As the season changes and the temperature drops, cravings for lighter beers shift to a hankering for big, hearty and often times dark ales. Robust Stouts, Porters, Barleywines and big Belgian style ales are the call of the season, and luckily for those in and around Sacramento, there's a host of craft brewers serving up an array of beers suited to the colder months of the year.
Following is a list of craft beers from local breweries specifically designed for, or well suited to Winter:
AMERICAN RIVER BREWING CO. (Sacramento, Calif.) - Deep Six Stout
Robust, roasty Irish Stout. Brewed with six different malts including rye and chocolate rye. Heavy chocolate and roasted coffee flavors.
What makes a good winter beer? A beer that will invoke warmth and cheer during cold winter days/evenings. A beer that invites friends to talk and laugh and to remember great times.
Appearance: Deep Black Rich color with a creamy white head. Lacing down the side of the glass.
Aroma & Flavor profile: Rich espresso coffee and deep bakers chocolate (and coco). Flavor and Aroma are linked - flavor is roasty like coffee beans dipped in dark chocolate.
How much was brewed and how long will it last: 30 barrels (bbls) or 930 gallons. Bottled and kegged (in 15.5 gal and 5.1 gal). Winter seasonal and will last until gone or by end of February.
When is it available: Dec. - Feb. or until sold out
ABV - 4.5%
IBU - 35
Information courtesy: Dave Mathis, Owner, American River Brewing Co.
AUBURN ALE HOUSE (Auburn, Calif.) - Old Prospector Barleywine
Rich and vibrant this Brewer's Private Reserve has been coolaged in Zinfandel barrels acquired from our favorite local Placer County Wineries..
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? This barrel-aged Barleywine is a perfect warmer for these cold winter evenings and is enhanced by fireplaces, loved ones and cigars!
Appearance: Pours a dark mahogany w/ a fluffy white head.
Aroma & Flavor Profile: With over 6 months of aging this "wine-strength" ale has been greatly enhanced by its long slumbering contact with the Zinfandel soaked barrels. A bouquet of soft oak, plumb and raisin give way to a peppery Zin profile which balances nicely with complex malt and a gentle hop presence.
How much was brewed and how long is it available: A very limited supply of 90 cases were produced this year.
When is it available: Now
Information courtesy: Auburn Alehouse website
BIKE DOG BREWING CO. (West Sacramento, Calif.) - Milk Stout
A rich, rounded dark stout full of roasted barley with hints of cocoa and coffee.
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? While a stout can certainly be enjoyed all year round there is something about a cold rainy day that just makes a stout taste all that much better and our Milk Stout is no exception. This is the beer that Santa wants with his cookies.
Appearance: Opaque black in color with a tight tan head.
Aroma & Flavor Profile? Hint of sweetness on the back end with loads of cocoa and hints of coffee.
Special/Unique Ingredients: The thing that makes a milk stout a milk stout is the addition of milk sugar (lactose) in the boil. The milk sugar is unfermentable by brewer's yeast so it balances out the roasted grains with the slightest hint of sweetness.
How much was brewed and how long is it available: 3 batches (9bbls/18kegs) produced, it will be available through February.
When is it available: Now
Information courtesy: A.J. Tendick, Brewer/Partner, Bike Dog Brewing Co.
DEVICE BREWING CO. (Sacramento, Calif.) - Device Russian Imperial Stout
A full-bodied, lightly bittered, smooth Imperial Stout
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? Dark color, malty character, chocolate and coffee notes make this an excellent cold weather beer.
Appearance: Pours near black with a tan head
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Coffee and treacle aroma. Full bodied. Flavors of dark roasted malts, and subtle notes of plum. Light bitterness and smooth finishing.
How much was brewed and how long is it available: Year round
When is it available: Year round
Information courtesy: Ken Anthony, Owner/Brewmaster, Device Brewing Co.
