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A Seasonal Wrap-Up

by Matt O'Connor

Today’s column is a highlight reel of sorts, a few of my favorite beers for the chill of winter. Beer runs like the weather, sometimes it’s warm in December, but really it feels more normal when it’s cold. Similarly, I bought a six-pack of Corona last week, because I felt like it, but I feel more at home with a dark, spiced brew when the weather turns frigid. Here, presented in no particular order, are some you should check out:


Prelude Special Ale, Shipyard Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

This beer is a newly discovered favorite and for the most part has replaced Sam Adams Winter Ale in my fridge. It’s a dark, red-amber beer with a delicious butterscotch smell. It’s not spiced, so it has a traditional malty body. This is a good one.

ABV: 6.8%

Grade: A


St. Bernardus Abt 12, Brewery Bernardus (Belgium)

This beer is available year-round, but as a Belgian quad its dark seductive character is perfect for winter. St. Bernardus makes a separate Christmas Ale that’s worth trying, but if you miss the seasonal window, grab one of these.

ABV: 10%

Grade: A


Our Special Ale, Anchor Brewing Company (San Francisco, CA)

This beer changes its recipe and label every year, but it always hews to the same style, a spiced winter warmer. I’ve yet to try the 2011 version, but I suspect it will be of similar quality to last year’s. It’s a dark -- almost black -- brew with some nice hints of baking spices. The taste is like roasted coffee and dark chocolate. Christmas in a glass.

ABV: 5.5%

Grade: B+


Chimay Grande Reserve, Chimay Beers (Belgium)

Five years ago, this was the first Belgian beer I ever tried and I still come back to it time and time again. It’s a bit pricey at $14 a bottle here in Boston, so I save it for something special. A strong dark ale with a really sweet smell of caramel and brown sugar. The body has a dark fruit taste of plums and raisins. If you’re willing to spend the money, try this stuff!

ABV: 9.0%

Grade: A+


Trois Pistoles, Unibroue (Chambly, QC, Canada).

Famous for their Fin du Monde beer, this brewer does great work, including brewing Trader Joe’s annual Vintage Ale. A strong, dark ale, tastes of raisins and plums, a bit like a port on the finish. Good stuff.

ABV: 9.0%

Grade: A-

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and delicious drinking!

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Matt O’Connor lives in Boston and is a proud graduate of Boston University. Explore beer with him as he quits his job in the sciences and starts law school. Send any requests, beer, or job offers to him at: matt.oconnor[at]