Here are my “Top Taps” and recommendations for this colder time of the year…
First of all, my favorite bottled beers for the fall and winter that can be found in most grocery stores here in North Idaho are as follows.
For the lighter, more of a fall style favorite,
Moose Drool, from the Big Sky Brewery in Montana. It's chocolate brown in color with a creamy texture. A “malty” beer with just enough hop presence to keep it from being too sweet. The aroma mostly comes from the malt with a hint of spice added by the hops. Moose Drool is brewed with pale, caramel, chocolate, and whole black malts; and Kent Goldings, Liberty and Willamette hops.
Drop Top Amber, from the Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. in Oregon. A rich, flavorful Amber that's smooth and easy to drink. Drop Top is fermented by an American Ale yeast to produce beer with a clean flavor and fruity aroma. The velvet texture is from using Honey malt and a touch of milk sugar. The Alchemy bittering hops provide soft bitterness. Simcoe, a newly developed hop variety, adds unique hop flavor and aroma.
Extra: A new fall favorite from the New Belgium Brewing Company from Colorado (the makers of Fat Tire) is called Saison. This seasonal release pays tribute to Belgian farmhouse ales brewed to celebrate the fall harvest. Pale bronze in color, our Saison is slightly spicy and delicately hopped. A sweet, malty note glides along with herbal tones produced by an authentic Belgian yeast strain. The finish is surprisingly dry.
Okay, now for my darker, spicier winter picks,
Powder Hound, from the Big Sky Brewery in Montana.
This seasonal beer has a rich malt taste with fine, hand-selected British hops that fully complement the smooth malt notes. Big Sky Brewery calls this beer their "Northern Rockies Strong Ale” which is available November through March.
Alaskan Winter Ale, from the Alaskan Brewing Co. in (you guessed it) Alaska.
This beer’s style is an English Olde Ale. Traditionally malty with the warming sensation of alcohol, Olde Ales are brewed in the fall as winter warmers. This ale balances the sweet heady aroma of spruce tips with the clean crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol (again).
Note: From the seafaring adventurers of the 1700s to the homebrewers of today, adding spruce tips to beer has a rich history in Southeast Alaska.
Snowplow, from the Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. in Oregon. Milk Stout is Widmer Brothers Brewing Co.'s Winter Seasonal. Dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malt aromas, milk sugar and flavors characterize this Stout providing silky, smooth warmth for the winter season.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, from the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in California.
It pours an orange-copper with a slight head. Robust hops - pine and floral are balanced by a roasted malt aroma. There's a slight sweetnesss - caramel / cinnamon. The taste has citrus (lemon / orange) notes, but mostly - it's very balanced. Perhaps, because it was only bottled quite recently - it tastes extremely fresh. This is what fall tastes like. It's very crisp, thorough palate coverage, with bitter finish.
Winter Welcome Ale, from Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery in England. Throughout history, beer of somewhat higher alcohol and richness has been enjoyed for the winter holidays, when old friends get together to enjoy the season. Wassail, a festival to celebrate winter and the beer that goes with it, predates the Christian era. Winter Welcome is vintage-dated with a special label each year. Serve in a traditional tankard for the holidays. Honey-amber-colored, creamy head of small bubbles, floral aroma and delicious malt flavor with great finesse.
Okay, my favorite winter beer (best on tap) is,
Snow Cap, from the Pyramid Brewery in Washington.
A rich, full-bodied winter warmer crafted in the British tradition of holiday beers. This deep mahogany colored brew balances complex fruit flavors with a refreshingly smooth texture, making Snow Cap a highly drinkable and desirable cold weather companion. It has a warming 7.0% alcohol by volume. The Malts: 2-Row Barley, Caramel, Chocolate malt. The Hops: Willamette, East Kent Goldings. Availability: Mid October - January
Best Paired With: Shellfish, rich game and even rich chocolatey desserts
Extra: My favorite bottled winter beer (if I can ever find it again) is a beer from a place that you would least expect a seasonal from…it’s called Noche Buena. Over 70 years ago the brewmaster from Mexico's oldest and most famous brewery created a holiday gift for his co-workers, family and friends. He called the new brew Noche Buena, which means Christmas Eve in Spanish. In 1938 the brewery treated the public with this special beer and 55 years later, in 1993, finally let the U.S. in on the tradition. Noche Buena is a dark amber beer in the style of a German bock with caramel malts that yield a rich, full-bodied taste and aroma. The exceptional smoothness comes from completing the brewing process with bottom-fermenting yeast and lagering (cold-storing) the beer longer than most. Subtle toffee notes and roasted nuts can be tasted in this complex and balanced beer, making it an excellent pairing with your holiday dishes. For your special taste, look for the Dos Equis package with the poinsettia adorning the label. Noche Buena is brewed by Cervercería Cuahtémoc Moctezuma of Mexico and is available in the U.S. only once a year from November-December,