Unless you live in Southern California or South Florida (you lucky bastards), you’re currently dealing with the plummeting temperatures and short days associated with winter. This long, chilly season doesn’t lend itself well to the crisp, light, refreshing brews we all crave in the summertime — instead, winter beer drinkers tend to favor cans, bottles, and drafts with more robust weights and taste profiles built around comforting spices and rich notes of coffee and chocolate. Stout, a dark beer style characterized by the use of roasted malts and barley in the brewing process, really has a chance to shine in the winter, and these 8 stouts currently on the market offer smooth flavors and silky textures perfectly designed to keep you warm and happy, even in the face of a January blizzard or rainstorm (or some wretched combination of the two).
Stouts often take flavor inspiration from popular desserts, and this version from Brooklyn brewery Grimm Ales masters the art of translating a comforting pastry into a drinkable treat with a boozy kick (12% ABV, to be precise). This imperial milk stout includes cinnamon and vanilla notes (of course), but rounds out the sweetness with an earthy roasted backbone, hints of bitter cacao, and a pinch of sea salt. This beer is currently available for purchase at the Grimm Ales brewery only.
The brilliant brewers behind Evil Twin, a “nomadic brewing” operation started in Denmark that has since put down permanent roots in a new facility in Ridgewood, Queens, get creative with classic stout notes like coffee and nuts, resulting in their excellent Brewers Without Borders imperial stout. This dusky beer is brewed with vanilla hazelnut coffee and marshmallow, and these extra ingredients fully infuse the stout, creating well-integrated flavor dimensions and a soft, luxurious mouthfeel. This bold stout with 13% ABV is exclusive to Evil Twin Brewery and can be purchased on-site at its Queens facility.
The depth and heft of a typical stout goes hand in hand with a high alcohol content, which can limit this dark brew’s potential as a marathon beer. However, the clever team at Off Color Brewing in Chicago has a perfect solution: the Myshka Serf Stout, a session beer modeled after a Russian imperial stout, but with only 3.5% ABV. This “mouse-sized” stout (hence the name) packs the dark chocolate flavors and roasted accents of its bigger, boozier brothers, but proves light enough to enjoy all day long. Myshka Serf Stout can be purchased on-site at Off Color Brewery or at liquor stores in the Chicago area.
There’s something undeniably appealing about an alcoholic beverage that evokes childhood memories with every sip … and the seasonal stout from hometown Boston brewery Harpoon, Nana’s Nightcap, more than delivers on that front. The Harpoon team looked to oatmeal raisin cookies for this beer’s flavor inspiration, and that’s why this rich 9% ABV porter has notes of molasses, raisins, cinnamon, and vanilla, along with toasty qualities from the roasted malt. Harpoon beers can be found throughout the Northeast, along the East Coast, in certain parts of the South and Midwest, and in California. To find out whether your local liquor shop or bar carries Nana’s Nightcap, try Harpoon’s very useful Beer Finder feature.
Spices like cinnamon, chili pepper, and nutmeg add incredible dimension to Mexican hot chocolate, and Stone Brewing in San Diego sought to bring those flavors into an imperial stout, an effort culminating in its Xocoveza release. The brewing process for Xocoveza involves “special guest” ingredients like cocoa, coffee, pasilla peppers, vanilla, and cinnamon, all intermingling with and enhancing the gentle sweetness of this medium-weight stout with 8.1% ABV. Stone Brewing Xocoveza can be purchased at the brewery or online (by California residents only), and if you’re not in California, you can search Stone beer availability in your area using the company’s Beer Finder.
Every January, Connecticut artisanal brewery Two Roads releases a new iteration of its iconic 12% ABV Russian imperial stout, known as “Igor’s Dream.” Past versions have been aged in absinthe barrels, ruby port barrels, rye whiskey barrels with cocoa husks, cherry bitters barrels, and so on, with each new vessel or brewing addition imparting a different flavor shade to Two Roads’ classic imperial stout base. Two Roads has yet to announce the specifications of its 2020 Igor’s Dream edition, so curious parties will have to head to CT this month to check it out! Igor’s Dream sales are limited to the Two Roads brewery and to a select number of bars and restaurants in Connecticut.
Colorado’s Left Hand Brewery essentially defined the American milk stout when it first released its version in 2011. This full-bodied 6% ABV stout is brewed with milk sugar, which adds a bit of levity to the flavor while also enriching the texture. The resulting effect is, as Left Hand puts it, a “like cream in your coffee.” Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout can be found throughout the United States, and its Beer Finder will help you locate it near you.
The harmonious blend of chocolate and peanut butter will never fall out of popularity, and St. Louis brewery 4 Hands thinks that it’s about time we channeled that timeless flavor combination into a stout (a beer style frequently associated with chocolate and dairy notes). The brand’s seasonal Absence of Light brew includes a milk stout brewed with a combination of chocolate malts, caramel malts, and peanut butter … so you’re basically getting a drinkable, significantly-less-sweet Reese’s Cup with 7.1% ABV.
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