Best winter beers to warm the cockles of your heart

I don’t look forward to a windy, rainy, icy cold winters but I do look forward to the winter beers. As soon as the cold front starts to hit, I crave the full-bodied, darker, richer, stronger ales around town.

Here are some of the characteristics that make for a great winter beer and some of my favourite winter beers going around:

Chocolate beers

Some like a nice mug of hot chocolate to warm them, me I like a chocolate porter like Holgate Temptress, infused with Dutch cocoa. Get it on the handpump at the brewery in Woodend Victoria, at room temperature and with a full creamy body, it takes on a whole ‘nuther level of awesome.

A new beer on the block for chocolate beer fiends is Dainton brewing’s Bad Daughter Choc Orange Porter.

Oatmeal beers

I do like a porridge on a winter’s morning and oatmeal stouts are something else again, as oats add a fantastic mouthfeel to any beer. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout is the classic oatmeal stout, but there’s an increasing number of great examples of this style in Australia too.

In Australia, I really enjoyed Grifter’s The Omen, a tasty smooth and full bodied oatmeal stout. While I was equally impressed with new craft beer label Fox Hat’s Phat Mongrel, packing a hefty 7o IBUs it has a good hop punch and flavour profile and was everything I look for in a good winter beer.

Whiskey and beer

Australia’s highest rated beer is a perfect winter warmer. Big bold and with a whiskey taste, Boatrocker’s Ramjet is beguilingly smooth for such a big tasty beer. The imperial stout is aged in whiskey barrels courtesy of local distillers Starward and clocks in at 11.4%.

Hoppy beers in winter

Don’t worry you can still get your hops fix in the winter. One of my favourite beers is Temple Brewing’s New World Order American stout, which has the nice roasty characteristics of a dark beer but also some lovely berry flavours from the hops in there too. Also, do check out Bridge Road’s Dark Harvest, a Black IPA originally brewed with gypsy brewing legend Mikkeller, using a perfect combination of dark malts and aromatic hops to create a choc-orange masterpiece.

Coffee beer

How would one cope in winter without coffee? I especially love beers that combine my two favourite winter drinking pastimes into one. Last year BrewCult blew everyone away with the 2015 GABS people’s champ winning beer, Milk and Two Sugars.

This winter in NSW, 4 Pines have brewed a Coffee Porter with Single Origin Coffee Roasters as part of their Black Box of Dark Ales and Grifter brewing have produced The Cobra, a coffee brown ale brewed with cold drip coffee in collaboration with their Marrickville brethren Golden Cobra coffee roasters. While SA’s Woolshed Brewing’s Firehouse Coffee Stout uses a cold extract method to combine these two favourite beverages and make even more awesomeness.

Smoky beers

Smoky beers are all the rage these days it seems. There is the Sneaky Son Smoking Stout from Dainton’s, Johnny Smoke Porter from Wolf of the Willows, Moon Dog’s Black Lung and Feral’s Smoked Porter to name a few other beers with a real smoky flavour, bacon-y even, from the use of smoked malts. Yum!

Handpumped beers

If there’s one thing the English got right, it is the use of handpump engines for pouring beers. Drinking your beer at room temperature may seem weird at first but is perfect for the colder winter, opens up flavour in the beer, and lends the beer a full creamy mouthfeel.

A recent Imperial Stout on handpump at the Red Hill brewery went down gloriously and if you’re in Sydney, a pint of Cannonball Stout on handpump at the King St Brewery in Darling Harbour goes down well.

Beers on nitro

Guinness, the most consumed dark winter beer of all, is served on nitro, giving it its unique creamy feel. Sure you have to wait a bit longer for the beer to settle, but it’ll be worth it if done right. Luckily for those in Sydney, Batch Brewing are becoming real specialists in nitro beer and offer a number of beers on nitro. I tried their Elsie Milk Stout on nitro and it was da bomb, creamy like a Guinness but chocolate-y and flavoursome.

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