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As I type this, on a 60-degree December day when Pennsylvania feels like California, I’m really looking forward to some properly cold weather. In hopes that this unnerving temperature trend changes soon, here are some suggestions for seriously potent beers to warm you up once the snow and ice finally arrive. I’ve picked three that push the alcohol-by-volume numbers above 10 percent – you know, for maximum warmth.
When I think about strong winter beers, the first thing that comes to mind is an imperial stout – and there’s a ton of great ones out there to choose from. One of my all-time favorites is Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal. It’s a rich, roasty stout, packing a ton of the expected coffee and chocolate flavors. At 10.2 percent ABV, it’s also the lowest-alcohol choice among the three beers I chose to spotlight. (Unless you’re lucky enough to find the much rarer bourbon-barrel-aged version, which clocks in somewhere north of 12 percent.)
Your strong winter brews don’t all need to be heavy stouts, though. There are some top-notch imperial IPAs in the double-digit ABV range, such as Evil Twin’s phenomenal Molotov Cocktail. It’s a surprisingly drinkable beer, considering it’s 13 percent, and the bright, citrusy hops aren’t completely hidden behind the syrupy malt and alcoholic heat. (If you want an even more drinkable version, try the amusingly named Molotov Lite, which is a comparatively tiny 8 percent. Or, if you’re insane, go for the Molotov Heavy – new this year, and featuring a numbing 17.2 percent ABV.)
Palo Santo Marron
Delaware’s Dogfish Head makes some of my all-time favorite high-alcohol beers – including the two strongest I’ve ever had, 120 Minute IPA and World Wide Stout, both weighing in at 18 percent. However, the stout isn’t available this winter, and I actually think Palo Santo Marron is better than the 120 Minute. It’s a mere 12 percent ABV, but it’s absolutely lovely. It’s a very dark brown ale, with a ton of rich, sweet malt flavors and a thick, viscous mouthfeel. It’s definitely a sipper – just as a good cold-weather beer should be.