FIFTY FIFTY BREWING (Truckee, Calif.) - Eclipse Imperial Stout
Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon barrels for 180 days. The Eclipse project is an ongoing effort to present what barrel aging does the base beer of Totality Imperial Stout. Totality Imperial Stout is a big, bold Imperial Stout with layered complexity. It is brewed with 18 malts, honey, palm sugar and flaked oats. The hops used are of German origin and deliver balance to the malt's sweetness. The German hop signature allows the beer to become a 'canvas' for the barrel aging; assertive but the flavor melds into the overall flavor profile.
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? The Stout is brewed early in the year and, ongoing, barrels are filled and aged knowing that the beer develops in the barrel and has matured during it's slumber. Eclipse is released in December with the anticipation of the upcoming holidays. To be enjoyed with friends and family, in front of the fireplace, on the slopes or anywhere you care to relax and enjoy 'our work'. Eclipse invokes thought, contemplation, and reflection on the past year.
Appearance: Eclipse pours opaque black with mahogany highlights around the edge of the glass when held up to the light. A tan head of foam when poured with vigor. Complex lacing on your glass with each sip.
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Dark dried fruit, dark chocolate, and espresso against a backdrop of oak charred barrel and the underlying spirit (bourbon, whiskey, rum; depending on barrel) character. As the beer warms, flavors ebb and flow. Overall the layers of complexity become more apparent. Spirit character is there via the beer moving into and out of the barrel staves during it's aging process. The secret ingredient in barrel-aging is time!
Special/Unique Ingredients: All barrels are sampled prior to blending for quality control checks and to be sure the flavor is what the Brewers have intended. Barrels that show superior flavor can be isolated for special bottlings or to pour on draft. Barrels not making criteria for the brewers is isolated and generally kegged for special events etc.
How much was brewed and how long is it available? Around 300bbls (1 beer barrel = 31 gallons) brewed and placed into barrels over a six month period. Of that 11 different barrel treatments were created. Bottles are wax dipped to indicate barrel treatment. Many are distributed in CA with Sacramento area getting some. Eclipse is sold in 16 states and Canada, Japan, with more countries in prospects. Eclipse is released in December. This year's release took place on December 5th. Many venues are already sold out. The beer is usually gone 30-45 days from receipt in most places. Although in some retail spots it moves slower.
When is it available? Eclipse is always released the first Thursday in December.
IBUs: 75 in base beer. At 180 days the IBUs have dropped a little...
Information courtesy: Tiffany Michalka, Fifty Fifty Brewing
HOPPY BREWING COMPANY (Sacramento, Calif.) - Hoppy Claus™ Holiday Ale
A Spiced Winter Ale (legally a malt beverage with spices)
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? The mix of spices, higher alcohol content, goes well with holiday fare
Appearance: A rich dark Amber
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Spices dominate, Grandma's Gingerbread aroma
Special/Unique Ingredients: This beer is based on our Hoppy Face™ Amber Ale, but we add a special ingredient at the end of the boil-- Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice Tea
How much was brewed and how long is it available: 1200-1500 gallons, when it is is gone, it is gone--- This year we will be out before New Years, but closer to Christmas. (reminder: we are open 365 days, so it is available on Christmas Day if we still have some).
When is it available: The first keg is tapped at 12:01 AM November 1st every year. Typically, we have a group of die-hard Hoppy Claus™ fans that are waiting for the first pint at midnight 10/31.
Information courtesy: Scott Patterson, Hoppy Brewing Company
KNEE DEEP BREWING CO. (Auburn & Lincoln, Calif.) Imperial Tanilla
A Tahitian vanilla bean imperial porter
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? There are many answers as to why certain beers could be considered "winter beers." Our Imperial Tanilla, is full bodied, rich, dark, with lots of sweet aroma and flavor (mostly vanilla with a hint of chocolate, and coffee). Which makes it a perfect beer to enjoy on a cold night while sitting around the fire. It also pairs perfect with any chocolate / vanilla and or sweet desserts.
Appearance: Pours a beautiful deep coffee black with a thick tan head
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Natural vanilla, chocolate, sweet, roasted malts, coffee.
