December often sees some of the biggest, baddest-ass beer releases in Colorado. Maybe it's because of the weather and way people get in the mood for heavier beers with a higher alcohol content. Maybe its the chill or even the need for something to smooth over holiday stress.
Whatever the reason, all of the beers on this list are badass — whether because of the label art, the color, the ABV, the name, or the time and dedication that went into making them. Now, drink up and stay warm.
TRVE released three new beers this month in very limited quantities. One of those is Black Celebration, a dark, mixed-culture ale aged with more than three pounds of Colorado-grown sweet cherries per gallon of beer. "Immense flavors of dark chocolate and cherries combine with a medium acidity and velvety carbonation to create the perfect beer for your winter solstice celebrations," the brewery says, noting that the beer is "crimson, bordering on black with an incredibly metal pink head." The beer will go on sale at the brewery on Tuesday, December 13, and will also hit a limited number of liquor stores in small quantities.
Voodoo Ranger IPA
New Belgium Brewing
New Belgium Brewing just overhauled part of its lineup, adding some new beers and getting rid of others. One of the new brews is Voodoo Ranger IPA, which replaces Ranger IPA but is still a nod to New Belgium's beer rangers (albeit undead ones?). New Belgium says it doesn't know when the beers will hit shelves because liquor stores will have to sell through their old stock first — but you should start seeing the skeleton-emblazoned labels this month or in January. Voodoo Ranger is described as "bursting with tropical aromas and juicy fruit flavors from Mosaic and Amarillo hops. This golden IPA is perfectly bitter, with a refreshing finish."
Not everyone is feeling good about the Russians these days, but Odyssey wanted to at least honor part of the country's past by naming a new Russian imperial stout after Salyut, the Soviet Union's "revolutionary space program...designed for long-term research in space, which led to the world’s first crewed space station, Salyut 1," the brewery says. Odyssey released three three barrel-aged versions, two of which — one aged in Laws bourbon barrels and the other in Breckenridge Distillery barrels — were bottled in bombers and will be available in limited quantities at a few liquor stores, mostly on the western and northern sides of the metro area. Salyut has aromas of vanilla, tobacco, chocolate and dried dark fruit.
Elevation Beer Company
Last summer, Elevation released a new beer called Acide, a kettle-soured, dry-hopped saison. To shake things up over the winter, the brewery decided to experiment with some other flavors. As a result, it added peaches to the 4.5 percent ABV beer, producing "just a touch of fruity flavor to accent the original brew’s tartness," Elevation says. “We thought that some peach flavors would add a nice layer of complexity.”
Boulder Beer Company
The fourth in Boulder Beer's barrel-aged Dude Series, Later Dude is a 9.8 percent ABV wheat wine aged in whiskey barrels from Breckenridge Distillery. "The large portion of wheat in the mash provides a soft, round mouthfeel complemented by notes of vanilla, raisin and toffee from aging it in first-use whiskey barrels," Boulder Beer says. It is available in 22-ounce bottles.
Wild Christmas Ale With Cranberries
Put this one on both the nice and the naughty list. Upslope debuted Wild Christmas Ale last year, a sexier version of its regular Christmas Ale that was fermented with Brettanomyces. This year, Upslope changed it up slightly, aging it for eleven months in Leopold Bros. Maryland Style Rye Whiskey barrels and then re-fermenting with 500 pounds of cranberries. The 9 percent ABV beer has notes of candied orange, oak and rye whiskey spices, with assertive cranberry tartness and a light chocolate finish, Upslope says. You can find the beer around town for a brief time in 19.2 ounce cans as part of the the brewery's Lee Hill series.
Top Rope Mexican Lager
The Post Brewing
It all started back in 2010, when the Big Red F restaurant group — owners of Centro Latin Kitchen, Lola, West End Tavern, Zolo Grill and Jax Fish House — decided to pour a local Mexican-style lager rather than a mass-produced one. So the company tapped Boulder's Upslope Brewing to make Top Rope as its house beer, and then, in 2012, to can it. But in 2014, Big Red F opened its own brewery — the Post, in Lafayette — and Top Rope became one of that brewery's beers. And now it will be canned again. The 5 percent ABV lager "flips into the ring with a crisp malt flavor and an herbal hop aroma," the brewery says, and "finishes with a clean three count, squashing thirst and leading into the next match-up."
