By Amy Weirick
The Old Farmers Almanac warned us: winter is expected to blast frigid temperatures across the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes. All those long, frosty nights call for a warming brew. Thankfully, brewmasters answer the call with finely crafted, beefy beers that make the season go down just a little easier.
Portsmouth Brewing Co. River Star Pale Ale: Billed as a double IPA, this malty brew pours beautifully into a rich, amber red. A light aroma of fresh bread spread with figgy jam hits the nose first. That warmth fades to the mildly resinous scent, thanks to the healthy helping of noble hops. Nicely balanced flavor juxtaposes tangy citrus-herb notes with a toasty caramel body. A fresh, astringent finish makes this one an easy drinker, but at 8 percent ABV, the double can sneak up on you.
Summit Brewing Co. Winter Ale: The good folks at St. Paul, Minnesota-based Summit Brewing surely know about long, hard winters; perhaps that’s why they’ve crafted such an excellent winter ale. A thick, creamy head lingers long and tops the black coffee-colored beer. Coffee and chocolate hit the nose as well, promising good things to come. This lighter-than-expected brew, likely due to its tiny bubbles, has a sweet molasses malt and a slightly floral hop profile. A tiny nutmeg essence and creamy mouth feel offer the perfect ending at 6.1 percent ABV.
Buckeye Lake Brewery Vanilla Porter: Looking very much like a root beer with its dark color and frothy cream head, Buckeye Lake’s Vanilla entry has a nice caramelized aroma with a whisper of spice. Tasting of sweet Hawaiian bread and coffee, this lighter porter (6.3 percent ABV) finishes with a slightly burnt sugar of crème brûlée and delicate vanilla. Its long, slow finish is crisp and light; desserty, but not cloying for a bomber we’ll be buying again and again.