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Cold and Hoppy: The Best Winter IPAs This Season

Autumn may be fresh-hop beer season but a good IPA can’t be contained by the calendar. In fact, some of these hop-forward numbers are tailor-made for the dark days of winter.

What gives this style of beer its distinctive seasonality? Well, the things you crave most in winter, of course. That means a little more alcoholic heft to allow you to hibernate and some bigger flavors to match what you’re eating (or, at least cut into the cold). For some, it even means incorporating adjuncts like spruce tips and heartier malt varieties. It’s as though Old Man Winter and all his sage advice were put in a bottle, just for you.

They’re a joy on their own but also nice alongside softer cheeses, charcuterie, and pretty much anything drizzled in truffle oil or sprinkled with rosemary. The breweries often change their batches slightly from year to year, so even if you’re already familiar with one, it’s always worth checking back to see if it changed in any way. And if your fridge is jam-packed with leftovers, just throw your six-pack or case in the backyard. Chances are, the winter weather will chill your beer for you, free of charge. 

Want to get in on the winter IPA game? Here are five to try.

Ballast Point Sculpin Spruce Tip IPA

For a San Diego operation, Ballast Point does a nice winter IPA. This one is made with Oregon spruce tips, giving the hop bill a sturdy, woodsy backbone. It’s the most complex of the Sculpin series and great beneath a starry sky, preferably in a hot tub.

Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA

One of the first of its kind, this winter IPA debuted in 1981. The caramelized malts give it great color in addition to some richness and subtle nutty notes. It’s a fresh-hop, so it holds on to some of those nice, vegetal, piny notes, evoking a trip into the woods to fell your own Christmas tree.

Bale Breaker High Camp Winter IPA

This beer throws a bit of an IPA curveball with the addition of chocolate malts, which impart some welcoming toffee and roasted coffee notes. But you can trust Bale Breaker, a hop-addicted brewery based in the hop-tastic Yakima Valley.

Alaskan Brewing Hopothermia

They know cold in Alaska. This  Double IPA delivers hearth-strength warmth with a rich, malty body shadowed by some nice citrus zest. If you believe the lore the brewery puts out, the beer was devised to fend off everything the Last Frontier can throw at you, from grizzlies to wolverines.

The Ale Apothecary Ralph

Fine, it’s not technically an IPA, but it sorta drinks like one and, if nothing else, the Ralph is one of the most wintery beers out there. Brewed in snowy Bend, Oregon and brewed in actual spruce, it’s the beer equivalent of a crisp winter morning, in the middle of some tree-covered mountain range. This beer is complex and should be sipped over a long stretch to truly take it all in.

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