From a gingerbread-flavored porter to a bright, citrus-based IPA, here’s how brewmasters are incorporating the season into local beers.
Finding the proper weekend plans in the winter can be a challenge, as it’s either too cold to enjoy the outdoors or the everlasting darkness keeps you from wanting to leave the couch. But there tends to be one thing that has the power to bring people together no matter the weather: The delicious combination of water, malt, hops and yeast that is beer.
And here in Northern Virginia, we love beer—as proven by the hundreds of breweries located throughout the region. Come winter, many of the head brewmasters begin to experiment with complex combinations of ingredients to create seasonal sips that will keep you feeling warm until the cold weather subsides.
While the majority of this season’s tapped beers are dark to reflect the cooler days, fans of the pale ale will find something worth trying too. This winter, stray away from your go-to beers and try one of these special, limited-time offerings found only in NoVA.
Sapana Coffee Stout, 7.3% ABV
Recognized as an American stout, this beer has been aged with Sapana Coffee beans, cultivated in the Himalayan Mountains and purchased from nonprofit Elevate Nepal Inc. According to brewmaster Forrest Morgan, the clean, crisp and distinct coffee flavors complement the roasted-malt aromas for a bold and delicious experience.
Imperial IPA, 8.2% ABV
This is a complex beverage—made from heavy amounts of Amarillo, El Dorado and Mosaic—presenting resinous notes of citrus, pine and tropical fruit aromas. Due to its enhanced hop process, the drink is balanced with complementary honey and biscuit malt flavors, creating a big but smooth IPA, according to Morgan.
2020 Barrel Reserve Imperial Stout, 9.5% ABV
The Old Dominion Imperial Stout has been aged for 12 months in Virginia bourbon barrels.
“The American oak and bourbon enhance the complex flavor profile of this big beer, creating rich undertones of coffee, caramel and chocolate,” Morgan explains.
According to Morgan, winter is a time for beers filled with malty lagers, stouts and barrel-aged flavor. His favorite part of it all at 2 Silos?
“The infinite possibilities of roasted malts, wood and spirit selections make barrel-aged stouts my all-time favorites,” says Morgan. “We’re super excited to be bringing back our award-winning Barrel Reserve Imperial Stout in late February in draft and 22-ounce bottle formats.”
Smart A$$ Automobile, 5% ABV
Released Nov. 15, this seasonal brew is an American IPA made specifically for IPA lovers, combining a collection of hops to create a citrus experience unlike any other.
While there are several beers on tap this season at Port City, the one to look out for is Colossal IX, the company’s ninth-anniversary beer, set to be released at a launch party from Friday, Jan. 31 to Saturday, Feb. 1. This brew is a malt-forward beer featuring flavors of banana, clove and dark fruit, according to Port City’s Instagram page.
River Run Imperial Stout, 12.8% ABV
Each year, Vanish releases an imperial stout aged in sagamore whiskey barrels. For 2020, the River Run Imperial Stout is full of chocolate, whiskey and vanilla notes, creating an ideal alternative to dessert. This will be served in the taproom for a limited time, until the tap is dry.
Gingerbread Porter, 7% ABV
While the holidays are over, that doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying the delicious flavors of the season, especially gingerbread. This year’s porter at Vanish is rich with molasses, vanilla and honey, as well as hints of ginger and holiday spices that’ll make you want to keep sipping all day long.
Raisin Bread Brett
Warrenton-based Old Bust Head is offering 10 flavorful, winter-themed beers this season, as well as four hard seltzers of raspberry lime, cherry vanilla, ginger peach and black cherry rosemary. The newest to the tap list? Raisin Bread Brett, which the brewmasters started to brew two and a half years ago with pumpkin peach brown ale in whiskey barrels. The brew just made its way into the taproom on Dec. 31, and is expected to produce subtle fruit tartness and an aroma of fresh-baked raisin bread, keeping you warm and cozy on a frosty day.
To start 2020 off right, Sterling-based Ocelot currently has 15 beers on tap, ranging from light American IPAs to dark, bold Russian stouts. And on Wednesday, Jan. 8, it will be releasing two unique cans to the shelves, as well as to the tap room for a short while, according to the company’s Instagram page.
Alibi, 4.8% ABV
The first of the two releases is Alibi, a hoppy, light ale with crisp, delicious flavors. While it was initially only on tap in 2019, it will soon be available both on tap and in a vibrant can starting this week.
Franconia, 5.5% ABV
The second of the two brews is this 5.5% Franconian-style lager that was brewed in partnership with Richmond-based Bing Beer Company. The drink has malty notes with a bit of bitterness paired with it, great for a cooler day.
The Stallion, 6.3% ABV
In addition to 10 featured beers on tap at the Falls Church-based brewery, Settle Down Easy has recently announced the unveiling of an individualized take on a black lager called The Stallion. The dark brew is clean and crisp with a bit of cherrywood smoke malt and chocolate rye flavors seeping through, according to the company’s Instagram page. This one is sure to leave you feeling warm, comfortable and happy this winter.
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