Our favorite winter beers from local brewing companies

Dec 2, 2016 at 4:38 pm
winter beers

It’s the twilight of the year and, despite some evidence by way of warm days this late in the season, winter is coming. With the seasonal change, you’d better believe that your favorite beer makers in Louisville and Southern Indiana are brewing up something to keep you company on the cold dark nights to come. We’ve done our due diligence and hit up every brewery in town that’s unique to the region, searching for Louisville’s best winter beers.

3rd Turn Brewing – Uncut Colonel The Uncut Colonel is an amped-up version of the already classic 3rd Turn Colonel Angus Barrel Aged Baltic Porter. The booziness is through the roof, and, while the ABV was left unmentioned, I am assured it was likely somewhere around 14 percent. I can attest to the fact that you feel every bit of that. This is an incredibly heavy porter with chocolate notes, with the most obvious comparison being something like the Avery Brewing Company Samael’s Ale, which has an equally daunting ABV and heavy oak flavoring.

Against the Grain Brewery — I’ll Be Black Schwarzbier It’s hard not to root for a beer named after a quote from the “Terminator” franchise, and Against the Grain delivers again with the I’ll Be Black Schwarzbier. Not quite a stout, this is more like a black lager, replete with that liquorish flavor usually reserved for something like Jagermeister, although not quite as sweet. Clocking in at 5.7 percent ABV, this is not terribly overbearing. An easy drink with an IBU of 22.7, makes this a great winter lager.

Akasha Brewing Company – Piper Cherrywood Smoked Porter The brewers at Akasha cleverly balance smokiness against the cherrywood flavor, which confounds what would otherwise be a high IBU. This is sweet, but never overtly so, cut well by the tangy aftertaste of the flavoring. The ABV is an awkward 6.7 percent, which puts it between a true high-gravity beer and a session brew, so approach with caution, as it will sneak up on you.

Apocalypse Brew Works – End of the World Black IPAs are strange, regardless of the season. Seasoned beer enthusiasts are likely familiar with the dry hoppiness of an IPA or APA, and generally expect a certain pop that comes along with the floral notes. Something about the process that makes this particular variety black in body blunts that flavor in an interesting way, and Apocalypse has crafted that into an admirable, off-beat winter treat. You would think that with a 70 IBU that it may be extremely bitter, but that’s not quite accurate — it’s a truly daunting task to explain just how interesting the End of the World is, a champagne problem if ever there was one. Capped with a thin beige foam, this is a stylish drink more akin to a black lager than an IPA, with a moderate ABV coming in at 6.7 percent.

Bluegrass Brewing Company – Ebenezer Spiced Ale The BBC has done it again with the Ebenezer Spiced Ale, which blends the traditional holiday flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg with a golden ale base. This is an eminently drinkable ale that blends the aforementioned flavors with notes of honey and ginger for an incredibly heady beer that ends with a nice pop. The various flavors blend together for a remarkably balanced taste, and they don’t compete quite so much as you think, which makes for a very measured drinking experience. At 7 percent ABV, the Ebenezer enters the low stratum of high gravity.

Cumberland Brewery – Cranberry Gose A sour style of beer, the cranberry flavoring cuts the tartness without adding an overtly rich flavor. As such, this is a welcome departure from more traditional varieties of winter beer, with a light body tinted reddish gold. The ABV is low at 4.8 percent, with an IBU count of 9, making this easily approachable for a broader audience of drinkers or even atypical drinkers alike. An easy comparison here is the Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat, although the cranberry adds a special something that sets it apart in a unique and seasonally-appropriate way.

Donum Dei Brewery — Unicorn A scotch ale, the Unicorn has a deep brown hue and a sweetness that pops. There is a quality not unlike a brown ale here, although with an ABV of 9 percent, it’s a little higher than most. Expect a beer similar to the superb Founder’s Dirty Bastard. The Unicorn goes down perhaps a bit too easy, so make sure you take measured sips and cut well with water. This is the perfect brew to pair with pretzels and junk television.

