Skiers and snowboarders think about snow all winter and fall, and they know when winter-sports season is getting close because there are gear and season-pass sales all over the place. Beer lovers think about rich, high-gravity treats all winter and fall, and they know when they're getting close because labels like these start to pop up on the Internet. If the warm weather has gone on too long and your brain has already switched into cold-weather mode, here are a few beers to look forward to when you make the switch from flip-flops to hats and gloves.
Chai Yeti Imperial Stout
Great Divide Brewing
Great Divide has been fairly conservative over the years about messing with its signature Yeti Imperial Stout, adding only a few variations every couple of years or so; these have included Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, Oatmeal Yeti and the draft-only, lower-ABV Velvet Yeti Nitro. The latest of these will be quite different, though, as it incorporates the traditional chai spices of cinnamon, green cardamom, ginger, black pepper, nutmeg and vanilla. The mixture is appropriate since many Yeti tales originate in the Himalayas in Nepal, a region that also gave us chai. If you believe, then this beer, which debuts in October, is for you.
Whiskey Barrel Aged Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout
Odell is staying tight-lipped about this one, but the label says it all. Odell has taken some of its luscious Lugene and aged it in Woody Creek Rye Whiskey barrels for six months. First introduced in bottles in 2013, Lugene made my list of the best beers made in Colorado that year and still stands as one of the Fort Collins brewery's most notable offerings. For some inexplicable reason, the brewery discontinued the beer last year, so its return in rye whiskey barrels is going to make a lot of people shake in their boots. Release date is TBA.
Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist
Last year, Epic Brewing thrilled imperial stout fans when it created two variations on Big Bad Baptist, an imperial stout made with coffee beans and cacao nibs, for the first time. Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist was flavored with barrel aged coffee from Hot Box Roasters, while Big Bad Baptista included Mexican coffee, vanilla and cinnamon. This year, Epic is going a different direction with Triple Barrel Big Bad Baptist, which was brewed with cacao nibs, coffee beans and shredded coconut that was aged in whiskey barrels. The beer was then aged in whiskey and rum barrels and blended back together. It's going to create a very warm winter.
Rye Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout
Durango's Ska Brewing celebrated its 22nd anniversary earlier in September with a party and a beer. Rye Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout, at 13.1 percent ABV, was aged on Woodford Reserve rye barrels and offers "notes of coconut and vanilla, roasted chocolate and burnt malt flavors and an unrestrained fruitiness and silky finish," the brewery says. It is the strongest beer that Ska has packaged in its history. “I’ve been dreaming of this beer since day one, and I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t tried, and subsequently failed, to brew this beer in the past,” Ska co-founder Dave Thibodeau writes. “But now here it is, one beautiful thick-ass ounce for each of our 22 years in every bottle." The beer should arrive in the Denver area sometime in late September.
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New Belgium Brewing
Frambozen was one of New Belgium's most recognized, longest-running beers — that is, until the brewery stopped bottling it two years ago, ruining Thanksgiving and the winter in general for many people. But it looks like New Belgium is bringing back an imperial version of the beer in large-format bottles this year. The original beer "starts off as Abbey, but our brewers swap out Abbey’s Belgian yeast for another house yeast strain," New Belgium has said. "After primary fermentation, the beer is blended with raspberry juice from the Pacific Northwest, resulting in a invigorating tart, fruity pour with a nutty, caramel malt backbone." This new version, though, comes in at a much higher ABV and will benefit from the addition of single-origin Ghana cocoa husks freshly roasted and ground by Nuance Chocolate in Fort Collins. It is slated for release on November 6.
Great Divide Brewing
Back in 2015, Jameson Irish Whiskey teamed up with Great Divide as part of the distillery's Drinking Buddies series of five brewery collaborations. The breweries each toured Jameson's facility and then aged a beer in whiskey barrels to create a limited-edition release (Jameson also aged some of its whiskey in beer barrels). The result of its collaboration with Great Divide is an 8.5 percent ABV dark lager called The Smoothness. And the beer definitely lives up to its name. Smooth and rich, the mouthfeel belies the alcohol content and exudes notes of chocolate, oak, vanilla, roasted malt and leather. This is the first time the beer has been packaged.