Winter brings an array of fantastic, high ABV beers that are perfect for the cellar. Here are some of our favorites.
Throughout the winter months, the shelves our favorite beer stores are stocked with winter warmers, barleywines and imperial stouts. Many are higher in alcohol content, designed to help many of us here in the Midwest hunker down and sip our way through the winter until we can shed our flannel and comforters and stouts for lighter beers.
And many of these beers are perfect for the cellar. Here are some of our favorites.
Sure, it’s a different recipe every year, but that shouldn’t stop you from setting some aside. Here’s what we found in a three-year old pour a few years ago.
“Yup, here we go. Syrupy and thick with a heavy body, the ‘09 Anchor Christmas drinks more like a porter than a Christmas Ale. Spearmint or evergreen greets the nose and honey and raisins assault the palate.”
An oddly popular and surprisingly mainstream choice for the cellar, this fresh-hopped IPA does get better with age once you push past a few awkward years as you wait for the hops to fade. Here’s what we found from the oldest pour in a five-year vertical.
“A pleasant blend of orange peel and apple butter on the nose gives way to a beer that’s still surprisingly hoppy. The hops are a little less intense, trading piney and grassy for citrus and grapefruit. The malts have certainly mellowed, as this five-year-old pour is creamier than its fresh brethren with a balanced, herbal finish.”
If you have the patience, let this one sit for a good five years — or more. Your palate will be rewarded.
“[T]he malts that really shine in this aged pour; there’s gooey caramel and chocolate covered cherries, butterscotch candies, caramelized brown sugar and honey. The finish is soothing and is capped by a bit of citrus-y hops that managed to survive those five years in the bottle. The body is heavy and coating and one to savor — each and every sip.”
Five years hit the mark for another Dogfish Head beer, although this one could easily go longer — or shorter if you can’t wait.
“A fruit smoothie-like nose gives off a blend of blackberries, raspberries, mint, plums and cream soda. The fresh fruit carries over to the palate with cherries, blueberry pancake syrup, cola and molasses added to the mix making for a sweet and fruity beer that borders on cloying but doesn’t cross that threshold.”
So this one can be hard to find on shelves right now (especially if you’re outside Chicagoland), but you enterprising whale hunters probably landed more than one bottle. If so, set it back. Here’s what 10 years in the cellar does to a regular, non-variant version of Bourbon County Stout.
“A stemmed cherry atop vanilla bean ice cream opens the flavor gates followed by cocoa powder, a bit more vanilla, and black licorice — all leading to a creamy finish, a lengthy tail and a sufficient bourbon burn.”
Readily available and at a good price point, this beer is a great starter for a vertical tasting and holds up really well in the cellar.
For reasons unbeknownst to us, Founders Backwoods Bastard seems to linger on store shelves longer than most of Founders other barrel-aged beers. It’s perplexing, because the beer is fantastic. Whatever the reason, someone else’s loss can be your gain. Pick it up. Set it back.
Speaking of beers that linger on store shelves: North Coast Old Stock Ale is often overlooked but is a personal favorite of mine to cellar. The old ale style can be a tad intimidating, however this beer is excellent fresh, or after several years of aging.
“The nose gave off a warm and sweet aroma of apples sauteed in butter and brown sugar, which carried over to the palate joining the likes of rum soaked raisins, maple syrup, plums and an undercurrent of purple grape juice. The plentiful carbonation really helped these flavors shine. There was the occasional alcohol burn on the finish, but that’s expected from a beer clocking in at over 11 percent ABV.”
So there you have it, our favorite winter beers to cellar. Do you agree with this list? Have others to add to it? Let us know in the comments. Otherwise, happy hunting.