and drink up: 70 days remain until the first day of Spring.
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Image: Don LaVange