In the last month or so, at least a dozen new winter ales have dropped that are worth taking note of, from spiced, sour, strong, and barrel-aged beers. We already dropped our 20 barrel-aged beers for the holidays, but now we have even more to be thankful for this season. Each of these beers and ciders are perfect for pouring this Christmas, or Hanukkah, or your holiday of choice.
Ballast Point: Peppermint Victory at Sea
This is one of the only beers ever to make mint work as a beer ingredient. I have had numerous beers with mint and even a couple with peppermint. and this is the best of them all. Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea Imperial Porter is a year-round available creamy and rich beer that serves as a base for this special peppermint version brewed with coffee. It is like a peppermint latte meets malty, milkshake imperial porter and might be the most Christmas appropriate beer on this list. Available now in 22oz bottles for a limited time.
Ecliptic: Barrel-Aged Rastaban Oud Bruin
If I am not mistaken, this is the first Ecliptic Brewing beer in bottles that uses wild yeast, and yes, it is a “sour.” Barrel-Aged Rastaban Oud Bruin is mildly sour and approachable, yet also complex. Oak adds a nice rounded spice dimension to this otherwise juicy fruit beer of dark chocolates and red berries. Appropriately enjoyed with a holiday dinner or afterward sipping over a full belly, it should be a nice cellar addition as well. Available now in 22oz bottles but not for long–this is a very limited edition beer.
Stone Brewing: Xocoveza
There have been many attempts at the mole/Mexican hot chocolate adaptation to beer. Many of them have been good, like New Belgium’s Cocoa Mole but Stone Brewing’s Xocoveza is the best ever. Based around a milk stout, Stone Brewing layers in cocoa, coffee, peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg into an experimental beer that blurs the boundaries of what beer can taste like. Released as a one-off in 2014, Xocoveza is back by popular demand for a winter holiday release. Available now in 12oz bottles and 4-packs.
pFriem Family Brewers: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
I believe this is the first non-wild/sour barrel-aged beer release from pFriem Family Brewers, and it’s the ever popular Imperial Stout style aged in Oola Distillery (from Seattle) bourbon barrels. Big oak, roasted malts, chocolate, coconut and ripe cherry flavors combine in this bold 10.5% Abv and 70 IBU stout available now in 12oz bottles.
The Commons: Unconquerable Sun – Barrel-aged Imperial Stout
Portland’s The Commons Brewery has unexpectedly celebrated its 2015 anniversary with a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout. I say unexpectedly because the brewery is known for farmhouse ales of Belgian and French origin. I haven’t tried this one yet, and The Commons has released very little info other than it’s a 10.9% beer available in 750ml bottles for around $15 each.
Ommegang: Rosetta – Kriek
I reviewed this welcome addition to balanced approachable aged krieks back in October, but it has only recently shown up in Oregon to actually purchase. As I said then, it’s a balanced brown, malty and winey with notes of balsamic vinegar and cherry and oak. It’s tart and juicy but not sour. Easy drinking, complex, and great paired with food. Available now in 11.2oz bottles.
Laurelwood: Santa’s Woody
The annual release of Laurelwood’s winter barleywine in 1ltr magnum bottles is here. Made to cellar, Laurelwood has released 3 years of Santa’s Woody Barleywine aged in bourbon barrels. I have yet to crack my bottle of this 9.5% beast, but the 1ltr swingtop bottle is made to share with friends and family. Available now at the brewery and specialty bottleshops.
Oskar Blues: Death by Coconut
This fall seasonal from Colorado’s Oskar Blues has arrived in Oregon late, just in time for winter. Based on a creamy but dry Irish Stout. It’s a silky and extra cocoa flavored stout because of the addition of Cholaca, a form of pure liquid chocolate. The Cholaca also uses coconut sugar as an ingredient, so you get a creamy, nutty, coconut-tinged chocolate milk in a 12oz can.
2 Towns Ciderhouse: Pommeau
Just released by 2 Towns Ciderhouse in Corvallis, Oregon, is this pre-aged 2013 vintage Pommeau, a barrel-aged apple wine. This port-style cider is a blend of Dabinette, Porter’s Perfection, and Kingston Black apples, aged in barrels used for chardonnay, pinot noir, sauterne, muscat, and brandy, while being fortified with apple brandy made from the cidery’s juice. Damn, that’s a mouthful, and the final product is 19% ABV and suitable for pairing with holiday food like oven-baked figs stuffed with blue cheese, slices of a rich terrine, or even a bold cigar. Available in beautiful frosted 375ml corked bottles at fine bottleshops, only 500 cases released.
Cider Riot: Rudy’s Cranberry Hibiscus
I am loving this 2-liter plastic bottle series from Portland’s Cider Riot. Rudy’s Cranberry Hibiscus cider is the latest 2-liter release for the holidays. Made from cold-pressed juice from Starvation Alley cranberry farms, NW apples, and certified organic hibiscus flowers. Like all of Cider Riot’s hard ciders, it’s a dry but seasonally appropriate spiced cider with floral hibiscus flowers, tannins, and a tart finish due to the cranberries. Not too strong at 6% ABV.
Hi-Wheel: Ghost of Christmas Cranberry
Northeast Portland’s Hi-Wheel Wine & Mead is mostly releasing a product that is neither mead nor wine or cider, but I feel best described as “craft” or “microbrew” wine cooler. The products are handcrafted alcoholic fermented juices, not apple or pear but more often lemon, lime, grapefruit, or other tart or citrus fruits. The winter holiday flavor is cranberry, and it has a bit of extra spice from ghost peppers. Hi-Wheel’s products can be a bit sweet, but the effervescence and tartness steal the show, and I especially like the hot ones like the Lime-Habanero flavor. Anyway, the Ghost of Christmas Cranberry is available on draft and in bottles around Oregon now.
Ex Novo: Nevermore
Ex Novo Brewing is making waves after barely a year of being open. The brewery’s new limited edition bottle release is just in time for the winter and is a decadent and rare take on the barleywine. Rather than the well-established English or American-style barleywines, this is a black barleywine with the addition of local artisan chocolate and smoked figs. 22oz bottles are available now at the brewery and around Portland. More info on Nevermore here.