Chilly Temps & Cold Brews: Michigan Winter Beers are Back

By: Toni Cunningham | November 19, 2014

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, it’s a bit… unseasonably snowy already in the Metro Detroit area. I was hoping for a white Christmas, but I guess a white Thanksgiving we shall receive! While you’re huddled inside trying your very hardest to stay warm, why not do so with a winter lager in hand? It might seem a little counterintuitive to drink an ice-cold beer to keep you warm, but these spice-filled brews will warm you up from the inside out!

Say goodbye to the lighter beers of seasons past and snuggle up with a hearty brew from one of the following local breweries:

Jolly Pumpkin, 311 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, has a variety of winter seasonals, including Maracibo Especial, a brown ale brewed with cinnamon and orange, released in November. Next month, try Noel de Calabaza, a malty beer with plenty of hops, sugar plums and raisins. When winter is in full swing, enjoy January’s seasonal release, Madrugada Obscura “Dark Dawn,” a Belgian Stout full of malty flavors and bitter hops.

Bell’s Brewery, 8690 Krum Ave., Galesburg, welcomes the chilly season with Winter White Ale, a blend of barley and wheat with notes of fruit and clove. Try it on draft at the Eccentric Café, or pick up a six-pack. Christmas Ale is another great seasonal choice.

Atwater Brewery, 237 Jos Campau, Detroit, offers Winterbock, a high gravity German bock lager that is both malty and sweet. Before you head to a string of family gatherings this holiday season, be sure to pick up Atwater’s Holiday Party Variety Pack, a 12 pack consisting of Vanilla Java Porter, Dirty Blonde, Voodoo Vator, Grand Circus IPA, Winterbock and Cherry Stout.

Short’s Brewing Company, 121 N. Bridge St., Bellaire, produces some of my favorite beer, Michigan-made or not (side note: all of my favorite beers are Michigan-made). Seasonally speaking, Good Humans, a double brown ale with an 8 percent ABV is the brewery’s winter release through January. Short’s provides another Winter Variety Pack, which includes the following four varieties: Stellar Ale (a pale ale), Happy Jack (a Scottish ale), Black Chai (a black ale), and Dr. Zeus (an IPA). If none of those strike your fancy, try a limited release like Juicy Tree (mid-November), Liberator (late November), Aphasia (early December) and Cup a Joe Coffee Crème Stout (mid-December).

Liberty Street Brewing Company, 149 W. Liberty St., Plymouth, continues its fall seasonal beer, Punkin’ Pie Ale, through the winter months. It’s available through February, and you don’t want to miss it! Thanksgiving dessert in beer form? Yes, please.

New Holland Brewing, 66 East 8th St., Holland, has a brown ale, Cabin Fever, to warm you up during the cold winter months. The American ale pairs well with roasted meats, smoked cheese and dried fruits. Just the label will leave you turning your pajamas inside out and wishing for a snow day!

Dragonmead Brewery, 14600 E. 11 Mile Rd., Warren, brews a classic Russian Style Imperial Stout for winter that is both sweet and malty. If you’re not a fan of thick beers, you’ve been warned.

Kuhnhenn Brewing Company, with taproom locations in Warren and Clinton Township, has a December release that is available on draft only. Metry’s Winter Lager is a European-style beer with a clean finish. Also available during the winter months is A Few Shillings Too Many, a sweet and earthy Scotch ale that packs a punch at a hearty 10.5 percent ABV. It’s available by the bottle and draft in December.

Royal Oak Brewery, 215 E. 4th St., Royal Oak, brews its beer using a 14 barrel specific mechanical system located right behind the bar, and there are a variety of winter lagers to choose from. Hoppy Holidays (almost a double IPA), Solstice Star Winter Lager (released on the winter solstice), Holiday Chocolate Stout and Snowdrift Winter Ale (released in January) should all be on your list to sample.

Arbor Brewing Company, 720 Norris St., Ypsilanti, now has FIGJAM Quadruple on tap at the ABC Microbrewery, which is sure to get you ready for the holidays. With notes of dried fruit and fresh baked bread, this beer goes wonderfully with roasted dishes, Gorgonzola cheese and figgy pudding. I’m not particularly sure if you’ll find any figgy pudding on the bar menu, but take a chance!

As the snow begins to (prematurely) fall and the temperatures return to freezing, remember this: the best winter days begin with a warm cup of coffee and end with a cold winter brew. And, as always, remember to enjoy your Michigan-made winter beer responsibly.