Best Winter Beers

Thirsty? Nothing says winter like robust beers from near and far. Here are seven beers to try this cold season, ranging from local Christmas specials to exotic imports.

For Aspiring Santas: Schell’s Chimney Sweep

Smoky, bold and strong will help any potential Santa brave those cold nights and climbs down the chimney. Hailing from New Ulm, just west of Mankato, Schell’s has been brewing some of the best Minnesota beers for more than a century. Any fan of the strong stuff will want to quaff this holiday special.

For Brave Souls: Brau Brothers Bancreagie

When they say “Peated Scotch Ale,” they mean it has the flavor of smoked peat. This will put hair on anyone’s chest. For dark beer aficionados only. This incredibly robust and smoky ale from tiny Lucan, Minn., just outside Marshall, is bold enough to make even the most intrepid drinker content. It’s overpowering aroma may scare some away, but after a few sips, the taste is worth it.

For the Whole Gang: Summit Horizon Red IPA

Since their Winter Ale is just too gingerbready and sweet for my taste, I recommend Horizon. Red ale is a deeply colored amber blend which is underappreciated in North America. Summit takes it up a level by mixing in India Pale Ale, creating an unforgettable mix of hoppiness and caramel which can keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. This is a go-to beer for any season, brewed right in downtown St. Paul.

For Adventurers: Alaskan Winter Ale

This mildly sweet and hoppy ale recently became available in the Midwest. Alaskan uses real spruce tips to jazz up the flavor of this clean, crisp brew. Winter Ale is somewhat light and has an almost blueberry aftertaste, so it won’t take care of beer fans used to dark and strong brews. But as a light lunch tipple, or for the more casual beer drinker, let this specialty warm you up all winter.

For Light Drinkers and Contrarians: Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

Summer beer in winter? I just can’t click with Leinenkugel’s overly sweet winter offerings. This crisp mix of lemon and wheat beer is heavenly at holiday celebrations. Let the bubbles tickle your throat as you pass over the generic Buds and Coors, and choose a real wheat beer with strong flavor but a light finish. This is what American beer should be like.

For a Happy Hanukkah: Goldstar Premium Beer

Israel’s number one brew is a workhorse ale which can serve as an exotic party drink, a warm up on those cool winter evenings, or just a quality thirst quencher. Brownish-gold and stronger than most American beers, Goldstar is also certified kosher and generally available at specialty beer markets. Skip ho-hum Canadian and European imports and try this Israeli standout.

For the Sweet Tooth: Third Street Brewhouse Sugar Shack

Made right next door in Cold Spring, using maple syrup from St. John’s University, you can’t get more local than this. I’ve been on Third Street’s tour a half dozen times and it never gets old–these guys know how to make beer, and they know how to mix in flavors. Sugar Shack sets your tongue alight without being overly sweet or sticky. This maple stout even leaves a slight vanilla flavor on the tongue.

Enjoy, and remember to drink legally and responsibly.


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