Special/Unique Ingredients: Actual Tahitian vanilla beans
How much was brewed and how long is it available: This beer has been brewed many times in the past, but will actually be brewed next week for the first time in 2013. Since we just opened our new brewery we will start brewing seasonal beers in 2014. At the moment this would be considered our "winter seasonal." Keep a look out for different styles of imperial vanilla that will be barrel aged in many different ways.
When is it available? End of December 2013
LOOMIS BASIN (Loomis, Calif.) - Still Jacked Whiskey Barrel Aged Porter
A porter aged in Jack Daniels whiskey barrels.
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? Dark, roasted ales, especially one like this that's aged in whiskey barrels are well-suited for this time of year.
Appearance: Pours dark with a full, creamy head and beautiful lacing down the glass.
Aroma & Flavor Profile: A nose of rich chocolate with a hint of oak. The initial taste of vanilla is followed by rich chocolate with a warm finish in the spirit of old Tennessee-style whiskey.
Special/Unique Ingredients: Jack Daniel's whiskey barrels.
How much was brewed and how long is it available: We brewed 8 whiskey barrels, approximately 120 CASES OF 22 oz. beers. Half the in inventory has already gone, so get it while you can!
When is it available: Released on Dec. 17.
Information courtesy: Kenny Gowan, Loomis Basin Brewer
MRAZ BREWING CO. (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) - Belgian Winter White
A Belgian White brewed with a few added darker specialty grains and spices
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? It has a some spices add to it and the specialty grains add a nice flavor for the rich food that most eat in this time of year.
Appearance: Amber in color, high carbonation, lots of foam from the high amount of wheat in this beer
Aroma & Flavor Profile: You smell the Orange, coriander and figs from the spices and malt. Nice flavorful, lower ABV beer.
Special/Unique Ingredients: Wheat, Belgian yeast, spices
How much was brewed and how long is it available: 5 barrels (roughly 155 gallons) brewed. Gone when it's gone.
When is it available: Week of Christmas
MRAZ BREWING CO. - Winter IPA
Our winter IPA using all new varieties of hops
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? Most people would think of make a black IPA for the winter. We went the other way with this IPA. It is very pale in color and fruity from the hop varieties.
Appearance: Pours a pale yellow with a small head. A little cloudy from the hop haze.
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Big smells of tropical fruits, apricots, peaches. A hop bitterness is present without taking away from the fruitiness of the beer
Special/Unique Ingredients: Just the hops...
How much was brewed and how long is it available? 8 barrels brewed. We'll have it until that runs out.
When is it available: First part of January
Information courtesy: Mike Mraz, Owner/Brewmaster Mraz Brewing Co.
NEW HELVETIA (Sacramento, Calif.) - Mystery Airship Imperial Stout
An Imperial Stout aged 6+ months in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels.
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? A: The bold dark flavors fit in with the colder winter weather and it has plenty of warming alcohol.
Appearance: A deep black beer with a dark, espresso mocha colored head. Light lacing but dramatic "legs" in glass due to high alcohol level.
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Aroma) Deep barrel aged aroma, alcohol, toffee, caramel, Tootsie-roll, brown sugar, chocolate-mocha-fudge, black-strap molasses, bourbon barrel. (Flavor)
A saturating mouthfeel and flavor of bitter-sweet dark chocolate, toffee, fire-blackened oak, alcohol and sweet but tart molasses.
Special/Unique Ingredients: California pale barley-malt, U.K. dark barley-malt, Sacramentitude
How much was brewed and how long is it available: 106 gallons into bourbon barrels, 99 gallons net
When is it available: Through December and New Years Day, then again during Sacramento Beer Week (end of Feb.).
IBUs: Originally brewed to 45 I.B.U.'s
NEW HELVETIA BREWING CO. - Homeland Stout
A delicious Black Ale ("Foreign Style" Stout)
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer The bold dark flavors fit in with the colder winter weather.
Appearance: Very black beer with dark mocha colored head/foam and excellent attractive lacing
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Aromas of dark chocolate, roast barley & coffee, with flavors of Belgian Dark (bitter) chocolate and espresso mocha.
