What pairs well with sub-polar temperatures and constant wispy snowfall?
Conventional beer wisdom would say somethin’ dark and boozy, there being no better liquid insulator than dark booze. But people associate myriad flavors with deep winter. Some prefer toffee in their beer, others opt for spice. Some go for coffee and red wine, others never retreat from big hops, regardless of the season.
As the palette of beer flavors grows and transforms, the character of the “winter beer” has adapted. Piney winter warmers are far less frequent, and even traditional bready stouts have been infused with all sorts of new flavors. All of a sudden, the most predictable craft beer season has become a wildcard.
This month, we look at a microcosm of beers that represent the breadth of winter beers. There’s even a bonus thrown in for the holiday season. Rejoice!
Boom Island Kriek
Belgian sour, 4.8% ABV, pH 3.4
Boom Island’s semi-regular Spontaneous Series is a certifiable hit with the release of their new lambic-leaning Belgian sour Kriek. Their last entry, Triple Brett (read more here) was a fantastic, funky bastard, but the followup couldn’t be more distinct from its antecedent.
Released December 2 at the brewery, Kriek is a dry sour beer aged on cherries that employs gads of fruitiness and funk. It drinks more like champagne than beer, with an effervescent body that swallows super dry. The nose gives hints of kombucha, red wine, and blood orange, but the taste is definitely cherry, and when sipped in quick succession, it can leave a syrupy feel on the tongue. The 750 mL bottles featured here should be gone by now, but liquor stores are still stocking the 375 mL version while supplies last.
612 the Outfit
Oatmeal porter, 6.4% ABV, 23 IBU
In the Minnesota beer world, being four years old makes you something of a legacy brand. Northeast’s 612 Brew has built its reputation since 2013 on providing classic standby styles, and it’s gotten them onto a lot of beer shelves. But now the culture of craft is changing to reward quick turnover and ambitious interpretations, which makes it all the more exciting that brewer Austin Myhran is experimenting with New England IPAs, smoked dubbels, and Belgian strong ales with Indian spices.
But the feature for this month is a mix of both the brewery’s past and its ambitious future. Newish oatmeal porter The Outfit was previously known as Payback in the taproom. Now that it’s getting a six-pack can release, the beer has been toned down and renamed. With the unassuming backbone of a good ale, the Outfit is silky throughout the body. The original 8% ABV is dialed back to 6.4%, making it a great fit for a 12-ounce can and a perfect balance between pushing the envelope and keeping to tradition.
Lupulin Polarnattens Paradis
Coffee stout, 10% ABV, 50 IBU
Two of Lupulin’s previous contributions to Local Suds (Spudfest and Rumpplefest) were tied to events going down in the brewery’s native Big Lake. But their upcoming release of Polarnattens Paradis is a being unto itself. Brewed in collaboration with Ramsey’s Paradise Roasters, this coffee stout is a milky beer homage to the Aurora borealis that light up your winter.
The beer makes good use of Paradise’s Espresso Nuevo and Aged Sumatra Peaberry coffees to put a strong java taste on top of the intimidatingly dark body. It goes down smoother than it looks, though, with a surprising tingle of star anise punctuating the end of the sip. If you’re one of those people with a natural aversion to black licorice, this may not be the beer for you, but if you like good, insulating imperials that creatively disguise their ABV, then seek it out when it drops on December 23.
Badger Hill Tripel Abbey Ale
Belgian tripel, 9.4% ABV, 19 IBU
After taking the gold medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2014, Badger Hill has really pushed to be one of the most quality-driven craft breweries in Minnesota. Though the White IPA was the winner in 2014, it’d be easy to envision the spicy, yeasty Tripel Abbey Ale as the next to win the Shakopee brewery a national title.
With a light peppery flavor in the finish and a ticklingly high ABV, it’s a complex finish packaged into hazy gold body. Bouquets of clove and Abbey yeast fill the nose, with a wispy head tracing the glass as you drink it down. Tripel Abbey is only available in the taproom, with a run of 500 bottles hitting market. However, it should remain on tap in Shakopee until early next year.
Inbound Cranberry Orange Tart and Wild Rice Porter
Wheat ale, 4.9% ABV, 20 IBU
Porter, 8.1% ABV, 30 IBU
What are you bringing to dinner this holiday season? Wild rice? Cranberry sauce? Well, North Loop’s Inbound Brewco wants you to bring along the two Minnesota classics in liquid form. For the taproom’s first bottle release, they’ve crafted a pair of beers that serve as perfect meal complements.
First is a tart wheat ale garnished with cranberry and dried orange. The two fruits stack perfectly, pairing their tart and sweet flavors in a delicate balance. It’s the appetizer beer, with a lightness that won’t stand in the way of the main course. The light fizz also has an introductory appeal that can convert those members of your family who usually opt for wine during their meals.
The second beer is an old favorite from the taproom. After the success of the original Wild Rice Porter, Inbound decided to tweak the original recipe for a full-scale bottle run. At 8.1% ABV, it’s a much heavier indulgence, with thick, rich notes of chocolate funneling out of the bottle. Its light nuttiness would pair well with fine red meat, giving the beer lover in the family a new favorite to cellar for next year’s family get-together.
Both 750 mLs are available only in the Inbound taproom. They will be released at 4 p.m. on December 16. There is a limited run of each (500 Cranberry Orange Tart and 750 Wild Rice Porter), and each bottle is hand numbered.
Brewers interested being featured in Local Suds should email [email protected].