If you love all things dark and toasty-malty, you have finally arrived at what is truly the most wonderful time of the year. There’s no shortage of dark ales, imperial stouts, and porters available, and just tasting all the options for this roundup put me in a world of delicious hurt.
1. Berry Noir
You can’t just drink stouts all winter. Well, you can, but they’re called stouts for a reason. When you need something a little lighter—just 4.2 percent ABV—this is your beer. The sour ale is complemented by tart blackberries and blueberries. The finished product is the color of liquid garnets and makes you feel fancy as you drink it.
This black ale manages to be dark but not bitter, thanks to a German technique called mash capping. Essentially, the brewers spread a layer of roasted crushed grain over the mash. You get all that roasty, toasty flavor but in a super-drinkable final product.
3. Fire And Eisbock
With this beer, Mammoth Brewing Company wanted to pay homage to its home turf—the Sierra Nevada—which experiences fire in the summer and ice all winter long. The brewing process starts with an extended boil to help concentrate flavors. Then the brewers freeze the beer, à la a traditional eisbock.
4. Festive Ale
Spiked with just enough spice to feel festive, this toasty brown ale doesn’t feel like licking one of those super-stinky holiday candles. I love the Munich, chocolate, and black malts mixed with just the warmest hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s subtle and perfect for pairing with your Christmas roast beast.
5. Rise And Pine
IPA lovers, here’s your new favorite winter seasonal. No, it’s not an IPA, but it has all those great piney notes, thanks to handfuls of Chinook and Simcoe hops and the addition of juniper. The dark ale (7.5 percent ABV) is made from Carafa, chocolate, Munich, and Caramunich malts, which provide a perfect, rich base that lets the hops and juniper really shine.
6. Magic Formula For Peace
If you’re a purist, this will likely be too espresso heavy for your tastes—you get a strong hit of java right up front. But for those of us who believe coffee is sweet nectar from the gods, it’s great. The orange is subtler. Sip carefully and you’ll get it.