It’s a great time to crack open a “winter” beer. Or three.
First, what exactly is a winter beer? Traditionally, bocks and winter warmers (with high ABVs) make up a majority of “winter beers.” But we can also throw porters, stouts, Christmas beers, and pretty much anything filled with pumpkin or pumpkin pie spices (cloves, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cinnamon) in the mix. Compared to summer and fall beers, they’re usually darker, bolder, stronger, and more flavorful.
To find the winter beers that don’t get enough shine, we went to the experts for help. We asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their picks for the most underrated winter beers for December 2020.
Southern Tier Old Man Winter
Erin Gowdy, bartender at Paul’s Landing in St. Petersburg, Florida
Southern Tier just came out with their Old Man Winter beer, so it’s currently lesser known than many other seasonal beers. It has great winter flavors like subtle smoky malts, dark chocolate, and just a hint of bitterness — like the old man himself.
Flying Dog Family Drama
Seth Falvo, bartender at The Hotel Zamora in St. Pete Beach, Florida
It’s easy to see how a pilsner can get lost in the mix during the winter – the summertime staple can feel out of place among barrel-aged stouts and Christmas ales. Perhaps that’s why Flying Dog’s Family Drama Imperial Pilsner doesn’t get nearly enough love, especially as a winter beer. As with any great pilsner, the sweet maltiness and hop spiciness are perfectly balanced, and this one has plenty of baking spice throughout the finish as well.
Despite how smooth and drinkable this beer is, it packs quite a punch at 8.4% ABV, which is a plus if your uncle decides to start talking politics during holiday gatherings.
Six Point Bengali IPA
Yasin Orhun Akinci, manager at Orient Express Bar in New York City
Not quite a winter beer, but Six Point Bengali IPA should be something all the IPA and beer drinkers try. Very well balanced, hoppy but not irritating.
Who says you can’t enjoy an IPA in the winter?
Notch Brewing Cerne Pivo
Fatima Kuras, general manager at 15 East @ Tocqueville in New York City
Notch Brewing Cerne Pivo is very underrated. It’s a small brewery in Massachusetts. Made in the style of black session lagers from the Czech Republic, it’s low in alcohol but high in flavor.
Anderson Valley Winter Solstice
Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
Anderson Valley Winter Solstice is a creamy and delicious option for a winter warmer ale. Go try one for a toffee and spice delight.
Anchor Christmas Ale
Stefan Huebner, co-owner and head mixologist at Dot Dot Dot in Charlotte, North Carolina
Anchor Christmas Ale. They’ve been making this beer since the 1970s. They were the first to release a holiday beer in America since Prohibition. Every year, it’s a little different, but they consistently deliver with big coffee and cappuccino flavors.
In a culture of “what’s new,” these guys have been doing it forever and they do it the right way.
Shiner Holiday Cheer
Robert Gleim, managing partner of Bamboo Willie’s Beachside Bar in Pensacola, Florida
Shiner Holiday Cheer is my go-to. It’s just an all-around fun holiday beer. They do it right with pecans and peaches. It’s underrated in that it does not have great distribution in small markets.
Lift Bridge Fireside Flannel
Bryce Moltzan, assistant restaurant manager at FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar in Bloomington, Minnesota
Fireside Flannel brown ale by Lift Bridge Brewery. Brown ales overall are underappreciated with all the craft focus on IPAs and now sours. Lift Bridge does a really good job and makes a great brown ale that’s easy to dink. It has notes of roasted hazelnuts, coffee, and a light chocolate finish.
Boulevard Snow & Tell
This oak-aged Scotch ale is big, bold, and full of roasted malts, sweet vanilla, and seasonal spices. It’s the perfect warmer for a cold winter night.
Hopworks Abominable Winter Ale
This might be the perfect winter beer. One sip with its subtle resinous hops, sticky toffee, and rich malts, and you won’t want to drink anything else. It’s high ABVs will warm you up until the final spring thaw.