Amidst the glut of holiday seasonals The New School has painstakingly identified the best 8 Winter Beers & a Cider to try now before they are gone. We all have favorite winter classics like Sierra Nevada’s Celebration or Deschutes Jubelale but for those looking for something new and different there are some amazing Gin barrel-aged, Blackberry, Blood Orange and Cherry infused, as well as malt and hop bombs that make this well rounded list. We narrowed our selections to beer or cider in bottles and available right now in Oregon, though many of them won’t be for long!
Anchor Brewing: Winter Wheat
Everyone knows Anchor Brewing’ Our Special Ale sometimes simply called Anchor Christmas Ale, that beer has been a prototypical example of the spiced kind of winter ale but just this year in 2014 Anchor has introduced a 2nd quite different winter ale. Anchor Winter Wheat is made with a popular newer malt called “Midnight Wheat” that has been found recently in quit a few CDA’s and Black IPA’s. Murky and shockingly dark and creamy with a thin tan head. Cool wheat and milk chocolate aroma. Smooth full and creamy body has just a bit of roasty bite and cool minty and herbal hops. The best description for this beer might be a wheat Porter that tastes great ice cold with almost a milkshake consistency but’s chocolatey subtleties stand out as it warms. Available now in 12oz bottles and 6-packs.
Anderson Valley: Blood Orange Gose
The recent introduction of Gose in cans by Anderson Valley may have an underrated effect on the craft beer industry. True it is not super true to style as traditional Gose is more subtly tart and AV’s is mouth puckeringly sour but they nail the salty salinity and are likely the first ever brewery to can a Gose while bringing affordable sour beer to the masses in 6-packs. Now Anderson Valley has introduced a Blood Orange version of the Gose and it’s even better because it introduces that citrusy pithiness of the fruit while also making this beer it’s own unique creation. Ever since sour beers began to get popular in the US about 6 or 7 years ago I knew that the future had to make them easier to make and more affordable and that future is finally here.
Cider Riot: Never Give An Inch
This brand new Oregon Blackberry Cider from Portland’s Cider Riot is a refreshing change from all of the sweet spiced ciders that are being released this time of year. Oregon blackberries and blackcurrants give Never Give an Inch a beautiful dark reddish purple color and slightly acidic berry and tannic flavor with a bone dry finish without a hint of sweetness at 6.9% Abv. Cider Riot even says you can alternatively mull it with spices and serve it hot for even more variety. Suggested recipe: 2 bottles of Never Give an Inch, 1/8 teaspoon cloves, 2 juniper berries, 1⁄4 teaspoon allspice, 1⁄4 teaspoon mace, 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1⁄4 teaspoon mace, a dash of orange peel.
Gigantic Brewing: Pipewrench
Just a couple of years ago no one had heard of anything being aged in Gin barrels, the practice of aging that botanical spirit in oak had mostly been forgotten. Today with a small resurgence by craft distillers to age their Gins in oak we now have a growing number of beers spending time in these very unique flavored barrels. While we often see Stouts or Barleywines best aged in Whiskey barrels those styles would likely overpower the subtle botanicals and spices of a gin barrel and so IPA’s and farmhouse ales have became the favorites to age in these barrels. Gigantic Brewing’s Pipewrench Gin Barrel-Aged IPA is one of the largest releases of a Gin barrel-aged beer so far and is also a World Beer Cup gold medal winning beer in the barrel-aged beer category. Tasting notes: Juniper berries, citrus fruit, pine and oak lend to a complex nose on this hazy orange pour. This beer packs a hell of a flavor punch with big juicy pine and citrus and tons of oakiness and a full bodied and slightly alcoholic bite. The juniper berries and a note of white peppercorn make for a slightly mouth numbing quality. Pick up one of these 22oz bottles now because they will be gone very soon.
Grain Station Brew Works: Chocolate Monk
“Trips to Belgium and bike rides past the Brigitine Monestary outside of Amity inspired our special winter beer. Spicy esters with hints of dried fruit and dark chocolate aromas meld together in the kettle and on/the palette to give you my vision of a heavenly winter beer.” – Brewmaster Mark Vickery, Grain Station Brew Works Pouring a mahogany, slightly cloudy and bubble filled glass with surprisingly no lasting head. Caramel, bubble gum, banana, blueberries and raisins make for an inviting nose. Full bodied and malt forward Grain Station and brewer Mark Vickery have dialed in this classic take on a dubbed that has all the right notes of bubble gum and clove but at a subdued enough rate that they don’t become overwhelming and best of all it finishes on a super dry note with just the most subtlest hint of cocoa. I first tried Grain Station’s Chocolate Monk on draft at Bailey’s Taproom so it was great to hear that they were bottling it in beautiful champagne style and Abbey inspired packaging. Available now only at The Beermongers, Saraveza and Belmont Station in Portland (and I assume at the brewery in McMinnville) I am also insured that this will make for a great cellar edition.
You don’t find too many Alt bier’s these days especially in bottles so it’s great to find Oregon’s premiere brewer of lagers – Heater Allen Brewing taking a stab at the style and hitting it out of the park. A German-style Altbier is a bit like a lagered Amber Ale with a difficult balance that needs to be struck between chewy caramel malts, a small yet balanced hop bite and most importantly a smooth body and crisp finish. Heater-Allen’s Alt does everything a good Alt bier should with perhaps just a smidgen more bitterness, low carbonation and some tasty dark fruit flavors enveloped by layers of crystal malts. Available now in 22oz bottles at finer bottleshops in Oregon.
Laurelwood: Deranger Imperial Red
For my money Laurelwood Brewing defined the Northwest-style Red with their Organic Free Range Red and then made the first badass Double Red ale in “Deranger” a multiple award winning beer. It used to be draft only seasonal or in just spendy 1-liter bottles but now it’s available as a seasonal winter release in 22oz bottles and it kicks ass. Malty and chewy with a river of citrusy and piney hops running through it. This one is big, full bodied and bitter but doesn’t taste boozy or cloying and does not finish being sweet but instead coats your mouth with bitter hops. If that’s your thing you can’t do much better than a bottle of Deranger Imperial Red.
Widmer: Cherry Bomb Doppelbock
Pours a rich mahogany and ruby with a very minimimal teensy creamy head with an aroma of rich maltiness and sweet cherry. Full bodied, full of toffee and molasses with cherry coming up in the background and a nice toastiness to finish it off. Cherry is not overdone in this beer and it provides more of a layer of dept to this lager without stepping to the forefront like the name might suggest. It’s quite rich and thick but lagered well to be extremely soft and smooth, all the rough edges hewn off. Even the brassy huge 12.5 % Abv is completely hidden in this carefully crafted beer. Widmer’s Cherry Bomb Doppelbock is not for those afraid of a sweeter and heavier beer but is a perfect winter sipper best split with your lover over a fire or in place of holiday desserts.