The Best Winter Beers for 2023

When cold temperatures start setting in and holiday gatherings are in full swing, you'll start to see seasonal winter beers making their yearly debut once again. Rich, full-bodied brews like doppelbocks and Russian imperial stouts take the place of last season's pumpkin beers and fall ciders. These are the kind of beers that deserve to be sipped while you enjoy a hearty, comforting meal and sit by a warm, crackling fireplace. Even if you don't have a fireplace in your establishment, you can still evoke those feelings for your guests with a great winter beer list. Check out our top picks for the best seasonal beers of winter 2022.

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Seasonal Winter Beers

We've made a list of the most popular winter beers you can stock this season. Consider filling beer growlers so your guests can enjoy their favorite winter beers while staying cozy at home.

1. Scotch Ale (Wee Heavys)

scotch ale in tulip glass

Scotch ales are top-fermenting brews that were originally served in small quantities (thus, the "wee heavy" nickname) for a few schillings in nineteenth-century Scotland. This style is boiled extensively in kettles, which creates toasty caramelization and sweet, full-bodied flavors.

Many Scotch ales also offer higher alcohol by volume, making them perfect for cold winter days. Beer experts, also called cicerones, recommend serving these tasty brews with gamey meats, spicy foods, and creamy desserts.

Give These Scotch Ales a Try:

  • Founders Brewing Company: French Toast Bastard (Grand Rapids, MI) 11.1% ABV
  • Dark Horse Brewing Company: Scotty Karate Scotch Ale (Marshall, MI) 9.75% ABV
  • Pelican Pub & Brewery: Captain Of The Coast (Pacific City, OR) 9.5% ABV
  • Thirsty Dog Brewing Company: Wulver (Akron, OH) 12% ABV

2. Barleywine

barleywine in glass

A barleywine is a style of strong ale that's typically characterized by high alcohol content, a bittersweet taste, and a rich mouthfeel. Despite the name, barleywines contain no actual wine. They earned the moniker due to their complexity of flavors.

While American-style barleywines are intensely hopped for a more bitter and hop-forward taste, English varieties tend to offer a more balanced combination of malt and hops. Serve this winter beer style with a charcuterie board of cured meats and creamy cheeses.

Give These Barleywines a Try:

  • Weyerbacher Brewing Company: Insanity (Easton, PA) 13.3% ABV
  • Firestone Walker Brewing Company: Helldorado (Pasa Robles, CA) 12.8% ABV
  • Alpine Beer Company: Great (Alpine, CA) 14% ABV
  • Revolution Brewing: Maple Jacket (Chicago, IL) 14.4% ABV

3. Russian Imperial Stout

Russian imperial stout in a goblet

Often referred to as the king of stouts, Russian imperial stouts were created in the nineteenth century by brewers looking to curry favor with Catherine the Great of Russia. These beers are top-fermenting ales with high alcohol content, low levels of carbonation, and toasted, malty flavors.

Most Russian imperial stouts also feature notes of dark fruit and little to no hop character. Try serving these hearty brews alongside oysters, chocolate, and soft cheeses.

Give These Russian Imperial Stouts a Try:

  • Stone Brewing: Fyodor (Escondido, CA) 13.1% ABV
  • North Coast Brewing Company: Old Rasputin (Fort Bragg, CA) 9% ABV
  • Brooklyn Brewery: Black Chocolate Stout (Brooklyn, NY) 10% ABV
  • Firestone Walker Brewing Company: Parabajava (Paso Robles, CA) 14% ABV

4. Baltic Porter

baltic porter in crystal glass

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many Western European brewers began creating strong, robust porters to be shipped across the North Sea to the Baltic regions. These beers were often supplemented by the addition of stale ales, which added an acidic flavor that beer drinkers loved.

Baltic porters are top-fermenting ales that offer a smoky, roasted, malty character with a full-bodied mouthfeel. Consider serving them with barbecued meats, stews, and semi-hard cheeses.

Give These Baltic Porters a Try:

  • Einstock Beer Company: Icelandic Toasted Porter (Akureyri, Iceland) 6% ABV
  • Hill Farmstead Brewery: Fear & Trembling (Greensboro Bend, VT) 9.3% ABV
  • Zywiec Breweries PLC: Porter (Zyweic, Poland) 9.5% ABV
  • Jack's Abby Brewing: Framinghammer - Bourbon Barrel-Aged (Framingham, MA) 10% ABV

5. Doppelbock

dopplebock beer in pint glass

Bock beer is a German-style lager with a strong malt flavor. Doppelbock, which essentially means double bock, has even more malt and a fuller body than a standard bock. This beer was originally brewed by a group of monks called the Paulaners, who developed the style with extra malt for nourishment during times of fasting.

You'll notice that many doppelbock beers have the suffix "-ator" in their name, like Troeg's Troegenator. The original doppelbock was named Salvator, and due to its popularity, it became common for other producers to imitate the name by adding the suffix. Enjoy your malty doppelbocks with red meat, pork, and sharp cheeses.

Give These Doppelbocks a Try:

  • Brauerei Ayinger: Celebrator (Aying, Germany) 6.7% ABV
  • Klosterbrauerei Weltenburg: Weltenburger Kloster Asam-Bock (Kelheim, Germany) 6.9% ABV
  • Klosterbrauerei Andechs: Doppelbock Dunkel (Andechs, Germany) 7.1% ABV
  • Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan: Korbinian (Freising, Germany) 7.4% ABV

6. Barrel Aged Beer

dark and light beer on barrel

Barrel aged beers are aged in wooden barrels to impart unique flavors to the finished product. Any style of beer can be barrel aged, but the approach is best suited to beers with strong flavors that are complemented by notes of hickory, oak, or applewood. The use of whiskey barrels or brandy barrels adds a boozy flavor and hints of caramel, vanilla, and bourbon.

Entice customers to your bar over the winter months by offering a selection of complex barrel aged beers paired with smoked foods, oysters, or a pan-seared steak. Choose a rich, chocolate cake to serve with barrel aged stouts or a hunk of sharp cheese to complement a barrel aged barleywine.

Give These Barrel Aged Beers a Try:

  • Jackie O's Brewpub: Bourbon Barrel Black Maple (Athens, OH) 13.1% ABV
  • Prairie Artisan Ales: Barrel Aged Christmas Bomb (Tulsa, OK) 13% ABV
  • Goose Island Beer Company: Bourbon County Brand Stout (Chicago, IL) 14.7% ABV
  • Great Divide Brewing Company: Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout (Denver, CO) 9.5% ABV

7. Winter Warmer

Three winter warmer beers on a table

Winter warmers are top-fermenting ales that offer plenty of malty, sweet flavors alongside a balanced hop character. Many winter warmers are blended with spices, which give the style its trademark warmth.

Traditionally, English strong ales and spiced Wassail beers fall under the umbrella of winter warmers, so be sure to keep plenty of these brews on hand during the winter months. Consider serving them with poultry, baked goods, and seasonal winter fruits.

Give These Winter Warmers a Try:

  • Thirsty Dog Brewing Company: 12 Dogs Of Christmas Ale (Akron, OH) 8.3% ABV
  • Anchor Brewing Company: Our Special Ale 2022 (San Francisco, CA) 7.2% ABV
  • Flying Dog Brewery: Freezin Season (Frederick, MD) 7.4% ABV
  • Deschutes Brewery: Jubelale (Bend, OR) 6.7% ABV

It's time to trade in your fall beers and update your tap list with any of these highly-rated winter beers. Check out our beer glass guide to find the perfect glass to complement your holiday seasonal beers.

Posted in: Bars & Breweries|Seasonal|By Michale LeRoy
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