When winter arrives, most people switch to dark beers like stouts and big beers like barleywines. I do not, and will session a barrel-aged stout in the summer as often as I will drink a refreshing east-coast IPA in the freezing Northwoods of Wisconsin. A great beer is good any time. However, breweries believe in the almighty seasonal beer, and, like fall, winter has plenty of beers reserved just for its chilly grasp. These are the best in our region. Catch ‘em quickly; these ephemeral treats won’t last as long as the snow.
Snownami Double Chocolate Raspberry Stout
Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub
This brewpub usually has average beers that work just fine–nothing to seek out, but something that will accommodate a hearty meal. Snownami is different. This decadent stout has a great balance of malty, chocolate flavors, punctuated with raspberry flavor that is subtle, not tart.
Summit Brewing Co.
One of the first winter seasonals I tried as a craft beer beginner, you’ll find toffee, biscuit, and earthy hops dancing on your palate. Perhaps the most approachable on this list.
Grand Rounds Brewing Co.
Many winter beers go heavy on the spice, but head brewer Steve Finnie delicately brings out cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and molasses flavors in his winter beer, held together with a caramel, malty backbone. It is available on cask and good ol’ carbonated tap.
Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
Steel Toe Brewing Co.
Not really billed as a winter seasonal, but released in November, this is one of the best Wee Heavy beers in the state, and will certainly please you if holiday gifts don’t. A combo of toffee, cherry, tobacco, and a hint of apple, combine perfectly for a wonderful experience.
Alaskan Brewing Co.
A beer that ages for up to five years, Alaskan Smoked Porter is one of my favorite beers – ever. It is the perfect fireplace beer with a good friend, providing a smoked bacon flavor, on top of more smoke, and more smoke (seriously, a lot of smokiness), all held together by an underlying milk chocolate taste.
Indeed Brewing Co.
Two years ago this was my favorite winter seasonal. I could not stop imbibing it with my closest beer buddy. Last year, however, maybe due to upscaling (one can never factor in the geometry of the fermentation tanks), it left me wanting. This year’s iteration is mighty tasty, however. It begins with huge raisin and dark fruit flavors before finishing with vanilla-laced creamy chocolate. Subtlety and complexity combine for one slightly sweet treat.