Winter is always an interesting time on the brewing calendar as the pumpkin spice fall beers give way to the “winter warmers” that offer less spice and more punch.

hawks prairie casinoSure, some winter beers have some spice to them, largely of the “wassail” variety, but most of the holiday beers that hit beer aisle and pub taps lean toward the malty end of the beer spectrum as well as pack higher alcohol content to ward off the chill of winter. Tacoma’s standing as the brewing capital of the South Sound is not only established but on the rise, so it seems only fitting to put together a seasonal six pack of winter beers.

Any beer is better than no beer at all, so taking a chance on an unknown beer is generally a safe bet. PSR has its place in the hearts of veteran beer chuggers after all. But since there are more than six Tacoma brewers, putting together a single six pack takes some research. Fear not. I did the work for you.

Dunagan Brewing Co., for example, has the Cosh. It’s a tasty Black Winter Ale that has a deep malt flavor that tops with cherry and citrus notes and a seven percent alcohol-by-volume punch. It certainly is worthy of any seasoned beer lover’s lips.

Wingman Brewery
Wingman’s taproom makes for a industrial scene to sip a Noel, its most popular seasonal offering. Photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger.

The hyperbole-backed-up-by-results award goes to Odd Otter Brewing’s brew guru John Hotchkiss when it comes to winter beer rollouts. Last year’s brew was the bee’s knees, so he best bring the sauce this year.

“Each year, we release a new iteration of Winterface – our subtly named wintertime holiday offering,” he said. “This year, our brilliant brewing otters have outdone themselves with a Belgian dark, strong ale made with tart cherries.”

But don’t search for it yet, the annual spin of a classic won’t be out for few weeks. So you will just have to wait. And wait. So it isn’t officially in the holiday six pack. But Otter’s 6.2 ABV White Coffee Brown Ale, is worth sipping until then, therefore, gets added to the list.

Wingman Brewery
Wingman’s Strato Fortess pairs well with charred meat or really anything. Photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger.

For a brew to drink now, a solid choice would be Tacoma Brewing Co.’s  Black Cat Coffee Stout – dark and lovely with an 11 percent ABV, this beer is a cold-brewed espresso beer that won’t last long as the weather chills. It won’t last long, but few beers do in this “here today, gone later today” craft brewery.

Across town, a one-stop shop of brewery goodness is Wingman Brewery, which stocks my new favorite beer, the Strato Fortress, a dark Belgian-style ale that is aged on cedar planks to add a smoky and smooth pour to balance out its fruit and sugar flavors. The 11.2 percent ABV just adds points to this brew’s overall appeal, especially when paired with red meat or chocolate. Good lordy, that is a tasty bottle of suds. The brewery’s seasonal Noel is a solid addition or alternative since its rich amber color adds to the seasonal theme with a solid pick, but I would shy away from Wingman’s Dark Waters, a 10 percent ABV Imperial Stout that just seemed too complex to pair with food. Don’t get me wrong, I downed it. It’s beer after all. It’s just more of a sipping beer that flies solo, not with a plate filled with chard flesh.

Pacific Brewing
Pacific Brewing’s location downtown makes it a convenient stop on any brewhouse crawl. Photo credit: Steve Dunkelberger

Rounding out the seasonal six pack is Pacific Brewing and Malting Co’s seasonal classic Griswold’s Winter Warmer. This homage to “National Lampoon’s Vacation” offers 8.5 percent ABV and a deep malt flavor with rich caramel to finish off the sip. Another option is the Venerator Doppelbock, a 7.1 percent ABV lager that is more like a meal than a beer, all darn good either way. Of course, the Grit City Porter provides a creamy, brown pint of 6.2 percent ABV toffee heaven as well.

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