Special/Unique Ingredients: California pale barley-malt, U.K. dark barley-malt
How much was brewed and how long is it available: We're brewing 200 more gallons Friday 12/20
When is it available? Available year-round
Information courtesy: Brian Cofresi, Brewmaster, New Helvetia Brewing Co.
OUT OF BOUNDS BREWING CO. (Rocklin, Calif.) - "Winter-Bound" Bourbon Oak Aged Strong Ale
This true Bourbon Oaked Strong Ale is unfiltered and made with an all English malt base and conditioned with bourbon and oak. The sweet malt forwardness in uniquely balanced with an oak backbone.
What makes it a good winter beer? At 9.1% alcohol and lingering hints of bourbon, this strong ale is perfect for those cold winter nights and savoring over a toasty fire.
Appearance: This Strong Ale has a deep amber color and a thick frothy head
Aroma and Flavor Profile: This Strong Ale has sweet oak and vanilla notes on the nose with a slight hint of bourbon.
How much was brewed: 14 barrels
How long is it available: This unique seasonal brew will be on tap at our brewery tasting room for approximately six weeks or until the 28 kegs are finished.
RUHSTALLER (Sacramento, Calif.) - DiGregorio Barleywine
An English-style California Barleywine brewed in collaboration with local artist Jose DiGregorio who created the unique artwork featured on the bottle.
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Notes of toffee, caramel, raisins, and brown sugar.
How much was brewed and how long is it available: 230 cases - whiles supplies last
When is it available: November 15
RUHSTALLER - The Sauce
A coffee-infused Porter collaboration with Old Soul Coffee in Sacramento.
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? Roasted coffee notes blend perfectly with this cooler time of year.
Appearance: Pours a dark-medium brown, off-white head
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Roasted coffee flavor up front that finishes with a balancing light bitterness.
Special/Unique Ingredients: Collaboration with local coffee roaster Old Soul using rare coffee beans that are allocated to a mere 20 roasters worldwide
How much was brewed and how long is it available: 210 cases - while supplies last
When is it available? Nov-7
Information courtesy: Mellissa Cleveland-Paino, Ruhstaller Beer
TRACK 7 (Sacramento, Calif.) - 2nd Anniversary Ale
An Imperial Belgian-style Stout brewed with Cacao Nibs. This beer is a cross between a stout and a Belgian Quad. It retains the subtle spice phenolic of the Belgian yeast and includes the deep plum and fig notes that are often a component of Belgian Quads. The roast flavors are more subdued than a typical stout but the addition of the cacao nibs during the boil gives it a very big dark chocolate overlay.
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? The 9.4% ABV provides a subtle warming feeling. Not too over the top, but the alcohol is much more present than in our double IPA of a similar ABV.
Appearance: Pours ink black, with a deep brown head that draws down fairly quickly as the beer style is not intended to be substantially carbonated.
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Aroma is of chocolate and plum/fig
Special/Unique Ingredients: Cacao nibs and dark Belgian candi sugar are large components of this ale.
How much was brewed and how long is it available: 30 barrels total of this were brewed. 12 barrels went into bottle for sale beginning 1/2/14 and will be gone when gone. 12 barrels went into bourbon barrels for aging. The other 6 barrels are going to be available for draft consumption at our 2nd Anniversary party and the tap room on 12/31/13. Very few limited kegs will be released to outside wholesale accounts.
When is it available: 12/31/13
TRACK 7 - Trein Wrak Belgian-style IPA
This brew pairs Belgian malts and yeast with American hops. Belgian yeast phenolics and fruity esters add depth and complexity to what is becoming a favorite American beers style.
What Makes it a Good Winter Beer? Not a winter beer per se but we have released it in Dec. during each of the last three years. It is available during the winter months.
Appearance: Light golden color. A little more carbonated than our typical offerings.
Aroma & Flavor Profile: Stone fruit and slight spice.
How much was brewed and how long is it available: We will have limited draft availability at the tap room and wholesale accounts until late March.
When is it available: Draft 12/31/13 (2nd Anniversary) and bottles 1/2/14. We have only committed to the one bottle run although we may do a second.
Information courtesy: Ryan Graham, Brewmaster, Track 7 Brewing Co.