9 Best Winter Ales of 2021

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It's getting colder. It's getting darker. And the haze of summer is slowly setting behind us. But not all is lost as we head into the dark, dark months of winter. The colder weather makes hot coffee taste better or gives you an excuse to wear that scarf your mom knit you last year. Plus, for the next few months you have a reason to cozy up inside by the fire and drink one of those beers you've been sitting on for the last couple of months. 

Here in the Untappd winter wonderland, we're pretty excited to crack open those winter beers such as juniper-flavored pales, snowy barleywines, and fresh hop celebration ales (if you get our...snow drift). 

Sometimes called Christmas ales or winter warmers, winter ales aren't technically a beer style, per se, but essentially beers that celebrate the season. Consider winter ales a brewing tradition. 

Often in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Northern Europe, brewers would make a particularly strong dark ale that would warm people against the chill of the coldest months of the year. 

Going even further, brewers might add spices like ginger or nutmeg to play into the festive holiday spirit. 

Historically, these winterish beers have fallen under two categories: spiced Wassail (a dark, malty traditional English drink that can be a hot, spiced cider, wine, mead, or beer) or strong English ale. 

In the early 1900s, the original Burton ale made by the brewers of Burton-on-Trent was often considered one of the most popular hopped winter beers of the time. While the popularity of darker ales started to die out in the 1960s, the growing American craft beer movement in the United States in the mid-1970s helped revive the tradition. Starting with Anchor Brewing's now-influential Christmas Ale, which was first brewed in 1975. 

Overall today, you'll find that this beer category can be pretty murky. You might find some winter ales to be dark and malty. Others are fresh and hoppy. Some perhaps are barrel aged. And even more could include holiday ingredients like maple syrup, molasses, plums, raisins, and more. 

Regardless of the exact definition, one thing remains the same: These winter beers are meant to be unwrapped and enjoyed like the first present given on Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or Christmas or just during your White Elephant party. 

Treat these beers like...well, treats. Drinks that are meant to be a celebration during some of the darkest, coldest, toughest days of the year. 

Go ahead, indulge this holiday season. From a modern American barrel-aged cinnamon bomb to a straight-up Belgian classic, here are Untappd's 9 highest-rated Winter Ales of 2021.

1. Cinnamon Coconut B-Bomb - Fremont Brewing

2. Liquid Desserts 13 - Red Velvet Coconut Christmas Cake Quadruple - Big Belly Brewing Company

3. 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale - Thirsty Dog Brewing Company

4. Christmas Ale - Brouwerij St. Bernardus

5. Christmas Ale - Great Lakes Brewing Company

6. Lions Winter Ale - Granville Island Brewing

7.  2XMAS - Southern Tier Brewing Company

8. Delirium Noël / Christmas - Delirium - Huyghe Brewery

9. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year (Our Special Ale) - Anchor Brewing Company

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Don't miss Untappd's new YouTube travel show! Tune in to Next Exit to see all the interesting places, cool people, and cold beer we're drinking in the best beer cities across the country. In the first episode, follow Untappd Creative Director Kenny Gould as he heads to the Steel City, visiting hidden gems like Squirrel Hill's Chengdu Gourmet, East Liberty's Kelly's Bar and Lounge, and the old Pittsburgh Brewing Company facility in Lawrenceville, which once made beer for Jim Koch at Samuel Adams. We also talk to local legends like Caleb Cornell, Todd Zwicker, and Day Bracey. 

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