Y'know that cliché about Christmas coming earlier every year? Maybe it's true of winter in general. Pyramid was still pouring October Weizen at the Alehouse, but that didn't mean you couldn't order a Snowcap, too. Elysian brought a delectable cask version of BiFrost to the recent Washington Cask Beer Festival. You can get bottled winter seasonals at stores. So, yep, put a fork in autumn, it's done. Clear the harvest ales and O-fest lagers outta there, 'cause winter's here. I'm not really complaining, except that there were some tasty autumn beers out there, but they'd already receded to the background by the end of October. The winter beers are pouring, and this isn't a bad thing during our drippy late-fall days.
These are usually robust brews, higher-gravity beers ranging from deep copper to dark brown in color, but there's no single style that defines a so-called "winter warmer." Indeed, Miller's Henry Weinhard brand has introduced a seasonal, Classic Dark (brewed at Full Sail in Hood River) that isn't particularly high-gravity, instead emulating a Bavarian-style dark lager with American-style carbonation and mouth-feel. It's a beer that needs time to settle in the glass and warm up a bit so the malt flavors can develop, so never mind that chilled glass, dammit!
Winter-brew bottles and tap handles will become ever more numerous in the coming weeks, so perhaps it's appropriate that there will soon be a festival to celebrate the brews of winter. The Washington Brewers Guild will present its first Winter Beer Festival at the Pyramid Alehouse, across First Avenue South from Safeco Field, on Saturday, Dec. 3. Tickets are available on-line (www.washingtonbeer.com). Pyramid will also provide food for the event, and a cheese tasting will be part of the program. You haven't done beer-and-cheese pairings yet? You don't know what you're missing, and you're missing even more if you haven't paired a tasty winter ale with some good chocolate. After all, it's always winter somewhere, isn't it?