One of the most glorious and distinct harbingers of winter in Colorado is the appearance of seasonal beers. Winter is the time to take advantage of flavors such as roasted malts, chocolate, pepper spice and caramel. Below are a few winter warmers from Colorado craft breweries to keep an eye out for.
Favorite Colorado Winter Brews
Left Hand Brewery in Longmont boasts two winter brews. Fade to Black, which was the 2010 Great American Beer Festival’s Gold Medal-winner (foreign stout category), has rich notes of licorice, espresso bean and molasses. Good Juju, the reincarnation of the former year-round offering Juju Ginger, is a bit lighter but has the seasonal spiciness that only comes from brewing with pungent ginger.
It’s said that the San Juan Mountain snowpack is responsible for the quality and freshness of the Winter Ale from Durango Brewing Co. Those who live in this southwestern town demand great après-ski beers, and this ale, with a lightly fruity taste and cocoa finish delivers. Plus, it’s available by the growler from the Main Ave. Tap Room, making it easy to enjoy by the fire at home or in your ski condo.
Boulder Beer Company calls its Never Summer Ale “assertively hopped” which sounds scary, but isn’t if you like beers with a ruby-red hue. Beloved by Boulderites as an après-ski standard, the ale was a gold-medal winner in the 2004 World Beer Cup.
New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins developed a cult-like following for its 2° Below Winter Ale from inception. It’s one of the brewery’s most beloved small batches, delivering a slightly hoppy beer with some pepper and spice that pair perfectly with Monterey Jack cheese, dark meats and desserts featuring pears or apples.
Once brewed only in small batches for employees of Coors, AC Golden Brewing Company’s (a subsidiary of MillerCoors in Golden) crisp Winterfest lager has gained a faithful following since they started brewing slightly larger batches. One of the most fun things about this one is its exclusivity — you can only get it in Colorado.
Though the Northstar Imperial Porter brewed each winter by Boulder's Twisted Pine Brewing Company is extremely enjoyable at the time of purchase, it’s also brewed to last. Connoisseurs can stow a six pack away in a cool, dark spot to savor its deliciously aged, full-bodied malted flavors a few winters from now.
Great Divide Brewing Company’s richly malted Hibernation Ale should be sipped cautiously — with 8.7 percent alcohol by volume, it’s one of the strongest winter selections. What really takes center stage, however, are the ale’s chocolate and dark fruit flavors. Visit their Denver tap room’s monthly beer-and-cheese pairing to find out what goes best with this winter favorite.
Estes Park Brewery’s German-style High Altitude Alt
Kannah Creek Brewing Company’s Rudolph’s Revenge malty red ale (Grand Junction)
Breckenridge Brewery’s hearty chocolate and caramel Christmas Ale
Avery Brewing Company’s hazelnutty Old Jubilation Ale (Boulder)
Odell Brewing Co.’s subtly sweet Isolation Ale (Fort Collins)
Pagosa Brewing Company’s chocolate-and-vanilla-tinged Pack-It-In Wassail Ale (Pagosa Springs)
Many of these breweries offer tours of their operations, a particularly festive way to get your taste on. For information on all of Colorado’s craft brewers, visit the Colorado Brewers Guild.
Photo: New Belgium Brewing's Tasting Room, photo by flickr/RobotsOnCandy.