Full Sail's Wassail and Deschutes' Jubelale deservedly get most of the attention come holiday time, but there are a bunch of wonderful winter beers out this time of year and, though I generally go for lighter beers, the deep winter cold and gloom always inspire me to cozy up with a winter warmer. Here are a few of my faves:
Wassail gets the big brewery run in the six-packs, but my favorite Full Sail winter ale is Wreck the Halls. This is the hophead's winter warmer, really a cross between an IPA and a winter ale, it both gives the hop kick and lays on a nice, but subtle spice note. I adore it.
I am just back from a trip up to Seattle to visit the mom and while there I picked up a super-classic: Elysian's Bifrost Ale. Glad to say it still rocks. Fairly light to medium body with a nice hop/spice mix - very approachable and comforting.
Ninkasi's Double Alt beer Sleigh'r is a new classic and true to all things Ninkasi, it is a hop wonder. It is fairly big bodied, but very well balanced with hops and spices. It is quite a bit bigger then Bifrost and heavier than Wreck the Halls, so it'll fill your tummy and get you felling happy quickly. It warms you up and keeps you cozy.
Oakshire's Ill-Tempered Gnome is what I would call a brown ale with the underlying nuttiness but nice spices and fruit along with porter-like chocolate and coffee flavors. All in all a very nice winter beer.
And a miss: I also picked up a Pike Auld Acquaintance which I found thin for the spices: too much coriander came through on my tongue. I like the smaller beer aspect - it is a reasonably light beer, but it needed a more gentle touch with the spice.
PS: Speaking of Ninkasi, Jamie Floyd told me and Jeff that Ninkasi is a 30,000 barrel a year brewery that uses enough hops for a typical 200,000 barrel a year brewery. That about sums up Ninkasi. The key though is what they do with all those hops: magic. And I am planning sometime soon to discuss the different business models of the great four brewery tour that Jeff and I took.