Endless Beers: Top 10 “Winter Rarities”

What’s a “Winter Rarity?” Well, you know those “seasonals” you like so much? Yes, they are great…but odds are they will be around next year as well. How about the ones that won’t be around? THOSE are winter rarities. The special treats that breweries bless us with once a year—only during that year. Next year, they’ll have at it with a tweak. I won’t waste my breath, but here’s one simple tip. These rarities are meant to be enjoyed, but not all at once. Save at least six and compare with the next year…and the next…and the next. Within six years, you’ll have six beers to compare against each other. Anyway…here it is.

10. Bell’s Black Note Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout (2013)


ABV: 11.5%

Bell’s brewery decided to combine the Exhibition Stout with the Double Cream Stout. The result is a delicious beverage filled with malty flavors of chocolate, coffee, and even some fruity flavors. As you can imagine, this is not for the faint-hearted. OH—did you noticed the whole “aged in Bourbon Barrels” thing? Yup. Find one…if you’re lucky.


9. Weyerbacher’s Althea (2013)


ABV: 7.7%

With visions of the occasional sugar plum still dancing in your head, you’ll enjoy this brew. This is a dubbel style beer with notes of fruits coming through. Weyerbacher brewed this beer to raise Breast Cancer Awareness and donated one dollar per bottle to the cause.


8. Ommegang Hop House (2013)


ABV: 6%

When a brewery explains the aim of a beer is to pay homage to a historic hop farm, my interest is peaked. The brew sounds like it may overwhelm you with hop flavor, but it actually has a good balance of flavor. Of course, it will also satisfy hop heads with the crisp, dry, hoppy finish.


7. Cigar City Capricho Oscuro Series (2013)


ABV: ?

Winter is the season of warmers, spices, and dark beers. Those of you who enjoy an occasional glass of wine may have noticed some of the combination wines out there. Well, beers can be just as complicated…and you don’t need to drink them with your pinky up. Cigar City creates an annual release every year. They chronicle each release on their website, making it easy to compare year by year. This is one of the brews you definitely want to cellar to compare to the next year.

(Cigar City)

6. Southern Tier Grand Arbor (2013)


ABV: 8%

Yes yes yes, winter brews are typically dark brews. Or warming brews. Or spicey brews. But occasionally, a fruity beer can keep it fresh during the cold months. Southern Tier brings us the Grand Arbor. With fruit flavors coming through beginning to end, it finishes tart and actually has an oaky/earthy taste because they added….maple syrup! One of the main food groups for elves. So it must be good.

(Southern Tier)

5. 10 Barrel/Bluejacket/Stone Suede Porter (2013)


ABV: 9.6%

Stop, COLLABORATE, and listen…Anywhoo, this is a porter that has FRUITY and FLORAL characters. An imperial porter to say the least. When I think porter, I think coffee and chocolate…kind of syrupy. But this surprises you with the fruity notes for a moment before bringing you back to the land of porters.


4. Widmer Brothers Ginger Barrel Aged BRRRbon (2013)


ABV: 10.7%

Don’t let the word GINGER scare you. (no offense) In fact, it made me quite curious. And of course…that other word is bourbon. This is a beer to be aged. Of course, try one this year before the ginger flavor is overcome by the malts. However, the vanilla, caramel, and chocolate notes of the malts will come through even more in years to come.

(Widmer Brothers)

3. Anchor Christmas Ale (2013)


ABV: 5.5%

We all know how I feel about this one. Tasty from beginning to end. I believe this is the best yet. BUT, that’s because I’ve been able to compare the 2011, 2012, and 2013! I have a 2013 waiting in the basement for next year.

(Anchor Brewing)

2. Ommegang Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout (2013)


ABV: 7%

Kick ass. I don’t even watch Game of Thrones, but I’m a fan now. The stout is creamy as hell. Typical notes of a stout—vanilla, caramel, chocolate, but then there is an earthy flavor that isn’t in most stouts. It complements the malts of the beer in a weird but good way. I had this after dinner and it was delicious. But it could be had with dinner, before, after, with breakfast. You pick.

1. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (2013)


ABV: 14.2%

You  already know what this one tastes like too. Get yourself some extra extra dark chocolate, pour into a glass at the end of a long day, and tip it back. Savor it.

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