The winter solstice has almost arrived, and with it comes the deep need to celebrate family ties, bring evergreen trees into our home as a symbol of nature’s determination to survive the harsh winter months and to drink dark, rich beer. The other Michael Jackson, a guy who is to beer scholarship what that first guy is to crazy has-been pop stars, describes winter beers thusly:
Brewing special seasonal beers predates modern history and has its origin in the pagan celebrations of winter solstice. Later, as monasteries often functioned as the local brewery, some monks made the the first holiday commemorative beers to celebrate the birth of Christ. Winter beers are as much a state of mind as a style, but beers best for fending off the cold of a long winter night — such as old ales, strong ales, barleywines and strong lagers — are often associated with winter.
Most respectable breweries release some sort of seasonal beers to keep their patrons warm through the cold months. A good example is Delirium Noel from Brouwerij Huyghe in Belgium, almost redundant when you think how rich are Huyghe’s two better known beers, Delirium Tremens and Delirium Nocturnum.
I can still taste my last Noel in the back of my throat, which is all the recommendation Delirium Noel should need. But as long as the season lasts there’s no reason not to make a go at trying everybody’s seasonal beer. My ma adores the Black Chocolate Stout from Brooklyn Brewing (don’t tell her that it doesn’t actually contain chocolate) and any well-made barleywine deserves a try. Some brews you should try for the name alone. And of course, whenever possible you can hold true to the principle of act globally, drink locally. If your local brewhouse makes a knockout winter beer, give it a try and let us know. If you brew your own, here’s the chance to share the recipe.
In honor of the dark, rich and spicy, this friday’s non-beer alternative is Talisker, made from sea-whipped peat on the isle of Skye.
This dram’ll grow hair on the back of your knees.
The sea leaves more iodine on Talisker’s peat than any other in Scotland, which gives Talisker a uniquely explosive personality that you won’t get anywhere outside of grampa jeb’s firewater. Without a doubt my favorite single malt, as long as I’m not looking for a soothing after-dinner cordial. Then it’s Highland Park or Oban.