Join Club

WWBG: Tis the Season for Winter Ales

Weekend Wine and Beer Guide logo

Editor’s Note: This biweekly column is sponsored by Dominion Wine and Beer (107 Rowell Court, Falls Church). It is written by Garrett Cruce, a Cicerone Program Certified Beer Server.

The Oxford Companion to Beer mentions several pre-20th century Winter beer concoctions that used heated ale and dessert ingredients like spices and egg and bread. With names like “ale posset” and “egg flip,” these drinks were like drinking beer bread pudding or custard. Since the early 20th century, however, we’ve moved on to styles similar to what’s available now.

Since a beer called Burton ale (generically referred to as an Old ale), Winter ales have been mostly brown ales that are stronger than your average beer. American craft brewers brought back the concept of adding spices beginning with Anchor Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale in 1975. Whether they are called Christmas ales or Holiday ales or Winter ales, these beers will provide a nice respite from the blistering cold outside.

Despite not containing any food like those old beer drinks, Winter ales can still be a bit like having your dessert in a glass. Not as syrupy as a flavored cocktail, but full of the sweet flavors of Winter baked goods. Whether it’s a heavy, boozy fruit cake or Christmas pudding or cookies — there’s a whole array of sweet flavors to be enjoyed.

Below are four Winter ales that take the chill off.

Blue Mountain Brewery Lights Out Holiday Ale (7.0% ABV)Blue Mountain Brewery Lights Out Holiday Ale
Located in the Blue Ridge mountains, Blue Mountain brews this Winter ale at their Blue Mountain Barrel House in Arrington, VA. It’s available through December. This relatively light Old ale is bursting with the aroma and flavor of bread pudding with raisins. Bready malts and spicy hops combine with a slightly sweet finish to evoke the dessert. Lights Out stands up well on its own and is just light enough to go well with a hearty stew or roast.

Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) Christmas Ale (7.5% ABV)Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) Christmas Ale
Cleveland, Ohio’s Great Lakes Brewing Company started as a pub in 1986, but had expanded to include a separate brewing space by the time Christmas Ale was born in the 90s. An early entrant in the spiced ale category, Christmas Ale has a solid fan base. Brewed with honey from the region, cinnamon and ginger, this beer jollily evokes cinnamon graham crackers. In fact, my nostalgia for the ubiquitous children’s snack made me want some chocolate and toasted marshmallow to complete the dessert as a s’more. It’s good that Christmas Ale only comes once a year, because its delicious flavor and light body might make moderation difficult. GLBC is even getting social with their #ChristmasAleSpirit contest. It doesn’t even require the possibility of winning something to put drinkers of Christmas Ale in the #ChristmasAleSpirit.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale (10.0% ABV)St. Bernardus Christmas Ale
Brewed at one of the few remaining Abbey breweries in Belgium, St. Bernardus, Christmas Ale is a traditional Quadrupel or strong dark ale. Like a good fruit cake — an oft maligned, but tasty treat when fresh — this beer is redolent of fruit like tropical papaya and banana, as well as molasses and dried figs. Belgian ales tend to be quite effervescent as their special yeast tends to continue creating carbon dioxide in the bottle (this is know as bottle conditioning), but Christmas Ale avoids the bubbly bite with a fine mouthfeel. The result is a smooth and strong ale that is just sweet enough to please without being cloying. This is great paired with roasted meat like fowl or pork or enjoy it on its own.

Avery Brewing Company Old Jubilation Ale (8.3% ABV)Avery Brewing Company Old Jubilation Ale
This Boulder, Colorado-brewed Old ale even looks like it’s from a different time. The Currier and Ives-style painting on the can and the ornate script in the name gives this traditional ale a traditional look. If we’ve had bread pudding, graham crackers and fruit cake so far, it seems we’re missing a good old fashioned Christmas pudding. Those beguiling British desserts that are prepared by boiling in cheese cloth and are topped with a brandy-infused butter called “hard sauce” have a particular flavor combination of the caramel of dark sugar and the bright sweetness of the sauce. Similarly, Old Jubilation is a swirl of molasses and brown sugar from the combination of malts that is brightened by the light booziness of alcohol. This beer is a fantastic sipper fresh or aged. It’s just the thing to pop open after a commute in 20 degree weather!

What Winter ales are you enjoying? Tell me below. Cheers!

Recent Stories

Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. đź•— News recap The following articles were published earlier today…

Spend the first Sunday of March tasting a great wine selection at Arrowine’s Super Sunday Tasting!

Workers lowered signage today (Friday) from the now-former Giant supermarket in the Lyon Village Shopping Center. Several passersby watched with interest as the team unscrewed the letters G-I-A-N-T from the…

New properties just listed in Arlington include a 3 BD/3 BA home with an expanded kitchen, fireplace and two lower levels.

March General Membership Meeting

NAACP Arlington Branch is celebrating Women’s History Month with a virtual public safety and Virginia legislative update. Our speakers are Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Delegate Adele McClure.

Guest Speakers

Adele McClure
Virginia House of Delegates, 2nd District in Arlington

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Early Years Preschool is a small non-profit preschool and parents day out program that has served local families since 1992. Early Years Preschool is located in the Cherrydale neighborhood at 3701 Lorcom Lane.

Early Years Preschool offers part-time programs for young children between 12 months – 5 years old. Early Years also offers a 6 week summer program! The school day is 9:30-2:30, with the option of morning extended day offered at 9am. Families have the flexibility of registering for 1-3 days/week in their parent’s day out program (12 months- 2 year olds) and 2-5 days/week for their preschool program (3-5 year olds).

Early Years’ teachers provide a nurturing environment that promotes the development of a child’s emotional, social, cognitive, and physical skills. Creative and stimulating theme-based activities allow each child to develop and learn at his or her own pace through exploration and play.

Learn more about Early Years Preschool by contacting the admissions team at [email protected] or by visiting their website at http://www.earlyyearspreschool.org

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Alternative Thursdays

Dedicated to the notion that fans of the Smiths and Morrissey want to hear some of the greatest music ever written in a true live concert setting, Caligula Blushed delivers an authentic rendition of Smiths/Morrissey songs, with each performance based

Renegade Mode

Having worked with the likes of Gary Numan, DJ Neidermeyer lends authenticity a go-go. Enough to satisfy even the purists.

The Renegade boasts all of the virtues of Arlington’s premier music venues while providing bar bites that rival most restaurants

Ă—

Subscribe to our mailing list