Winter in the Pacific Northwest can be a tough season to get through, even for its hardiest residents. Every year it brings shorter, grayer days, lower temperatures, and plenty of precipitation. And if you aren’t the type to keep chains in your car while obsessively checking the snow forecast in preparation for a trip to the nearest ski area, that translates into more time indoors. Fortunately, we have beer.
In fact, the coldest months of the year often coincide with some of the most creative offerings from breweries across the region, from barrel-aged bruisers to pitch perfect pale ales. Here are a handful of newer options to keep an eye out for on your next shopping trip, whether it’s grab and go, or click and ship.
Farm Quad | Ferment Brewing – Hood River, OR
Deep reddish brown with ruby highlights, this is a barrel-aged, Belgian-influenced beer for wine lovers. Fruity on the nose with fig, cherry, prune, leather, and a faint chocolate note, Farm Quad offers layer upon layer of flavor alongside a distinct red wine note contributed by French oak casks. Slightly tart and semi-dry in the finish with a hint of tannic astringency, it almost tiptoes into Flanders brown territory. (10.7% ABV)
Gold Goose | Aslan Brewing – Bellingham, WA
Bright as its namesake metal with an herbal, bready aroma that gives way to a smooth body and a flavor not unlike chasing a bite of buttermilk biscuit with a sip of green tea, Gold Goose is appealing in its minimalism after a hectic holiday season. A nip of bitterness in the otherwise clean finish add up to one lager you won’t want to run out of this winter. (5.0% ABV)
Orange Giant Pineapple Upside Down Cake | Ecliptic Brewing – Portland, OR
Ecliptic tapped the first keg of Orange Giant back in 2014, and luckily for barleywine fans, it has continued to release this amped up ale every year since. Fresh cut pineapple and a touch of alcohol immediately greet the nose, followed by orange rind and woodsy pine peeking in from behind the fruit. Ultimately, pineapple and brown sugar sweetness complement the hop profile, amounting to a semi-dry treat that channels the famous dessert without tasting like a tooth-aching pastry beer. (12.5% ABV)
Splinters | Black Raven Brewing – Redmond, WA
Scotch ales are harder to come by than they used to be, which is one more reason to seek out Splinters. Barrel-aged in casks from Westland Distillery, this garnet-colored gem of a beer is oaky and slightly boozy on the nose with some nuttiness and a bit of cherry. Malty and complex with a whiskey-forward flavor and a thread of caramel that carries into a semi-sweet linger, it soars with character. (10.8% ABV)
Strata Strata Strata | Breakside Brewery – Portland, OR
Slightly hazy with fruity aromas of nectarine, strawberry, and tangerine, this pale ale leans into one of the trendiest new hops available and hits pay dirt. Strata isn’t the only variety in the recipe, but it definitely shines brightest. White grapefruit mixes with dank cannabis before giving way to just enough bitterness and a return of the fruit at the end of the sip. (5.6% ABV)
Tough Love | Crux Fermentation Project – Bend, OR
Not the easiest beer to track down, but well worth the effort. This pitch black imperial stout throws off aromas of bourbon, cinnamon, chocolate syrup, and sweet vanilla as it warms, tempting your taste buds to experience the flavor. Full-bodied with notes of roasted coffee beans, dark malt, spicy rye complexity, and a whisper of smoke, this fascinating sipper wants for a cold night. (14.0% ABV)
Author of The Great Northeast Brewery Tour and a contributor to The Oxford Companion to Beer, Ben Keene has judged beer competitions across the United States and frequently speaks at industry conferences and conventions. He lives in Seattle.