Autumn didn’t stand a chance.
Second week of November, and we’re already plunged into a frigid, unforgiving darkness. Frost started forming just after Halloween, and then Daylight Savings came and kicked our psyches right in the ass. Dark times indeed, beer drinkers.
Drinking can exacerbate seasonal depression, or it can carry you out of it. It’s a precarious balance, so be careful. One moment, you’re sipping a tulip of barrel-proof stout, the next you’re passing out on the living room carpet at 4:30 p.m. Wield these five spirit-lifters with cautious self-awareness.
Surly Black Horseman
Black lager, 6% ABV, n/a IBU
Winter is Surly season, so it’s only appropriate that the sinister brewery is leading the month with three brand new releases. Not only did they drop Dark Phase, a light stout highlighted in their Frost Pack, and Magic Formula for Peace, an imperial oatmeal stout brewed in collaboration with Modist and Illinois’s Mikerphone Brewing, but they also partnered with Danish gothic musician King Diamond to create Black Horseman. Despite the heavy metal pedigree, Black Horseman is a smooth 6% beer that abounds with coffee, cocoa, and toffee flavors. Brewed in the Brooklyn Center test brewery, this sweet little ripper of a beer will be gone quicker than the bangover from a King Diamond show.
Lift Bridge Commander 2019
Barleywine, 12.5% ABV, 29 IBU
The time has come to get your annual serving of Lift Bridge Commander. The 2019 vintage dropped on November 8, coming in a much more session-friendly 12-ounce bottles (a big step down from the 22-ounce bombers of yore), but the beer inside is as potent as ever. Smelling like a rum barrel full of cherry juice, the stalwart English barleywine is one of Minnesota’s best beers and one of the booziest traditions in the state’s craft beer scene. If the wickedly deep licorice and vanilla flavors aren’t enough to indulge your yearly yearning for big concept beers, Lift Bridge also released a bourbon barrel-aged variant.
Fair State Rum Raisin
Imperial stout, 10.5% ABV, n/a IBU
Subscription services are all the rage, but instead of produce, razors, or underwear, Northeast’s Fair State Brewing Cooperative is offering a select group of subscribers a selection of 11 incredibly rare small-batch beers. Subscriptions for 2020’s Journeys + Sidequests program opened November 7 and will run through January 31. For $300 ( double down for an additional $250), you get 11 J+S beers and admission to a subscriber-only party. The first bottle on the table is Rum Raisin, a mighty imperial stout that mashes together the fermentation traditions of Europe and the West Indies. Crammed with whole raisins, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and aged in rum barrels, Rum Raisin is a profoundly deep drink. It smells like honeyed plums and tastes like toasted molasses. Definitely worth a roll of the 20-sided dice.
Able Oh Baby
Stout, 8.2% ABV, 8 IBU
Warm yourself in layers of silk with Able’s new candy stout Oh Baby. Hitting the taproom November 15 and out in cans three days later, Oh Baby is beefed up with cocoa nibs, cherry, and vanilla, tasting something like a can of Cherry Coke served with a scoop of chocolate ice cream. It’s decadent, but not tooth decay-sweet, thanks in part to the fruity-yet-dry Glacier hops. If you don’t have a sugary side, try their low-gravity experimental haze bomb Shapes and Sizes (5.8% ABV, 10 IBU). Between the two, you should be able to find something that lights up the beer nerd in you.
612Brew Honey Blonde Ale
Blonde ale, 5% ABV, 18 IBU
Honey Blonde Ale is making its way out of 612Brew’s Northeast taproom. The easy-drinkin’ American blonde ale has been a favorite since it hit the tap back in February, but now it’s getting the 12-ounce treatment for you to take home. Honey Blonde is made with just a bit of honey malt, giving the beer a pleasant touch of honeysuckle and toasted granola. That sweetness elevates this oft-pedestrian style to a pleasant charmer that helps you straddle fall and winter.
Brewers interested in being featured in Local Suds should email [email protected].