This time of year always brings the coldest weather, which means we get to enjoy those things that help combat the chill; Holidays full of great food and desserts, campfires, and relaxing evenings trying to stay warm.
The “winter season” of beer is no different. This is the time of year where stouts, porters, imperial ales, bourbon-barrel-aged, and festive beers that carry notes of pumpkin spice, clove, molasses, pine. The beers of winter are full of chocolate, coffee, caramel, nuttiness, maltiness, and richness that you expect from a great dessert, warm espresso or cappuccino, or a fireside s’more.
And while those are all flavors we see and love in many different forms this time of year, many folks that I have talked to about beer can sometimes be turned off by these beers. Whether it is the thicker mouthfeel, the higher ABV (which can lead to a booziness many people find unappealing), or even just the sheer unfamiliarity that is intimidating, some beer drinkers just are not drawn to the darker beers.
The fact is that the darker beer styles are far less mainstream, constituting roughly ⅓ of National beer sales on average. Not that there’s anything wrong with a solid IPA, Amber, Kolsch, or Lager, but with so many great beers out there and Huntsville breweries pumping out many of them, there is no reason to take advantage of the AMAZING dark beers out in the Rocket City.
Here’s a few tips:
- When getting a flight have your server put them in an order that will allow a natural flavor progression, finishing with the stronger of the samples.
- Make sure they are served in snifter glasses. These funnel in at the top and concentrate the nose of the flavor to make the experience even more amazing.
- Let your beer get to room temp. I know, warm beer in the US sounds like a sin, like using anything other than Duke’s mayo in the South, but it helps wake up so many flavors.
These are just a few recommendations, and I always advise folks to stop by any brewery or tap room (like Das Stahl, Corner Pour, Old Town Beer Exchange) and get recommendations of what is on tap, maybe even trying a flight.
Stout at the Devil (Straight to Ale Brewery) 7.8% ABV:
An oatmeal stout brewed with sea salt and caramel coffee, it is one of their staple beers available year round. Straight forward dark coffee with a caramel sweetness.
Baltic Porter (Fractal Brewing Project) 9.3% ABV:
A little heavier and boozier, the dark chocolate and nuttiness of this beer isn’t overpowered by the higher ABV. A really great creaminess to the mouthfeel as well.
Cosmic Cookie (Rocket Republic Brewing) 5.8% ABV:
An Oatmeal Brown Ale built off of natural cinnamon, real oats, and lots of warm, winter aromas. Essentially liquified oatmeal raisin cookies.
Midnight Special (Yellowhammer Brewing) 5.8% ABV:
Available year-round, German-style schwarzbier (litterally “black beer”), this dark lager uses imported German Munich malts and other darker grains to round out a coffee and nuttiness that drinks more like a light porter than a lager.
Imperial Breakfast Stout (Chandler’s Ford Brewing) 10.5% ABV:
Imperial stout collab with repurposed organic granola from food truck favorite Hippea Camper. Rounded out with tons of malted oats, silky and chocolatey with notes of raisins and figs.
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As a Charleston, SC native who grew up in a commercial fishing family, simple Southern life, weekends and summers in the saltwater, and immersion in great food and surroundings was always in Ben‘s blood. Then, after high school, he enlisted in the US Air Force and began to see all that the world had to offer, while staying grounded to his roots of good food and good times shared with friends and family. Ben has spent years throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and all over the US, enjoying great experiences all the way and honing his taste for great experiences, food, beer, bourbon, and cigars.
Now, after 21 years in the Air Force and the beginning of a second career in Huntsville with his wife and kids, he is searching out the best the Tennessee valley has to offer with its burgeoning craft beer and alcohol scene. He is also big into running, kayaking, hiking, and giving back to the community with veteran groups like Team Red, White, and Blue. Bringing in the education of his travel, southern roots, and love for exploring, Ben is here to share his discoveries of the area and his knowledge of his passions.