It's eventually — maybe? — going to start getting cold in Atlanta, as it generally does during the winter season every year. And when/if temperatures start plummeting, you're going to need a nice, seasonal brew with which to cozy up. Because you've got a lot of options, and because the weather is going to turn on us — allegedly — any day now, we asked several Atlanta beer aficionados for their favorite winter beers. Looks like you've got your drinking cut out for you. Cheers!
Chase Medlin, Twain's Billiards & Tap
With such a wide spectrum of what is now considered a winter beer, from hoppy to spiced or roasty, it's tough to pick one beer that stands above the rest. My favorite winter seasonal is probably Avery Brewing's Old Jubilation Ale. It is a delicious, full-flavored English Old Ale with notes of nuts, toffee, and spices. It's very smooth for an 8.3 percent beer, and is great for pairing with food or drinking by the fire.
Jennifer O'Connell, Georgia Ale & Lager Sirens
In 2011, Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale Brown Shugga Substitute was a liquid-apology Hallmark card to their fans for not making the usual holiday seasonal. Succulent, caramelized pineapple hop bomb was my immediate reaction to this beer, which led to soaking dried pineapple in the beer and eating it with Camembert. Lagunitas, consider this my thank-you card for brewing it again.
Kraig Torres, Hop City Craft Beer & Wine
Picture Mom baking for the holidays, then crack open a Sam Smith's Winter Welcome. The melody of candied fruit intertwining with a biscuit — dare I say cookie-esque? — malt backbone and a hint of molasses. It pours copper in the glass with a lighter mouthfeel than expected in a winter ale. This beer tastes like Christmas.
Brian Purcell, Three Taverns Brewery
Corsendonk Christmas Ale Plumb. Pudding goodness laces the glass and treats your tastebuds to one of the best winter seasonals. With a deep and inviting reddish-brown color, this full-flavored Belgian gem's refined aroma of dried fruit and peppery spice continues in the flavor until finishing with a remarkably balanced and spicy aftertaste.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout currently enjoys a perfect 100 at RateBeer.com with good reason: a big, luxurious, vintage-dated imperial stout that ages very well, with a rich dark-chocolate flavor and silky mouthfeel. Perfect for pairing with desserts, it also shines with Stilton or other hearty cheeses, and makes a grand Valentine's Day gift.
Gouden Carolus Noël is my personal favorite holiday ale. I'm a big believer that if you're going to drink a sweet, dark beer, then go all the way. Gouden Carolus Noël has spicy cinnamon clove and nutmeg balanced by dried fig, and some bourbon character from the high alcohol. Essentially, it's like the best liquid fruitcake you've ever had.
I first had Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale in the late fall of 1992. Smuggled across the Maryland/Pennsylvania border to me in lifeless Harrisburg, I quickly consumed and found my new and, to this day, favorite beer ever. The American IPA was given birth to by this seasonal liquid. The West Coast IPA that is so popular now on every coast got its start with this bottle of bliss. The abundant use of Centennial hops screams so loud it's truly a glass of danky grass. It's like your cat ate your stash and urinated on your Christmas tree.
Nathan Berrong, CNN
The winter releases are easily my favorite season on the beer calendar. My go-to for several years has been N'Ice Chouffe. The Belgians know what they're doing when it comes to strong dark ales and this is one of the best. It gives a warming sensation as you drink it, which is due to some of the spices used in the beer, like thyme and curaçao. For me, this makes it a perfect beer for drinking outside in the cold, ideally with a roaring fire nearby!
One beer I look forward to is Anchor Christmas Ale. The recipe and spices change yearly for renewed excitement. Although 5.5 percent, surprisingly, it can age for 10-plus years as the spices mellow and fuse with the rich malts. Sadly, 2012 may be the last spiced vintage.
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