November is a great month for beer lovers with unique brews dropping from coast-to-coast. Add in the fact that winter and the holidays are just around the corner, and you have a great month to try new beers.
This month sees the release of heavy-style beers with amped up flavors. Big IPAs jacked with spruce tips, well-aged imperial stouts, and winter beers cut with lots of spice and all things nice are hitting shelves right now. Now’s the time to try something new or indulge in an old friend of a beer that you haven’t seen in a while.
The eight beers below are some of our favorites hitting the market right now. Some of these beers are going to be lining shelves from sea-to-shining-sea while others will be a little harder to source without some serious effort. Still, when is a journey to find great beer ever taken in vain?
STONE GHOST HAMMER IPA
Ghost Hammer IPA from Stone dropped in October and is still burning up the shelves this month. The sharp IPA is a great weather-turning beer.
The 6.7 percent ABV has a nice kick without overdoing the alcohol. The Lorel hops bring a medium bitterness that leans towards tropical fruits and citrus. There are rushes of florals with all that juiciness that help make this one an easy sipper to drink as you watch the leaves turn and start thinking turkey.
SIERRA NEVADA NARWHAL IMPERIAL STOUT
This is a big winter beer. Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal packs a mighty 10.2 percent ABV with a medium hop bitterness that pairs very well with the hefty malts involved. A quick note: This is an aged beer that is only going to get better with time. Our suggestion is to nab a case and drink one six-pack each year over the next four years to compare how this one matures in the bottle.
Notes of oily espresso beans, bitter cacao, and darkly roasted grains are at the forefront of this brew. The cacao fades as a buttery, creamy nature brings along a rich dark chocolate tone alongside that coffee bitterness and malty cracker base. The hops kick in but never overpower that bitter roasted nature of the brew.
ALASKAN BREWING CO. WHITE
Alaskan’s White is a Belgian witbier or white wheat beer. Basically, this is the original hazy. The wheat adds a dankness to the brew that leaves the hoppiness at the door so it can play around in the pantry with fruits and spices.
The very quaffable 5.3 percent ABV is the foundation for a brew that opens with notes of citrus, fresh coriander, and peppery spice. Orange peel arrives with sweet cracker malt leading to a dry-ish finish.
UPSLOPE BREWING COMPANY SPRUCE TIP IPA
Out in Boulder, Colorado Upslope Brewing is dropping its soon-to-be iconic Spruce Tip IPA on the winter-loving masses. The winter IPA packs a wallop at 7.5 percent ABV, so tread lightly. The beer is cut with freshly-picked Colorado spruce tips from the Rockies, adding a great local, wild dimension to the suds.
The beer opens with a clear sense of hops bolstered by that spruce covered in snow on a crisp, sunny day. There are wintery notes of candied orange next to a spiced malt base. It’s fresh, a little wild, and very drinkable all season long.
BROOKLYN BREWERY BLACK OPS
If you can find a bottle of Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops this month, then congratulations, you win. The beer is a Russian imperial stout that’s aged in old Four Roses bourbon barrels sourced from their small-batch line. Next, the stout goes through a secondary fermentation in the bottle with Champagne yeasts.
There are rich notes of dark and bitter chocolate against bold coffee bean notes. Those are cut with bourbon vanilla and a hint of oak. If you find an older bottle from the previous year’s bottlings, expect notes of soy sauce and dusty leather with echoes of tobacco to show up. Or track down a bottle this year and cellar it yourself.
NEW BELGIUM ACCUMULATION WHITER IPA
New Belgium’s Accumulation is a white IPA that leans into its wintry roots. The beer has a fairly accessible 6.2 percent ABV with a middle-of-the-road bitterness from the hops, meaning you can probably grab a six-pack of this on the way to visit relatives or to hit up friend’s parties and everyone will dig it.
The IPA focuses on hops that never overpower. There’s a balance of juicy tropical fruits and winter spices with citrus brightening up the sip. The use of wheat smoothes the rougher edges of the hops down with a modicum of sweet maltiness and more spice.
SAMUEL ADAMS UTOPIAS
Samuel Adam’s premiere winter release is the much-lauded and sought after Utopias. The beer is aged in multiple barrels for up to 24 years before being blended into one killer sipper. This year’s release was aged in several barrel varieties including Scandinavian Aquavit and Moscat wine casks. This is a truly unique beer that you may never see again.
This beer really is a sipper. It clocks in at an astounding 28 percent ABV. That’s over half-way to a standard bourbon ABV of 40 percent. The beer is a concentration of rich malts cut by dried fruit fattiness and marzipan nuttiness that’s reminiscent of a noble port cut with the warmth of a grape-forward Cognac. This is straight up next level.
INT’L PICK OF THE MONTH: ACHOUFEE BREWERY N’ICE CHOUFEE (BELGIUM)
Nothing says winter more than .75l bottle of N’ice Choufee. The beer kicks ten percent ABVs worth of winter spice and feels into every single bottle with a deep Belgian tradition of craftsmanship and deliciousness. This is the winter beer to stock in your fridge.
This dark Belgian winter sipper has a mild hop bitterness with hints of fresh thyme, wheat spice, and curaçao (orange liqueur). The spiciness really shines with notes of cloves, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg. There’s a slight dried plum fattiness with a sweet edge to cut through the spice. A mild acidic edge brings about a dry, rich finish.