Beer is associated more with cooling off than warming up, thanks to the marketing of mass-market lagers. Images of beaches and bikinis and slogans like, “Drink ice cold,” emphasize beer’s role as frosty refreshment. Calling for a “cold one” leaves few Americans in doubt as to what beverage is desired. But, what to do when the weather turns frosty, when we’re already cold enough? Warm up with a “strong one” of course…a hearty winter brew.
Alcoholic beverages give an instant warming sensation, like the feeling of sunshine on your skin, but spreading from the inside. Brewing has historically been a specialty of regions where winters are harsh and grains are grown, like Germany and the British Isles, not of the tropics. For centuries, brewers have made seasonal beers for winter that are fuller in body and maltier than standard styles. Some are festively spiced, others are simply turbocharged versions of year-round recipes. But, all feature that extra richness of texture that comes with heaping helpings of barley malt. Malty winter warmers have less water in the mix, delivering more nutrition and higher alcohol than typical summer quenchers. To best banish winter’s chill, serve these beers no colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is also ideal for showcasing their delicious flavors. Serving “ice cold” suppresses flavor; a good strategy only if you’re not keen to really “taste” your beer.