Flat 12 Bierwerks Jeffersonville – Rogue’s Run Another smoked porter for the list, the Flat 12 Rogue’s Run is rich and flavorful, tempering the smokiness with a roasted taste whose source is hard to readily identify. This is a light beer in terms of ABV, coming in at 5.5 percent, compared to the other beers on this list, which puts it in the upper region of session beers, with the flavor palate to match.

Floyd County Brewing Company – Wooden Rabbit A bourbon-barrel brown is an uncommon combination that seems obvious. Why isn’t this a more readily available variety of beer? There are malty notes that have an almost chocolate overtone, made sublime by the bourbon flavoring. This feels especially warming somehow, if not for the innocuous 6.5 percent ABV, then for the comforting nature of the brew itself.

Goodwood Brewing – Big Fella True to its name, the Big Fella will absolutely knock you on your ass. At 12-percent ABV, this is a beer that has earned its place as a half-pint pour, without sacrificing anything by way of taste. The Big Fella is a seasonal beer usually reserved for Saint Patrick’s Day, but no less welcome in the winter months. A one-year aged bourbon-barrel brew, there is an oak quality to the beer that makes for a nice tang at the end of the drink. Expect something that is as dark as it is thick in body, but one that goes down easy with a sweet aftertaste.

Great Flood Brewing Company – Oatmeal Stout Like most oatmeal stouts, Great Flood has crafted something that has a grainy taste and a slight bite on the back end, an added pop when it goes down. At 5.6-percent ABV, this isn’t an especially heavy stout, which is what makes this stand out a little more as a solid session. The body is as pitch black as most stouts and there is a hint of maple in the beer, perhaps from the recently-tapped Maple ’37 Porter. Regardless, it gives this otherwise hearty stout a softer, more approachable edge.

Monnik Beer Co. – Batch One Every time I go, Monnik proves why they are innovators at craft beer, proven by the elegant Batch One Bourbon Barrel Stout. The Batch One is an incredibly heavy, but smooth beer with a wonderfully easy finish. Carrying a pitch black body and burnt beige froth for a head, the Batch One is a picture of a stout, the exact kind of thing you expect on a cold winter evening. At 8.5-percent ABV, this beer will absolutely warm you up, although it’s definitely best saved for a special occasion. This is a superlative example of a bourbon barrel stout that is light on the overt booze flavor. A delicious seasonal find.

The New Albanian Brewing Company Pizzeria & Public House – Naughty Klaus For whatever reason, Christmas Ales are a rare breed this season, making the New Albanian Naughty Klaus a delightful find. The veteran brewers have crafted a beer that balances an 8-percent ABV with an IBU of 12, making for a strong, but easy-to-drink combo — you be the judge as to whether that’s good or bad. Cut with cinnamon and nutmeg flavors with a thin golden body.

Old Louisville Brewery – Habanero Stout The Old Louisville Brewery Habanero Stout is true to form — an especially spicy brew, although in a delightfully unexpected way. At 6.1-percent ABV, this is a hot brew, cut nicely by the stout flavor. The heat hits you at the front and at the end, but somehow not in the middle, which is remarkable — you feel it on your lips and in the back of your throat, but it is incredibly palatable in your mouth. Surprisingly, there is a mild sweetness to it, not quite creamy, but not quite as viscous as an oatmeal stout, counterbalancing the hot aspects wonderfully.

The Red Yeti – Claysburg Chocolate Stout It’s hard to pass on any chocolate stout, although it can be tricky navigating perfectly sweet and too sweet. Red Yeti has mastered that balance with the Claysburg Chocolate Stout, which is more along the lines of a brown ale, or perhaps an Irish stout, than the more widely available and often creamier varieties in the region. Unlike some chocolate stouts, the chocolate tastes entirely natural, like the real thing and not an additive of some sort. This measures in at 7.6-percent ABV.