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On our list: The best winter beers of 2010

Samichlaus: "Santa Claus" in the Swiss-German language of Austria, where this beer comes from. This is a rich doppelbock that is known as a "slow beer," going through nearly a year of fermentation and conditioning before it's ready each December. Usually clocking in at 14 percent ABV, this carefully crafted lager is very rich and flavorful.

Anchor Christmas Ale: Brewed annually since 1975, this Christmas ale features a different label and recipe each year. Many winter beers vary in character slightly from year to year, but Anchor is a surprise each time. I've had this year's edition, and it's fantastic. I suspect that Anchor uses spruce tips in their Christmas beers, making it taste a bit like a liquid Christmas tree.

He'brew Jewbelation Ale: Brewed each year for a Hanukkah release, this is a huge, bold ale which increases in alcohol content each year. For 2010, Schmaltz Brewing Co.'s 14th anniversary, the beer contains 14 malts, 14 hops added in 14 increments, and clocks in at 14 percent ABV. I highly recommend reading the Schmaltz website for more of this year's entertaining numerology.

Scaldis Noël: One of my absolute favorites year-round, this Belgian Christmas beer is conditioned using a traditional process in which hop flowers are added to the finished beer during the secondary fermentation stage, where it ages for over a month. The finished product is sweet and very complex.

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale: An absolute classic version of the winter warmer style, this varies greatly in character from year to year. This year's is among the best in recent history, and it features a sweet, malty body reminiscent of caramel and toffee.

This season gives breweries a time to shine with special, limited-release beers, and these examples are only the beginning. You'll find brilliant winter beers available from most breweries — Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Harpoon Winter Warmer, Delerium Noël, and St. Bernardus Noël are a few that are next up on my list of favorites; our local breweries are also certain to have something special cooked up. I strongly recommend trying all the varieties you can get your hands on.

Go ahead, tap into some of that winter cheer.

— jg@saintbeat.com

The winter months mean many things to many people, but they often boil down to feelings of either mirth and cheer or outright dread. Fortunately, there's an event that happens every year that can help everyone get into the spirit of the season, an event that I await with an enthusiasm and anticipation typically reserved for children with suspiciously bicycle-shaped packages next to their Christmas tree.

It's the arrival of winter beer!

Only a month ago, I was extolling the virtues of amber-hued, aromatic autumn beers. It's true, there's a singular pleasure in sipping a spicy, pumpkin ale in the cool autumn breeze, but I consider the autumn beers more of a warm-up to the more robust and complex beers of winter.

Brewing beers for the wintertime is an ancient tradition, stretching back at least 2,000 years, when special beers would be brewed to celebrate the arrival of the winter solstice. Later, medieval monks would brew beers for the Christmas holiday, a tradition that is as popular today as it was 600 years ago. Breweries everywhere have traditionally brewed heavier and richer beers to be enjoyed during the winter months, and fortunately, it's easier than ever for us to get our hands on these special beers.

Winter beers don't share many common characteristics. Some are sweet and filled with aromatic spices, some are heavy and bold, some are simply souped-up versions of a brewery's flagship beer. Most do often have one thing in common, though — a high alcohol content. Ostensibly, this is to "warm" the drinker during the frigid nights, but it has the added effect of increasing the overall warmth that many people feel during the season.

From old ales and winter warmers to spiced ales and barley wines, there are plenty of choices to please any beer drinker's palate. Here are some of my favorites that you'll find floating around the Bay area.



The winter months mean many things to many people, but they often boil down to feelings of either mirth and cheer or outright dread. Fortunately, there's an event that happens every year that can help everyone get into the spirit of the season, an event that I await with an enthusiasm and anticipation typically reserved for children with suspiciously bicycle-shaped packages next to their Christmas tree.

It's the arrival of winter beer!

Only a month ago, I was extolling the virtues of amber-hued, aromatic autumn beers. It's true, there's a singular pleasure in sipping a spicy, pumpkin ale in the cool autumn breeze, but I consider the autumn beers more of a warm-up to the more robust and complex beers of winter.

Brewing beers for the wintertime is an ancient tradition, stretching back at least 2,000 years, when special beers would be brewed to celebrate the arrival of the winter solstice. Later, medieval monks would brew beers for the Christmas holiday, a tradition which is as popular today as it was 600 years ago. Breweries everywhere have traditionally brewed heavier and richer beers to be enjoyed during the winter months, and fortunately, it's easier than ever for us to get our hands on these special beers.

Winter beers don't share many common characteristics. Some are sweet and filled with aromatic spices, some are heavy and bold, some are simply souped-up versions of a brewery's flagship beer. Most do often have one thing in common, though — a high alcohol content. Ostensibly, this is to "warm" the drinker during the frigid nights, but it has the added effect of increasing the overall warmth that many people feel during the season.

From old ales and winter warmers to spiced ales and barleywines, there are plenty of choices to please any beer drinker's palate. Here are some of my favorites that you'll find floating around the Bay area.

On our list: The best winter beers of 2010 12/09/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:15pm]

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