SUDS for the Seasons

December 14, 2016
by
2 mins read

While winter warmers, porters and stouts tend to dominate the winter beer market, brewers around the world have created several styles specifically for the chilly season. From Belgian dark strong ales and winter lagers to English old ales and the American “anything goes” approach to seasonal brews, there’s plenty to choose from in winter’s blustery days.

In Belgium, dark strong ales have been around for centuries, gaining popularity in the early 1800s when the country seceded from the Netherlands. Trappist monasteries began brewing the high-alcohol, rich and fruity beers sometimes called quadruples. This style features aromas of dark fruits and dark candy sugars and often alcohol content in excess of 9 percent. The flavors echo the bouquet and include low hop bitterness and a healthy dose of clove essence.

One of the most sought-after beers globally is a dark strong ale brewed by Trappist monks at Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Westvleteren, Belgium. It’s made mostly for the monks’ consumption, but a small quantity of the heady brew is released to the public — but you gotta go to the Abbey to get it.

This policy has made Westvleteren 12 a rare beer indeed — it’s rated the best beer in the world by users of RateBeer.com.

English old ales, also known as stock ales, were usually mixed with younger, sweeter ales in the pubs of London and other British cities. Because ales required aging, breweries often transferred the beer from fermentation tanks to oak barrels. This practice gave the beer wine-like characteristics, such as woodiness and sometimes a bit of funkiness. Generally, old ales are malty with a balanced hops bitterness and exhibit caramel and dark fruit flavors. Some examples of the style may also take on a tart tang from bacteria in the wood barrels.

American winter beers run the gamut from dark strong ales to hops-forward IPAs. One of the earliest domestic holiday ales is Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. First brewed in 1981, this juicy IPA has herbaceous citrus and pine flavors emanating from fresh hops used in lieu of the dry hops used in most beers. Another example of a winter IPA is Accumulation White IPA from New Belgium Brewing. The addition of wheat to this hop bomb gives the beer a hazy, white appearance and smooths out its otherwise bitter character.

Try some of these winter brews available locally:

Samuel Adams Winter Lager From one of the oldest craft breweries in the United States comes this amber lager, with the warming aromas of cinnamon and ginger. Expect sweet malts and a hint of citrus when you toast mankind with this holiday winner.

St. Bernardus Abt 12 Brewed just down the road from St. Sixtus, this Trappist ale is very similar to the famed Westvleteren 12. Indeed, at one time St. Bernardus brewed the “Westy.” After its contract expired in 1992, St. Bernardus began brewing a similar beer slightly more carbonated — with a hint of a bubblegum flavor.

North Coast Old Stock Ale Highly alcoholic at more than 11 percent ABV, this old ale is a well-hopped, American version of English old ale. Particularly suited to aging, NCOSA mellows and increases in complexity after a few years.

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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