When it comes to beer, there isn’t a style that’s more ambiguous than a “winter ale.” It has no clear definition, making this seasonal brew one of the year’s most exciting. While the vague profile gives brewers creative license to brew a batch as they see fit, these cold weather beers do have a few things in common.
Although they can be anything from a white IPA to a stout, winter ales generally have a few shared traits. Like any seasonal beers, they are made with the food and weather of the season in mind. Just as summer beers are perfect for a cookout in the sun, winter beers, also known as “winter warmers,” are perfect to pair with a big holiday meal of dates, duck, pecan pies and stuffing consumed on a snowy December evening. These brews also tend to have a slightly higher ABV (alcohol by volume), which contributes to that “warming” feeling that they promise. You should also expect a malty, low-hop flavor, which will give you a sweeter beer that’s very low on bitterness.
Winter ales, winter warmers, strong ales — whatever you call them, they demand some attention this season. With brewers experimenting with everything from candied pecans to spruce tips, these beers always deliver.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup winter ale (or wheat beer)
- 3 cups (12 ounces) cranberries
- 1 tablespoon fine orange zest
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (about ½ a navel orange)
- Put all ingredients in a pot.
- Bring to a strong simmer. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.