Founders Brewing Co. | Grand Rapids, MI | foundersbrewing.com
Latte foam is unwavering; the brew is nearly black as well. Nose is filled with pine sap, mint, citric peel, tobacco, ripe plums and thick caramel. So lush and creamy, a silky carbonation caresses the palate. At first, the taste buds register this as a massive malt bomb, as a thick slab of caramel sweetness is smacked down. Thankfully, the alcohol and hops had kickass duty with an estery warmth and peppery citric peel-ladened hop character. It’s tough to balance a bigger beer like this, though Founders hits their mark here. Possible cellar pick, but the freshness now is too good to wait for.
STYLE: American Barleywine | ABV: 12.0% | AVAILABILITY: Limited | SAMPLE SIZE: 12oz brown bottle
Our Score: A-
BA Overall: A-
Frosty Knuckle Special Reserve Ale
Frosty Knuckle Brewing Co. | Ipswich, MA | frostyknuckle.com
Big, heady start with lots of lacing to boot; clear chestnut-brown color has wintertime all over it. Toasted biscuit aroma runs deep; hint of brown bread and yeast. Smooth and creamy full-ish body. Heavy handed on the toasted biscuit flavor, nutty tone with dried grass and a hint of burnt sugar show the maltiness has complexity. Hops aim for balance and hit their mark; leafy herbal flavor continues on. Suggestion of toasted cocoa nibs. Just a touch of warming alcohol and a quick glimpse of fruitiness in the toasty, bittersweet finish. A great change-up to the usual spiced winter seasonals—recommended.
STYLE: Sticke Alt | ABV: 6.5% | AVAILABILITY: Winter seasonal | SAMPLE SIZE: 22oz brown bottle
Our Score: B
BA Overall: B+
A cult classic among beer geeks in the know. From the label to the ingredients, it screams Christmas. Crystal-clear red color garners a thin white lacing. Yeasty phenols to cherries, to ripe fruit, to spice … an amazing nose. Creamy mouthfeel with a bit of crispness to lift the full body. Alcohol chimes in first with lots of warmth, spice and rose water. Cherry juice, candied fruit and faint medicinal flavors hit the middle with a small tartness within. Spice picks up middle to end, making way for the alcohol to really warm. Sweet, spicy finish. This is one of those slow-sipping nightcap brews—after a long day of holiday bustling you’ll probably need one of these.
STYLE: Belgian Winter Warmer | ABV: 11.0% | AVAILABILITY: Winter seasonal | SAMPLE SIZE: 12oz brown bottle
Our Score: B
BA Overall: B+
4th Annual Winter Warmer Pub Crawl
This isn’t your average Friday night. This is the day you prepare for all year long. If you don’t make it from start to finish, you will be subject to a point-and-laugh by all. Go big or go home, and remember that if you go big, each place will throw in some special gems just for crawlers. If you go home, the only thing being thrown in is the towel.
[Various bars in Allston. noon-9pm. beeradvocate.com/events]