This Fall, the hop vines in the Pacific Northwest gave birth to a delicious array of hops that inspired delicious citrusy, piney, resinous wet-hopped IPAs, from Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale to Lagunitas Wet Hop IPA and beyond.
Now, as Winter sets in, most hop-heads of the world are back to assaulting their palate with more delicious bitter and citrus suds, and ignoring the many possibilities of seasonal drinking.
There are several advantages to drinking seasonally:
(1) You are pleasing the beer gods.
(2) You are giving your palate a chance to recover from it’s normal diet of IPAs and Pale Ales, which means those beers are going to taste that much better the next time you consume them. You might even be able to recognize differences in malts and hops after your hop sabbatical. Cool!
(3) You’ll be warding off the cold with a more powerful beverage. Like a liquor blanket, but way better.
(4) Your beer-food pairings will be on-point. The Winter Season brings out the hearty stews and chilis and other soul foods designed to warm from the inside out, and winter seasonals naturally pair well with these dishes.
(5) You immediately gain experience points on your craft beer journey, which most definitely means you’ll level-up faster, and thus enjoy a higher standing amongst your peers in the craft beer community.
So again I say to you: it’s time to give your palette a break and turn thoughts towards darker, warming winter delights.
I speak of melted chocolate bars, coffee blended with hot chocolate and cinnamon sticks, irish cream and molasses and blueberry dark chocolate bars with caramel and salted toffee…
Yes, these are the flavors of the often ignored, often feared, often unknown dark beers of the colder months: Stouts and Porters and their Imperial brothers, and Winter Spice Ales. These are beers many people fear. And why shouldn’t they? A palette born in the summer does not love Winter fare unless necessity drives it there. For better or for worse, necessity will not drive you towards seasonal beverages, for there will still be plenty of IPAs and Pale Ales to choose from this Winter; mostly due to modern man’s supply chains and refrigeration. But I challenge you, here on this fine Fall day, to not eat, but DRINK Paleo. Drink seasonally, as our beer ancestors might have. Enjoy the offerings of the Fall and Winter season and dive headfirst and unfearfully into the dark delights of the colder season.
Hide your fears and tears, for your palette will adapt, and you will have just earned a stripe on your journey towards Craft Beer Enlightenment.
Here are a few to try this season:
Evil Twin Imperial Doughnut Break – A doughnut-inspired Imperial Porter measuring 11.5% ABV and built to infuse you with memories of fresh, krispy and delicious doughnuts and coffee-chocolate milk. Imagine a doughnut dipped in coffee.
Bell’s Expedition Stout – Heavy-hitting chocolate flavors from a Russian Imperial Stout that clocks in at 10.5% ABV. Blueberry and other dark fruits hanging out in a bath of dark and milk chocolate swirled with coffee. Get out there and find your flavor.
Founders Breakfast Stout – Enjoy this Imperial Stout (that is available year-round) outside on the porch on a cold Fall evening, while waiting for the crockpot to put the finishing touches on dinner. Imagine the delicious chocolate-coffee flavors and warming alcohol level keeping your toes toasty as you rock on the porch. Your belly will be well-primed for the crockpot chili that awaits inside. Breakfast stouts are not just for breakfast anymore.
Highland’s Cold Mountain Winter Ale – If you live in North Carolina, you’ve probably already tried this, so go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. If not, be on the look out for the unmistakable wintery-blue label that hides a range of flavors from cinnamon stick and brown sugar to roasty coffee malt.