In the beer world, the end of October feels like the official beginning of winter and the coming holiday season. Thanksgiving is only three weeks away and we’re only two months from 2021. It’s 100 percent time to start drinking heavier, spicier, and higher alcohol beers. If for no other reason than that this is when brewers typically release them.
While the beers we’re shouting out this month aren’t all winter warmers, they’re all big beers for cold weather sipping. Beers that are made to be enjoyed right now — packed full of flavors you don’t typically get the rest of the year.
Hopefully, the eight beers we’re giving love to this month will pique your interest and inspire you to explore exciting brews made near you or sold at your closest bottle shop. The picks below are regional craft beer releases from breweries that we vouch for along with seasonal bottles we’ve been looking forward to tasting again.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST DROP: Alaskan Freeride
Style: American Pale Ale
We’re pretty big Alaskan Brewing stans around these parts and Freeride — their wintery pale ale — is a good example of why. The beer is a marriage of that famous Alaskan glacial water with Pacific Northwest hops and malts. The ABVs are middle of the road, making this an easy after-work sipper to take the edge off all November long.
Tropical fruits meet floral-yet-mild dankness, with a caramel malty underbelly. Those fruity and floral hops really drive the taste with a nice dose of dry texture and a balance of slightly sweet malt character. The sip is refreshing, enticing, and light enough to keep you coming back for more.
SOUTHWEST DROP: Sierra Nevada 2020 Bigfoot
Style: American Barleywine
This is a classic ale from a classic microbrewery. The brew is made by heavily roasting quality malts and adding whole cone hops to bring about balance and amp up the flavor. The end result is a beer that works great as a sipper right now or as a cellar beer that you can age for years to come.
“Big” comes to mind when you first smell this beer as the resinous hops mingle with well-roasted and caramel-laden malts. The beer touches on dark Christmas cakes full of mild spices and dried and candied fruit with a signature beer fizz that’s light and approachable.
The toffee malts and resinous hops are the stars of this show in the end.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN DROP: New Belgium Accumulation
Style: Belgian IPA
The beauty of this winter ale is its divergence from the darker, strong ales that usually dominate the scene this month. The brewers at New Belgium decided to go the wheat beer route with their winter ale. That addition of smooth wheat malts brings an accessibility to the brew that makes this a very easy-sipper.
The hoppiness of the nose draws you in by touching on glowing citrus, sweet tropical fruits, and an almost spicy/resinous hop edge rounding it out. That taste delivers on that hoppiness, with a mild counterbalance of sweet/spicy malts underneath it all.
SOUTHERN DROP: Rahr & Sons Winter Warmer
Style: Winter Warmer
Texas’ Rahr & Sons Winter Warmer is a stone-cold classic winter ale. The beer leans into the big, malty, Christmasy, fruity flavors with no hesitation whatsoever. The strong ABVs combined with the strong flavors suit what drinking feels like right now.
You really get a sense of the deeply roasted malts with dark cacao next to a bit of spicy hops. The beer embraces the malts with plenty of caramel, creamy dark chocolate, and Christmas cake full of dried fruit. This is wintertime in a can.
MIDWEST DROP: Great Lakes Christmas Ale
Style: Winter Warmer
Great Lakes Christmas Ale is another seasonal classic that’s hitting the shelves right now. This multi-award-winning ale manages just the right note of seasonal conviviality, with enough nuance to keep you interested all season long. Though be warned, this is a really easy beer to drink, and those high ABVs will catch up to you.
The maltiness of this beer leans more towards a honeyed sweetness and the spices kick up more of a grated ginger freshness. There’s plenty of Christmas spices in play with all that malty honey nature — making for a balanced, lush feel to this sipper.
NORTHEAST DROP: Samuel Adams Winter Lager
This is probably the easiest find on the list this month. The new version of Winter Lager from Boston takes the goodness of their lager and takes it into bock (that’s just a lager with longer storage times) territory with the addition of cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel in the beer.
Toffee malts greet you with a clear sense of those spices up top. The beer delivers on what it promises, with plenty of those sweet malts balanced with orange citrus, spices, and a hint of ginger. The hops are present but take a backseat to the malts and spices on this very easy-drinking brew.
WILD CARD DROP: Deschutes Jubelale
Style: Winter Warmer
No list of November beers would be complete without Oregon’s Jubelale. The brew is a masterful mix of five malt and five hop varieties with a lean towards classic English dark ale. The finished product is the gold standard of an American winter warmer.
This is a big beer with big notes of chocolate roasted malts next to subtle Christmas spices and clear toffee sweetness. Those sweet malts shine brightly as the spices offer a great counterpoint with a touch of hoppiness on the backend. The sip leans into the malts with a return of rich cacao powder on the final notes.
INT’L PICK OF THE MONTH: Ayinger Celebrator
This doppelbock from Bavaria should be fairly easy to find from most good beer shops or delivery services. The beer leans into the malty nature of the season while holding back on the cloying sweetness of an average winter warmer. This is about expert craft done well for generations.
The beer dives straight into the malts — with an espresso bitterness mingling with dark chocolate and a wisp of bacon fat. The maltiness has bready notes, plus toffee and an almost cherry fruitiness. But it’s really the dark coffee bean oils and dark cacao that shine in this one.
The whole sip is a well-balanced bit of bliss in a bottle.