8 MIN READ
8 Winter Beers That Will Warm You Up — and They Cost $11 or Less Per 6-Pack
I’m not a big fan of winter. I don’t like being cold. I moved to Florida for that very reason.
However, there is a redeeming quality to the frigid months: It’s when some of the very best seasonal beers come out to help you stay warm through the winter without having to hibernate.
Many — but not all! — are dark and smooth, and some have additional flavors, like chocolate or even holiday spices. Even though I’m a bit of a hop-head, I enjoy turning the page for something different when the temps outside start to drop.
Of course, it’s also a time for unicorn beers that people anxiously wait for — the $30 bottles of supercharged imperial stouts with bourbon barrel agings or a variety of spices.
Those brews are not my cup o’ tea — $30 is too steep for my budget, and I don’t always want an 11.5% alcohol bomb.
Luckily, there’s a number of great-quality winter brews you can enjoy for what I’d consider “normal” craft beer prices: $10.99 per six-pack or less. Here are a few of my favorites.
I’ve also included each beer’s score on Beer Advocate, which uses a 1 to 5 scale.
Beer Advocate score: 3.93
When I think of winter beers, this gem from Bend, Oregon, is one of the first to pop into my mind. The Deschutes website describes it as “cocoa, dried fruit, and toffee notes. A robust ale with a warming spice.”
At 6.7% alcohol by volume, Jubelale has a little oomph to it, but it’s by no means overbearing. It’s dark, smooth and just plain delicious. Bonus: To commemorate this being the 30th bottling of the brew, the bottles have a number of different snowflake designs to make you feel extra wintery as you sip.
Beer Advocate score: 3.87
With a name like Winter Solstice, this has to be perfect for the season, right? This brew pours a deep reddish-brown, and the immediate aromas of caramel and baking spices hit you. It’s probably the sweetest beer on this list with a flavor almost like charred caramel (in a good way).
At 6.9% ABV, Winter Solstice won’t knock you over, but it will keep you warm. If you’re looking for a brew with a little bit of a hop zest to it, keep looking. There are no noticeable hops here. This beer is perfect for an evening by the campfire for someone who likes the occasional Tom and Jerry. Sweet, smooth and comforting.
Beer Advocate score: 3.56
I’ll be the first to say this beer might not be for everyone. I’m not sure I would have even ordered it had I read its description. Shiner defines it as “an old-world dunkelweizen brewed with Texas peaches and roasted pecans.” Peaches and nuts?
I love it. Something about this combo just works.
It’s not as heavy as the first two beers listed here, so it may feel less like a winter brew than a festive holiday beverage. Fine by me. It only comes out during the cold months, so I think of it as a solid winter beer offering every year. At 5.4% ABV, you shouldn’t have to leave the party too soon.
I’m not the only one who likes it, either.
— Dave (@SAS_dfitz) November 30, 2017
I feel very confident that Santa drinks Shiner Holiday Cheer
— Laura Selak (@Lawruh_Seelak) December 2, 2017
Hey, if it’s good enough for Santa…
Beer Advocate score: 3.73
Who knows more about winter than the good folks in Minnesota? Summit Brewing continually produces great beers at ridiculously good prices. When the snowflakes start to fall, which is sometime in October in St. Paul most years, people start to look for Summit Winter Ale on store shelves.
A winter warmer-style beer, Summit Winter Ale is dark and smooth with a robust malt flavor. Its 6.2% ABV won’t knock you over, but it might warm your toes a little. Summit advertises it as a brew with “hints of coffee/espresso, caramel, black cherry, cocoa and a dash of hop spice.” For me, Summit Winter Ale is like an old friend I look forward to seeing each year.
Beer Advocate score: 4.15
Some of you are reading this list and groaning, “I hate dark, sweet beers! Give me some hops!”
OK, here you go. Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Fresh Hop IPA is an annual winter beer that comes out each year as the snow begins to fall. But it doesn’t follow the typical winter beer path.
In the glass, this beer is a beautiful copper color. The aroma of hops hits you right away. The flavor profile is full of citrusy hops, along with a bit of pine on the back end. Celebration uses Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops to develop the flavors. Its 6.8% ABV will start to warm you from the inside after a couple.
It’s hoppy, but not overwhelmingly bitter. You won’t feel like you’re drinking the Christmas tree.
Beer Advocate score: 3.72
When there’s a blizzard outside, what better revenge than to drink a snowstorm?
This beer pours a light, golden color with a foamy, white head and a snowy haze rippling through it. It’s a beer that looks like what you’d see through the window on a snowy Colorado day.
The wheat addition to this beer gives it a bright, smooth flavor. Then, the hops kick in. They are citrusy and fresh. It’s almost as if someone poured a nice pale ale into a glass of Blue Moon. It’s 6.2% ABV, so it’s a middle-of-the-road brew in that sense.
A perfect winter brew for those who shy away from the dark and malty side of things.
Beer Advocate score: 3.88
Now this is a brew to warm the cockles of your heart. Go and Google “cockles.” It’s OK. I’ll wait.
I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for a good Scotch ale, and this one doesn’t disappoint. This dark joy is brought to you by the same brewery that provides such hop happiness as Two Hearted Ale, which was ranked as the No. 1 beer in America by Zymurgy Magazine in 2017.
Bell’s Christmas Ale pours a hazy amber color. It looks lighter than it tastes. The flavors are sweet and malty with almost a hint of peat smoke. My imagination? It could be, but that’s what I get from it, and I love it. At 7.5% ABV, it’s the strongest beer on this list, so you’ll want to sip this one like a good glass of scotch.
8. Sam Adams Winter Lager
Beer Advocate score: 3.59
Go ahead and roll your eyes, you of the beer snobbery ilk.
While Sam Adams may not qualify as “craft beer” anymore based on its output, it’s one of the forerunners of the craft beer movement, and for many, the first beer they warmed up to in many styles.
Sam Adams Winter Lager is like an old friend who shows up each year. Some companies seek to add a little twist to their seasonal offerings each year, but Sam Adams Winter Lager is a tried-and-true celebration of the season that is a welcome sight each year.
The Winter Lager pours a deep chestnut color, but its body is still fairly light. Faint aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg catch your nose. The flavor is lightly sweet and malty with the cinnamon, nutmeg and hints of orange peel coming through at the end. While the spices add to the beer’s flavor, they are not in the least overpowering. The maltiness of the brew is still the showcase.
At 5.6% ABV, Sam Adams Winter Lager is as light as it seems by the mouthfeel.
For an extra bonus, buy the Sam Adams Winter Classics Variety Pack. You’ll get six different winter seasonal beers — two of each — including Chocolate Bock, which is a true, chocolatey delight.
The Best Part of Winter
As the snow piles up outside and your thermometer starts to fall like Wile E. Coyote off a cliff, take comfort that you don’t have to wait in line for the latest and greatest, super-elite brew from your favorite brewery to enjoy a great beer.
These beers are commonly available — though not all of them are available nationwide — and you should be able to find them all for $10.99 or less per six-pack. Grab your velvet smoking jacket, a nice brandy snifter, and pour yourself one (or all) of these great brews as you warm up by the fire.
Winter’s not so bad after all.
Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He truly believes that the best thing winter has to offer is dark, malty beers. You can keep the snow. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.