We tend to think of winter warmers as sweet and malty, but that isn’t always the case. Sure, many are rich and dark with a good ABV kick (and we like them that way), but not all brews we break out with the flannel pajamas will bake your Alaska in 12 ounces; in fact, some can be downright sessionable, like the Bell’s Winter White that tops our list.
Like the first whiff of smoke from the fireplace and the scents of roasting turkey and simmering cranberries drifting from the kitchen, all four of our November picks are meant to be regarded thoughtfully and savored slowly.
Bell’s Winter White
An alternative to dark and heavy winter warmers and stouts, Winter White is a stylish and refreshing Wheat Ale. Fermented with a Belgian ale yeast, this blend of barley and wheat malts yields a mixture of clove and fruity aromas, all without the use of any spices. Deliberately brewed to retain a cloudy appearance, Winter White is a beer for embracing winter.
Winter White’s mixture of clove and fruity aromas makes it the perfect beer to pair with food as you cook. Here are some suggestions and inspiration from Bell’s own David Munro, national field services manager and one of Bell’s resident food and beer pairing experts.
- 1 Onion
- 3-4 cloves Garlic
- 2 Tbsp Butter + 4 Tbsp Butter
- 1 lb Fresh mussels
- 1 (12oz) bottle Bell’s Winter White
- 1 handful cilantro (rougly chopped)
- 1 loaf freshly backed crusty baguette
- Sriracha sauce (optional)
- Finely dice and gently sauté onion, three or four finely chopped cloves of garlic, and two tablespoons of butter. (Do this in a large enough pan that can hold two pounds of fresh mussels and has a tight fitting lid.)
- Rinse the mussels with cold water and remove any opened ones.
- Once the onions and garlic have become translucent, pour 12oz bottle of Winter White into the pan and add the mussels.
- Bring the liquid to a boil and cover with the pan with a lid.
- Reduce to medium/low heat and set timer for 5 minutes, or until the mussels have opened.
- Turn off the heat, add a handful of roughly chopped cilantro and a four tablespoons of butter. Put the lid back on and shake (be careful not to burn yourself).
- You can either do family style service or use individual bowls. Be sure to pour all of the delicious broth over the mussels.
- Serve with a loaf of freshly baked crusty baguette to soak up all of that delicious broth! If you want it spicy, offer Sriracha on the side, not in the cooking.
Here are some ideas of how you can use Winter White with appetizers and smaller dishes:
- Leek and potato soup made with Winter White.
- Winter White Chicken Chili. (You can also serve as an entrée over a baked potato.)
- Sautéed local mushrooms with a Winter White cream sauce of onions, garlic and fresh parsley. Use local thick cream for cooking.
- Winter White Cheese Fondue.
- Poached Asparagus with a Winter White Hollandaise style sauce.
For an entrée or main course, think lighter. Seafood and chicken are complimentary. Beef, for the most part, is too much, but you should enjoy it with lamb. Here are other ideas:
- Scallops lightly poached in Winter White and served with a sauce of herbed chevre (goat cheese) on a bed of stringozzi (rectangular Italian pasta).
- Whole sole stuffed with leeks and crab, parchment baked with Winter White and served with Duchess potatoes.
- Seafood stew with Winter White broth.
- Eggs are also great with Winter White, including omelettes.
For dessert, pair with berries and cheese in combination or alone. Here are some more ideas:
- A layered mascarpone and berry trifle.
- Lemon Panna Cotta with Fresh Raspberry Coulis.
- Crêpes with strawberry and cream cheese filling.
- A bowl full of fresh cherries, lightly poached in Winter White, chilled and topped with mascarpone ice cream.
Lagunitas Brown Shugga
Brown Shugga is an American strong ale (technically a barleywine ale) brewed with actual brown sugar to create a rich and malty, molasses-like beer. Brown Shugga was happily born in 1997 out of a mistake at the brewery. The brewing team had its annual release of Olde Gnarlywine fermenting in the tanks when they realized they’d forgotten to add a critical ingredient – honey. (Honey adds the sugars needed to produce a higher ABV, barleywine-style beer). Founder Tony Magee ordered everyone out to the grocery stores in Petaluma, CA to buy up all the bags of brown sugar they could find and add them to the tanks so they could help the beer reach the correct original gravity. The beer turned with the correct gravity but tasted vastly different – and really good. Thus was born Brown Shugga, a beer Lagunitas likes to call “irresponsible” and “dangerously drinkable!”
Released every year from October through December, Brown Shugga is always the most popular limited-seasonal release. Its high ABV and huge flavor make it a nice fall and winter warmer and a great pair with all sorts of foods, such as roasted turkey, braised shanks, chili, ribs and pulled pork with sweet BBQ sauce. It’s great with any baked holiday treat, like pumpkin and pecan pie or cookies made with allspice, brown sugar, and cinnamon. And it’s positively delicious in recipes that call for brown sugar or sweet flavors, like this one, our all-time favorite rendition of candied yams:
Lagunitas Brown Shugga Candied Yams
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 35 min
- 3 lb Raw sweet potatoes or yams (about 4 medium-sized)
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/3 cup Lagunitas Brown Shugga
- ½ cup Granulated sugar
- ½ cup Light brown sugar
- ¼ tsp Ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp Grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp Ground ginger
- ¼ tsp Cracked black pepper (optional)
- ½ cup (1 stick) Unsalted butter
- Bake or boil potatoes until they’re fork tender.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Butter a 1½ quart or 8″x8″ inch baking dish and set aside.
- Peel and slice or cut cooked sweet potatoes into chunks and layer into prepared dish, seasoning with salt between layers.
- Place beer and sugars into a saucepan and bring to boil, stirring regularly for about 3 minutes, or until sugars are well dissolved. Add the spices, pepper and butter; stir in until butter is completely melted. Pour mixture majority of mixture over the sweet potatoes and gently toss to coat all the pieces; taste and adjust for seasonings.
- Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for about 35 minutes, basting several times with remaining beer and sugar mixture using a spoon or a bulb baster to avoid breaking up the sweet potatoes. Remove and baste again before serving.
Rochester Mills Milkshake Stout
The combination of four different malts, along with a low hop level, creates a deep dark beer featuring rich, sweet roasted flavors. The addition of lactose (milk sugar) adds complexity, body, and a residual sweetness, lending a smooth creamy texture to this full-flavored brew. Once a seasonal offering in the pub, Milkshake Stout is now Rochester Mills’ most popular beer.
Despite its name, Milkshake Stout is not thick like a milkshake or overly sweet. It pours creamy, rich and dark and makes a delicious partner to beef barbecue, spicy Asian dishes, chocolate cake and other chocolate desserts.
Founders Backwoods Bastard
Don’t let the moonshine nuance fool you. This is a sophisticated brew. Expect lovely, warm smells of single malt Scotch, oaky bourbon barrels, smoke, sweet caramel and roasted malts, a bit of earthy spice and a scintilla of dark fruit. Aged under the city of Grand Rapids in oak bourbon barrels, it’s a kick-back sipper made for tasting.
The high ABV and sippable character of Backwoods Bastard make it a truly flavorful partner to your food, not just a pint of something to wash it down with. Try it with turkey legs, pork belly, or mac ‘n cheese. For salads, go for anything grain based (quinoa, bulgur wheat, wild rice), and for soup try a hearty French onion. Sippers make especially good cheese partners. Try it with Gouda, triple cream Brie, or baked Camembert. And for dessert? We recommend Bananas Foster, or a thick, rich pie, like apple, pumpkin, or pecan.