The 10 Best Winter Beers to Drink in 2024
The Best Dark Beers to Drink in Winter
Brewing has historically been a specialty of regions where winters are harsh and grains are grown, like Germany and the British Isles. For centuries, brewers have made seasonal beers for winter that are fuller in body and maltier than standard styles.
Some are festively spiced, others are simply turbocharged versions of year-round recipes. But all feature that extra richness of texture that comes with heaping helpings of barley malt.
Winter warmers have less water in the mix, delivering more nutrition and higher alcohol content than typical summer quenchers.
To best banish winter’s chill, serve GAYOT’s Best Winter Beers no colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is also ideal for showcasing their delicious flavors. Serving “ice cold” suppresses flavor; a good strategy only if you’re not keen to really “taste” your beer.
And if you want even more strong-flavored brews to savor, check out these Top Sipping Beers.
> The selections are presented in alphabetical order.
1. Abita Mardi Gras Bock
Origin: Covington, LA, USA
Beer type: Bock
Price: $8.99 for six-pack 12 oz
Brewed by: Abita Brewing Company
Abita Brewing Company’s first seasonal brew, Abita Bock is available January through March.
Abita uses mild and aromatic Perle hops and British pale and caramel malts to achieve its mild and toasty flavor. Even though the makers of Abita call this beer a simple Bock, it resembles a German Maibock in its high malt content, full body and slightly higher alcohol content. This beer is very popular in Louisiana, especially during Mardi Gras season.
2. Affligem Noël Christmas Ale
Origin: Opwijk, Belgium
Beer type: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Price: $13 for 750 ml
Brewed by: Affligem
This reddish amber ale, spiced with sweet orange peels, anise and caraway, also delivers flavors of toasted malt and dark fruits such as prune and cherry.
An aroma of cocoa, cinnamon and clove adds to the celebratory vibe. Note that the flavors will intensify as this beer warms, so take your time to enjoy the evolving flavors as you sip. Given the strong ale’s high carbonation, it’s best to drink it from a goblet-style glass. The bulbous shape will help trap the scent and flavors while maintaining a lively head.
3. Alaskan Winter
Origin: Juneau, AK, U.S.A.
Beer type: Ale, Old Ale
Price: $9 for six-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Alaskan Brewing Company
Available only October through December, this beer is based on an historical recipe brewed on Captain Cook’s ship in 1778 as he searched for the Northwest Passage.
When creating the beverage, Cook added spruce tips to augment the brew and add some vitamin C. Like the famous English explorer, Alaskan Brewing uses glacier-fed water and locally-grown Sitka spruce tips. Brewed in the style of an English Olde Ale, the aroma and citrus character of the spruce is complemented by rich malt, toffee and caramel. The label is a tribute to the 3,000 bald eagles that congregate among the evergreen trees on the shores of the Chilkat River for the last large salmon run before winter.
4. Deschutes Jubelale
Origin: Bend, OR, U.S.A.
Beer type: Ale
Price: $8.99 for six-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Deschutes Brewery
Expect an earthy aroma, nut brown hue and a comingling of West Coast hops, brown sugar, candied dark fruits, baking spices and a good dose of malty flavors.
The very first beer to ever be bottled by the brewery, Jubelale boasts a bold 6.7 percent ABV, which will help warm you as the nippy chill of winter approaches.
5. Full Sail Brewing Company Wassail Winter Ale
Origin: Hood River, OH, U.S.A.
Beer type: Ale
Price: $8 for six-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Full Sail Brewing Co.
Brewed by Oregon’s Full Sail Brewing Company, one of the first craft breweries in the US, this award-winning winter warmer has been ushering in the holiday season since 1988.
The flavor varies slightly from year to year, with the 2016 version featuring Pacific Northwest hops with caramel and dark chocolate malts. The aroma of this dark brown ale shouts out malt with a touch of roast. The malt continues to shine in the full-bodied flavor with chocolaty notes and a balanced background of hops in the long-lasting finish, making this a beer that will appeal to both malt and hop lovers. The 7.2 percent ABV may surprise you, as this winter delight goes down quite smoothly.
6. Ommegang Abbey Ale
Origin: Cooperstown, NY, U.S.A.
Beer type: Dubbel
Price: $8 for 750 ml.
Brewed by: Brewery Ommegang
Brewery Ommegang is located on a 135-acre former hop farm near Cooperstown, New York, the epicenter of American hop production in the 19th century.
Typical for the farmstead style, this flagship brew pours a dark red with prevailing aromas of raisins, plums and dates. Clove, sweet malt and caramel flavors help to mask the beer’s hefty 8.2 percent ABV. Like its Belgian cousins, it boasts a generous selection of spices — in this case licorice root, star anise, orange peel, coriander and cumin. A great candidate for cellaring, this ale will develop caramel, fig and currant notes with age. Bonus: It’s available year-round.
7. Shiner Holiday Cheer
Origin: Shiner, TX, USA
Beer type: Dunkelweizen
Price: $11 for six-pack 12 oz
Brewed by: Spoetzl Brewery
The Shiner, Texas-based Spoetzl Brewery is renowned for its Shiner Bock, and since 2010 the annual release of this seasonal Dunkelweizen has become a Shiner holiday tradition.
Out just in time for the holidays, it’s a traditional Dunkelweizen, but with a twist: the additions of Texas peaches and pecan. The peaches are most prevalent in the aroma and the nuts shine through in the flavor. While it’s not overly sweet, caramelized malts give it a rich malt body and notes of vanilla adds to this beer’s dessert beer character, making it a great fit for a winter sipper.
8. Stone Xocoveza
Origin: Escondido, CA, U.S.A.
Beer type: Imperial Stout
Price: $17 for six-pack 12 oz
Brewed by: Stone Brewing Company
First brewed in 2014 with San Diego homebrewer Chris Banker after his recipe was named the winner of Stone Brewing’s annual homebrew competition, this winter favorite is released every year just in time for the holidays.
This chocolaty, winter-spiced 8.1% ABV Imperial Stout is a rather complex take on Mexican hot chocolate. Infused with coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and a generous amount of cocoa, there are multiple layers of flavor, with cocoa and cinnamon bursting forth upon your first sip and coffee, nutmeg and vanilla following, and heat from the peppers in the finish balanced by sweetness that manages to temper without being syrupy.
9. 21st Amendment Brewery Fireside Chat
Origin: San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.
Beer type: Ale
Price: $12 for six-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: 21st Amendment Brewery
21st Amendment Brewery opened in 2000 and is a pioneer of packaging craft beer in cans.
This brew, first released in 2010, was its first seasonal release in a can. The appearance is dark ruby-brown with a tan head, and its toasty malt flavor is tempered with a blend of spices and cocoa nibs that doesn’t overpower. The 7.9 percent ABV also provides warmth to your palate, allowing this winter warmer to live up to the style’s name.
10. Two Roads Holiday Ale
Origin: Stratford, CT, U.S.A.
Beer type: Biere de Noel
Price: $14 for six-pack 12 oz.
Brewed by: Two Roads Brewing
To celebrate the winter season, Two Roads Brewing’s Holiday Ale is back just in time to turn up the cheer for the holidays.
It’s brewed in the little known Biere de Noel style, a subset of Biere de Garde, both of which originated on small farmhouse breweries in the north of France. Biere de Noel, which translates as “Christmas Beer,” tends to exhibit a more malty profile than a typical Biere de Garde, as this winter sipper does with predominant flavors of toasted malt joined with subtle holiday spice flavors and hops.