The Best Beers for the Season Part I
Welcome to the best beer drinking season of the year. Oh sure I enjoy cracking a few at the beach or poolside. There’s nothing like some suds, sand, and sun on a warm summer day. I also like sitting on the hood of an F150 on a starry summer night kicking back with some domestic lagers and relaxing with good friends.
While those are certainly two drinking highlights of my warmer months, they don't really compare to cold weather sessioning. First off winter beers are bigger, more flavorful, and warming. For the first half of the season we are looser, more festive, and more socially engaged than other seasons. All great mindsets for the fraternity that is beer. During the last half of the season we are a little more despondent, isolated, and tired of the drudgery of winter. All great mindsets for the comfort of beer. Finally, winter beers pair well with the celebratory meals of our gatherings and with the comfort foods of our solitude.
At this time of year people naturally gravitate to Porters and Stouts with good reason. The higher ABV and deep rich flavor of these styles are excellent cold weather companions. They pair well with hearty soups and stews and roasted meats. They are also excellent companions fireside.
Barley Wines also make a nice addition to your winter drinking lineup. Barley Wine is a style of ale that originated in ancient Greece. They are strong, robust and often very intense. They can have a musty smell or flavor, have a tendency to be sweeter than most ales, and can be very boozy. They are lush with notes of brown sugar, fruit, raisin, or fig; flavors derived naturally during fermentation not through flavoring or additives. American Barley Wines have a tendency to be heavily hopped while British versions of the style have little to no hop profile, are maltier and can be cloyingly sweet. Because of the strong flavors presented in a Barley Wine I don’t encourage pairing them with food. These should be consumed much like a dessert wine or a cognac or brandy. They are slow sipping beers that are perfect after being outside on a chilly day or to cap off your evening. They also age exceptionally well.
Similar to Barley Wines, Strong Ales, Old Ales, Stock Ales, and Winter Warmers are malty higher ABV beers that accompany the season well. Winter Warmers are often flavored or spiced and are best consumed as one would consume a mulled wine. Strong and Old ales can be paired with more flavorful roasted meats like beef and lamb and particularly game meats like rabbit and venison. A spiced Winter Warmer can be paired with as long as the spice compliments the food. All can pair nicely with a sweet fruit based dessert.
Author: Joe Eila, Manager at King of Prussia Beer Outlet