Fiction Beer Company
Every December, Fiction Beer teams up with Glazed & Confuzed to make a new doughnut beer (and to host a beer-and-doughnut pairing party). Called Donut Panic (in honor of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), this year's version is a strawberry wit made to re-create "the doughy mouthfeel of a doughnut touched by the sweetness of strawberry icing," the brewery says. It was brewed with "silky" wheat malt, 400 pounds of strawberries, several dozen doughnuts and thirty pounds of strawberry glaze. Oh, and this year's beer will be released in cans for the first time — a new package for Fiction — for distribution beyond the East Colfax brewery.
Bourbon Barrel-Aged Tangerine Quadruple Ale
Avery Brewing recently ditched some of its longstanding signature seasonals, like Mephistopheles, the Kaiser and the Beast, in favor of its relatively new, year-round Botanicals & Barrels series. The latest in this series is Tangerine Quad, a 10 percent ABV beer available in 22-ounce bottles. Avery says the beer has "notes of rich, dark fruit, vanilla and caramel, with a burst of tangerine peel."
Rum Barrel-Aged Imperial Chocolate Stout
Fort Collins Brewery
Fort Collins Brewery recently updated its look and its beer lineup. One of the changes is the addition of its small-batch Savor Series. The most recent of these is Rum Barrel-Aged Imperial Chocolate Stout, a 10.5 percent ABV monster brewed with cacao nibs and husks, two types of chocolate, vanilla and Cholaca liquid chocolate. The beer is then aged for several months in used rum barrels. This heady brew is available in sixteen-ounce cans; the brewery recommends that people buy one to drink and one to age.
Station 26 Brewing
This 11.3 percent ABV hop monster was brewed in honor of Station 26 Brewing's third anniversary and was released in 22-ounce bottles last week at the brewery's anniversary party. Like the brewery's other celebratory beers, this one should see very limited distribution in town and is likely to disappear quickly.
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Depravity Imperial Peanut Butter Cup Stout
This cult favorite, an imperial stout brewed with real peanut butter cups, is only released once a year — on New Year's Eve — and has always been one of my favorite traditions among Denver breweries. This year, Renegade has canned it and will sell four-packs (limit of two per customer) at the brewery on December 31, in addition to growlers of the rich and creamy brew.
Fade to Black, Vol. 1
Left Hand Brewing
Okay, maybe this one's not new — but the package is, and I still can't get over the fact that Left Hand is canning beers after eschewing the package for years! But Fade to Black deserves some credit. The 8.5 percent ABV Foreign Export Stout has won four Great American Beer Festival medals and one World Beer Cup honor over the past few years. The brewery says Fade to Black has "licorice, espresso bean, molasses, and black cardamom notes that give way to a feeling of self-loathing, burnt opportunities and smoked relationships."
Elephunk Imperial Wild IPA
An imperial wild IPA? Sounds like this beer has all the buzzwords — and all the right flavors to live up to the description. Here's how the brewery describes it: "Coming in at 9.9 percent, Elephunk has layers of flavors that dance in a funky, liquid harmony. Pungent tropical fruit aromas burst forward while oak-aged traits of vanilla, brown sugar and cedar create a slightly sweet contrast to the tart flavor."
Son of a Baptist
Epic released two new versions of Big Bad Baptist last month: Double Barrel Baptist and Big Bad Baptista — and you should grab them if you can still find them. But the brewery is also bringing back its Son of a Baptist this winter — now in cans. SoaB is an 8 percent ABV imperial stout, but it isn't barrel-aged like its father, Big Bad Baptist, Epic says. "Instead, its flavor profile was designed to highlight the complex and often unique flavors of small-batch coffees. Instead of sourcing a coffee that would play well in a beer, we sought out creative and innovative roasters, then asked them which beans they’re passionate about. Each resulting release of Son of a Baptist is widely differentm depending on the coffee selected."