There are few better ways to celebrate the solstice than a nice warming beverage to help keep the night at bay. From black IPAs to hearty stouts, there are a host of options, spiced, smooth or otherwise, to cheer you up on the darkest days. As the brewing community grows here, so does its variety, including collaborations with several coffee shops in town, including Sunergos, Quills and Heine Bros. From dark brews to holiday specials, our Louisville breweries have you covered.
3rd Turn Brewing
Russian Imperial Stout
A new addition to its growing variety, the Russian Imperial Stout is a kick in the teeth — a heavy beer, chocolaty and bitter, cut with a viscous black body. This version has a heavy hop head and is bitter on the front end, with a thick, almost IPA-like back end that manifests as more than a little spicy. This is an ideal sipping drink and clocking in at 12.1 percent, one that requires you to take it easy.
Against the Grain Brewery
Rosco & Enos
Named so for the incompetent police duo from the “Dukes of Hazzard” series, the Rosco & Enos is anything but incompetent. One of its smokey beers, this is cut from the same delicious cloth as the Bo & Luke Duke stout, a highly sought after specialty brew with a lot of character. The body carries a deep, deep brown hue, not quite black and not opaque enough to block out all of the light. Capped with a light colored lattice of foam at the head, the R&E has an incredibly subtle smoke flavor that adds an unexpected warmth to the brew, a drink that clocks in at 6.1 percent ABV.
Akasha Brewing Co.
An extra stout clocking in at an ABV of 7.1 percent, the Rosy Stout has Guinness-like qualities, thick with roasted malt goodness, but sans the nitro-infused creaminess. There are nice, subtle spiced notes on the back end, ghosts that will haunt you and entice your senses. There is slight licorice flavor that tickles your throat at the very end of each sip, making for an imminently drinkable and memorable beer.
Apocalypse Brew Works
Winter Chai Ale
It’s rare to snag a beer so fresh that it has yet to receive a name, but the Winter Chai Ale was just that, just barely on tap when I went to Apocalypse, and still beaming with possibilities afforded to a flavor with age and conditioning. A cloudy brown body and solid 4-percent ABV greets you, with a light foam head capping it off. This is a comforting beer, with elements of gingerbread and nutmeg, which results in a bready and hale drink. A collaborative with Cumberland, this is a remarkable beer, light and spiced, but never so much as to be off-putting or feel like a novelty.
Bluegrass Brewing Co.
Ebenezer Holiday Ale
One of a few specifically holiday ales on the list, the Ebenezer exemplifies the best of what that variety has to offer. This is outside of session range, with an ABV of 6.8 percent, but with an IBU of 14.5 and soft amber golden body, it’s lighter in color than most winter seasonals by far, warmed by spiced notes of cinnamon and sage, leaving it hard to resist.
A staple of the Cumberland Brews community, the Nitro Porter remains an ideal choice to accompany you through long winter evenings. As the name suggests, this is a nitrogen-infused porter, which has the dual effect of adding a peculiar, if delightful creaminess to the drink, while cutting some of the comparatively bitter or hearty elements part and parcel to a porter. This is smooth as silk and calming, capped with a nice foam ring of lace around the cap that sticks around a little more after each sip. The Nitro Porter is robust and flavorful, a wonderful digestif after a good meal.
Donum Dei Brewery
Coffee Crossing Stout
A heavier beverage, the Coffee Crossing Stout is as advertised, a coffee-forward brew with a pitch black hue, just how Dale Cooper takes his joe. A collaboration with Coffee Crossings, local to New Albany, there is a hint of cold brew here rather than grounds added in, an indescribable velvety flow to the brew that almost implies a nitro infusion that is just not there. At 7.2 percent ABV, this is a bit on the heavier side, with a careful java and stout mix powerful enough to thaw you out on the coolest days.
Falls City Brewing Company
Quills Coffee Brown
A collaboration with Quills, the Coffee Brown is a java-infused brown with a roasted malt finish. With a moderately brown body, not too dark, but not quite amber, with light tan head, this is rich and heavy with coffee. There is a thick body that rewards slow sips, gentle pulls from the glass that are as delicious as they are, surprisingly, relaxing. This is a chill beer all things considered, perfect for enjoying slowly.
Dan Patch in a Pear Tree
By far the most ambitious beer on the list, the Dan Patch in a Pear Tree, is a pear-flavored seasonal with a nice pop on the front end. A light body capped with a faint white foam lace, this is much lighter than many beers typically gravitate toward in this season, but it’s a wonderful diversion as such. Yielding a 4.7 percent ABV and 12 IBU, this is an imminently sessionable beer, perfect for sharing. The fruited flavors are never overwhelming, instead they form delicious and ephemeral moments that creep in occasionally.
