Although the official start is still a few weeks away, winter has arrived with a vengeance. Single-digit temperatures and a heavy hit of snow make the winter seasonals even more appealing. Curl up in front of a roaring fire with any one of these outstanding European imports.
This is only the second year this German seasonal has been available in the United States. A wheat beer brewed with the weight and strength of a Bock, it displays the classic aromas of spicy clove and banana bread. That spice comes through on the palate with the body and warmth you want this time of year. Lots of fresh grain flavors, matched by nice layers of fruit--apple, orange and pear--colored by touches of ginger. This one had me craving a nice pork roast smothered in sauerkraut. Buy while you can because this one has a very limited availability.
Gouden Carolus Noel
This Belgian seasonal in a cork-finished, 750-ml bottle pours a deep brown with a thin head. The sweet caramel on the nose reminds me of pecan pie backed by a nice bit of sour cherry. The flavors are smooth and creamy with a lightly toasted malt backbone surrounded by honeyed plum and pear fruit and touches of anise and spice. The long finish is sweet but with just enough ripe citrus to keep things in balance.
La Trappe Quadrupel Trappist Ale
This mahogany-hued Belgian brew opens with dark fruit aromas of plum, date, dried cherry, baked apple and a little brown sugar. Beautifully balanced in the mouth, the caramel-laced malt is sweet, but not overly so, and is colored by hints of spice and orange zest. It goes down so smooth and easy, you'd never guess it weighs in at 10 percent alcohol, so caution is advised. The Quadrupel is not officially a winter release, but it has the flavor profile that fits the season.