There used to be one drink of choice to warm yourself by the fire: a glass of scotch or bourbon. Crisp cold beers, after all, are for the summertime, and the once-slim selection of brews couldn't stand up to the rich, deep, warming character of whiskey. No longer. A growing number of craft brewers are bringing a caramel, smoke, and alcohol punch that's just right for a winter day.
Brewer: Lagunitas Brewing
Style: American Strong Ale
While malty beers tend to take center stage in the winter, there's still plenty of room for aggressive hop flavors in a beer that can warm your insides on a cold day. Lagunitas has built up a passionate following for its hoppy catalog, and its winter-release Brown Shugga is no exception. With sledgehammer bitterness over a crisp malty body, it's not hard to understand what the fuss is about.
Unfortunately for the Petaluma, California–based brewery, the 10-percent-alcohol beer needs extra time in the fermentation tanks to reach its peak flavor. When Lagunitas couldn't find space for Brown Shugga in the busy 2011 production schedule, company scions knew their customers would be disappointed. Anticipating a backlash, they made a new winter beer that would reach maturity much more quickly and dubbed it Lagunitas Sucks. Inevitably it turned into a hit as well, and the two are now sold side by side each winter.