Floyd County Brewing Co.
A bourbon barrel-aged porter, the DerVertrag is so named for a military, black ops team and the fallout of their actions. There’s a boozy bite, although it only clocks in at 6.8 percent, with a strong bourbon head, which has a wonderful sweetness that is never cloying. It sticks the landing, measuring the heavier alcohol moments with a thin, yet pitch-black body, capped by a tannish foam head, with a smooth finish.
Shoot Your Eye Out
A chestnut milk stout, the Shoot Your Eye Out has obvious holiday allusions, at least to anyone who grew up with “A Christmas Story.” At 6.9 percent ABV, this is a brew to be savored and coveted, your own Red Ryder BB Gun to snuggle up next to and remember with an increasing fondness. Capped with a light foam lattice around the head, this is a hearty and hale stout that manages to simultaneously pull off the thickness that comes with a stout variety of beer, with a refreshing creaminess.
Gravely Brewing Co.
An award-winning stout from the brewmaster, with a number of competing influences that coalesce into a cohesive whole, the Export Stout is bitter, but easy to drink, with a soft tannish foam lace topping it off. As perhaps expected, the body is pitch black, completely opaque without a hint of light even at the edge of the brew. At 7 percent ABV, this is a bit on the heavier side, although those boozier notes never come through as overwhelming in the mix.
Great Flood Brewing Co.
The Tribulation is a barrel-aged, coffee stout served in 10-ounce pours, not for its rarity, but for the 12.6 percent ABV that helps inform the body. This is a massive brew, from the alcohol content to the silky smooth drink and robust and rich notes. A velvety body cuts the booze nicely, making this an exquisite master class in an increasingly-traditional variety of stout.
Like the Sierra Nevada Celebration IPA, the Holiday Supporter is a spiced IPA, spicy, but hop forward with a relaxing mouthfeel. There is a great wheat finish here that is malty, but not heavy or cloying, ending with a nice pop on the back end. A reddish-brown body and thin, tannish cream colored foam lace floats gently atop the 6.6 percent ABV brew, a beer that looks as festive as it tastes, putting a spin on the holiday ale tradition in a thoughtful and enjoyable way.
Mile Wide Brewery
A new spin on a Mile Wide classic, the Uncle Disheveled is in top form for the winter season this year, made with Highland Coffee pecan roast beans. Like most of its beers, this hits around 6.5 percent ABV. There is a smooth crispness to the beer that comes off like a Prairie Bomb, a renowned and often sought after beer with a host of subtle notes and tweaks.
Monnik Beer Co.
Monnik never fails to make interesting beers based on its His Dark Materials milk stout. It once again succeeds with the Bantha Surprise, which is thankfully enough of a holiday treat, given the preponderance of “Star Wars” movies to drop just in time for Christmas. A spiced stout with a pitch-black body, it has notes of currants, dried plums, ginger and cloves that warm you deep in your chest. At 6 percent ABV, this is surprisingly light for a stout, with an almost Dr. Pepper-ish aftertaste that is playful and festive.
New Albanian Brewing Co.
Continuing its annual Naughty Claus tradition, the New Albanian hits another home run with a tasty spiced ale backed with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. A deep, almost opaque brown body serves as the base, although it is a surprisingly mellow affair that remains thin and easy to revisit. Despite the spiced elements, this is somehow a remarkably hearty ale, one to be careful with at an 8 percent ABV. This is an incredibly-shareable beer for the beer skeptics in your life, as it balances a classic beer taste with an enchanting spice bed.
Old Louisville Brewery
Christmas Cookies Ale
Perhaps the most aptly-named brew on the list, the Christmas Cookies Ale is an indelible holiday treat that will hopefully be repeated from year to year. It has distinct elements of ginger, cinnamon, brown sugar, maple syrup and sorghum molasses balanced carefully to avoid becoming cloying or overbearing. Likewise, at an ABV of 6.3 percent, this will sneak up on you. The spice balance operates in a unique harmony and that lives up to the name.
Red Foot Brewing
The renamed Red Yeti in Jeffersonville had a playful alternative to a typical holiday brew, serving up their house-made root beer with Cardinal Spirits schnapps. This is exactly what you want, even if you don’t realize it, sweet and boozy but fun. Straightforward and uncomplicated. As such, this is a cheerful beverage that, while not quite a beer, is definitely an interesting alternative in an otherwise stacked house of available options. •