Unlike in summer, where other beverages like wine and cider can shine, the full flavors of beer and the long, cold nights of winter just fit together.
But winter beer is not a monolith. There is no one style that encompasses the range of brews available this time of year, though dark, oaky, chocolatey, and boozy are major themes. We asked several local beer experts to help us sort through the cozy choices from New England and beyond.
Responses have been lightly edited for length.
Here: Crunch, Shovel Town Brewing. “Shovel Town, in Easton, really knows how to brew, and this particular beer has the perfect balance of peanut butter and coffee.” — Mike Gendron, beer manager, Bauer Wine & Spirits
There: Christmas Morning, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. “This is a new beer for us this year, and in years’ past locals have traded for it. It’s a coffee and gingerbread stout that clocks in at 9.2 percent and just gives off all the smells and tastes of Christmas in an adult form. Leave the eggnog for the kids and have one of these Christmas morning.” — Phil DiCarlo, co-owner, Fenway Beer Shop
Here: Spencer Trappist Brewery Monks’ Reserve. “This Belgian dark strong beer is very similar to many of the annual holiday beers imported from Belgium, like St. Bernardus Christmas, Delirium Noel, or Corsendonk Christmas. Monks’ Reserve is a deep, ruby Belgian sipper, with big dark fruit notes of plum, fig, and cherry. A charismatic aroma of pear and banana, as well as a touch of roast, all dance from the glass with each sip.” — Kate Baker, owner, Craft Beer Cellar Belmont
There: Death By Coconut, Oskar Blues. “A fantastic seasonal beer from the Colorado brewery that you need to try this winter. It’s an Irish-style porter that gets brewed with coconut and chocolate. It has intense flavor, but it’s super balanced at the same time. There really isn’t a beer out there quite like this one — it’s truly one of a kind.” — Mike Gendron, beer manager, Bauer Wine & Spirits
Here: Oatmeal Stout, Mayflower Brewing Co. “So the term ‘winter beer’ means different things to everyone; for some it’s a winter warmer, to others it’s only a dark beer. To me it’s a beer that marks the beginning of the season every year, and for me that is Mayflower Oatmeal Stout. The smooth mouthfeel, the bitter roastiness, and slightly smoked character embodies winter. It doesn’t get released in September, October, or even November. So when it’s here, you know it’s winter!” — Kay L. Young, owner, Kay’s Cans & Bottles
“Here are a couple of beers we love at the shop: von Trapp Brewing Trosten, Wachusett Winter Ale, Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers Red Tape, Downeast Cider Winter Blend. All of these beers drink great with the cold weather and hit just the right flavor profile of the holidays. Some are bestsellers and the others are personal favorites.” — Jason Hollander, beer manager, Julio’s Liquors
There: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. “I very much look forward to this beer every holiday season. It’s so perfect in every way and matches my palate’s love of piney, resiny beer. Slightly darker malts offer a cold-weather feel, but this beer is all hops, with a noticeable amount of bitterness.” — Kate Baker, owner, Craft Beer Cellar Belmont
Here: Lamplighter Brewing Co. Blitzen. “It’s a Belgian dark strong ale with nutmeg and cinnamon. It’s great beer for a cold winter night and the 9 percent keeps you warm.” — Phil DiCarlo, co-owner, Fenway Beer Shop
Here: Sweet Treat, Untold Brewing. “Brewed with Taza Chocolate and Marshmallow Fluff (from Somerville), vanilla beans and lactose sugar, this beer reminds us of holiday milk and cookies.” — Suzanne Schalow, co-founder, Craft Beer Cellar
There: St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. “In our Advent calendars, there are only three beers we repeat every year and one of them is St. B. It is without question one of the best beers in the world. A Belgian quad is a great way to get ready for the cold dark winter; stone fruit, some spicing, and maybe even slight hints of chocolate. I say drink it room temperature and let it ride (or drink it outside while shoveling, no judgment here …).” — Kay L. Young, owner, Kay’s Cans & Bottles
“Cambridge Spirits would recommend Lamplighter Brewing Co. Bourbon Wolves, Great Divide Brewing Co. Peanut Butter Yeti, and Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery’s The Chocolate Manifesto. They are big, bold, and flavorful beers that warm you from the inside out. ” — Liz Stubbs, beer buyer, Cambridge Spirits
Here: The Future Is Unwritten, Small Change Brewing Co. “Locals Emily (Vides) and Mike (Patterson) put themselves out there, brewing a classic style English dark mild (3.1 percent ABV) in a world of heavy haze and IPAs. But it worked and this beer reigns supreme in our book. All the dark, toasty, and slight roast of a stout, but light, clean and crisp on the finish. This beer is nutty enough to be wonderful any time of year, including winter holiday evenings.” — Suzanne Schalow, co-founder, Craft Beer Cellar
Here: Conversation Piece, Springdale Beer Co. “A warming holiday beer, as the label suggests, this Belgian blond ale boasts inviting fruit and spice notes of clove, allspice, banana bread, and caramelized pears, all the things we love about cold holiday nights by the fire.” — Suzanne Schalow, co-founder, Craft Beer Cellar
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