With the holiday season in full swing, it is essential we—stop and remember—that this is supposed to be fun people! Take time out of your busy, hectic and all-consuming schedule of work, shopping, wrapping gifts, cooking, baking, kids, etc. and recall the whole point of this time of year.
Play your favorite holiday music — warm, soothing Norah Jones or classic Frank Sinatra’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Light a sugar cookie-scented candle, dim the lights and pour yourself a glass of Winter Ale.
This malty, dark and medium-bodied style is perfect for the holiday season. It is delicious and warming during the cool winter months that are infamous for making you cold to the core. Relish in delight as you sip on a velvety Winter Ale with caramel and toffee notes, hints of chocolate and spices and a smooth, yet complex, finish.
These ales go by various names: Old ale, English Strong Ale, Winter Warmer, Christmas Ale, Winter Ale, etc. They have been brewed for centuries but have been adapted and modified to fit their brewer’s tastes.
Traditionally, Winter Ales were brewed in the fall to be consumed for the frigid winter months. Their big malt characteristic and semi-sweet, high alcohol taste makes them perfect for consumption when the cold, crisp air is chilling your bones. They are perfect for cozying up to a crackling fire and basking in the glow of your holiday lights.
Depending on the brewery, these ales contain multiple combinations of adjuncts including (but not limited to): fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, orange peel, herbs, chocolate, honey and candied sugar. They are usually high in alcohol, ranging anywhere from 5% to 10% ABV, and sometimes even higher.
The first Christmas Ale I tried was from Anchor Brewing. This delicious Winter Warmer is brewed every year with a different recipe and its ingredients are top secret! Although the brewers refuse to give away their secret to making each year’s version so flavorful and complex—one thing is for sure—these dark, malty brews are perfect for the holiday season.
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