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Little Thistle Wee Ginger Winter Ale

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! At least if you’re reading this in the Midwest.

I am writing this article from Fox Glacier on the western side of New Zealand’s South Island, and it is spring here. Two weeks ago, I was in tropical Cairns, Australia. So the chilly climes of southeastern Minnesota feel very far away to me. At Café Neve where I’m at currently, there are winter flowers decorating the interior. And Cadbury has Santa Claus chocolates, and gas stations are giving away Santa Claus pint glasses. It’s all very strange to see Christmas in spring climate.

However, I did imbibe some winter seasonal beer before I left America for five weeks of spring adventure. When it comes to drinking in winter, a lot of people like to say that a stout makes sense. And a heartier, malty beer does make sense. That tends to be what breweries release during the holidays, as well. Here are a few to warm up with this year.

Little Thistle Wee Ginger Winter Ale

This beer was already a hearty, malty treat. This version goes all in with the spice associated with Santa Claus, Rudolph, and little elves packing sacks full of candy and treats. The spice mix – molasses, cinnamon star anise, allspice, and ginger – doesn’t overtake the caramel flavor in the base, but gives just enough here and there to feel like a treat that deserves to be sipped on Christmas Eve. While this exact beer might not still be on tap throughout all of the cold months, Little Thistle is releasing winter-specific treats here and there. Just follow them on social media to keep track of the releases!

Indeed Brewing Co. Stir Crazy Porter

This has been a favorite of mine and friends for years. After Indeed renamed Sweet Yamma Jamma simply “Yamma Jamma,” stopped canning it briefly, and then surprised everyone by canning it this year (a great fall release, FYI), I wondered if we had seen the last of Indeed’s formerly consistent seasonal releases. Thankfully, we get 12-ounce cans of this treat this season. Full of cocoa, dark fruit, and a hint of roasted malt, Stir Crazy Porter is a great treat after shoveling snow and being frozen to your core. Flaked oats make this beer truly shine, giving it a slightly velvety mouthfeel.

Sierra Nevada Celebration

You can’t say many places make a “holiday IPA,” but Sierra Nevada does. Don’t fret: it isn’t full of spices to fight the bright, citrusy hops. In fact, what makes this beer so fun is that it uses fresh hops to keep citrus and pine the stars of the show. Plus, it is nice to have a fresh hop beer months after they’re typically released, if only to remind you of good weather.

Honorable mention: All of Rochester!

Rochester’s breweries all typically release a winter beer. It’s just that so far, Little Thistle is the first. Personally, I hold out hope that Forager might re-release its Backdoor Santa (usually full of spice, but changed up from year to year). No matter where you choose to drink, keep an eye on the menu -- these winter beers tend to go quickly.

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