.....to be jolly, and a good beer or two can help make us feel warm all over as well as lessen the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. This is also the season when brewers release those beers known as Christmas beers and winter warmers. Christmas beers are spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, or coriander and are intended for consumption over the holidays, though many remain available throughout the winter months. Winter warmers tend to be higher in alcohol and take their name from the warm glow the drinker achieves.
Best known of these beers in the Asheville area is Highland's Cold Mountain Winter Ale. This year's release has been delayed slightly by the move of the brewery to East Asheville but the owners assure us that it will be out just before Christmas. Like many winter seasonals the recipe is changed a bit each year so no two releases are alike. Cold Mountain has become so popular that people often pre-purchase the bottles through area specialty stores which makes it increasingly hard to obtain. It is usually found on draft at Barley's and selected other area bars, but will go fast.
Another favorite of mine is Hampshire Special Ale from the D.L. Geary Brewing Company of Portland, Maine. In Asheville it is only available at the Grove Market in the Grove Arcade. This classic winter warmer was for many years "only available while the weather sucks" but is now brewed year round. While Ashevillians would have to travel to Maine to try the wonderful cask-conditioned draft on handpump, the bottled version should not be missed.
Other seasonals include Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Anchor Christmas Ale, Avery Brewing's Old Jubilation, Young's Winter Warmer, Corsendonk Christmas Ale, and Great Divide's Hibernation Ale. Pick up a few bottles and share with friends in the spirit of the season.
May good cheer reign.