Each year, craft beer enthusiasts know the real fun comes when the temperatures begin to drop.
While breweries continue to expand the parameters of what "easily drinkable beers" means for the summer and spring, they also know the cold months are for those in search of the boldest and most daring flavor profiles. So now is when brands debut their latest flavor-melding concoctions, from English strong ales to Belgian whites and everything in between.
We reached out to some area brewing companies to find out what we can expect to taste for the first time in the next few months. No surprise here — there will be plenty of options to help keep us warm.
Not to be confused with the Frederick company's regular Imperial Pumpkin Ale (known as The Fear), the new Gourd Standard Pumpkin IPA (6.7% ABV) has just enough spice and sweet notes to remind a drinker of pumpkin pie — graham cracker crust and all. The beer began as a small-batch release at Flying Dog's experimental pilot brewery, but the staff was so thrilled with the flavor that they decided on a wide release.
Where to find it: Pratt Street Ale House (206 W. Pratt St., downtown)
And good news for fans of Flying Dog's "Holiday Collection" of Otterbein's Bakery-inspired beers that debuted last year: Four new beers were just released to Flying Dog's tasting room (4607 Wedgewood Blvd., Frederick). This year's batch includes Citrus Saison with sugar cookies, Belgian Pale Ale with orange white chocolate chip cookies, Cranberry IPA with lemon cookies and Fig and Fennel Stout with oatmeal raisin cookies. Expect to see them at Max's Taphouse (737 S. Broadway, Fells Point) and other beer bars in the coming weeks.
Heavy Seas Beers
Each year, Halethorpe's Heavy Seas takes a Weizen Dopplebock-style beer and ages it in Jamaican rum barrels for its seasonal Yule Tide brew. This year is different, however, as the beer's latest recipe features actual gingerbread in the brewing process for the first time. Spicy notes from the German yeast offset the sweetness from the barrel-aging and caramel malts. The result is a unique — and powerful at 9% ABV — update on a seasonal favorite.
Where to find it: Heavy Seas Alehouse (1300 Bank St., Little Italy); Rowhouse Grille (1400 Light St., Federal Hill)
Next month, Heavy Seas will release 20 Year Storm, a beer celebrating the company's two-decade anniversary. An update on Winter Storm, the brand's first-ever brew, 20 Year Storm is aged in bourbon barrels for approximately 75 days to create an even deeper flavor. Bars including Ryleigh's Oyster (36 E. Cross St., Federal Hill) and Max's Taphouse will have it by mid-December.
DuClaw Brewing Company
The Rosedale company's latest addition to its ever-expanding family is Obol (9% ABV), whose beer style is called Oat Wine because of the heavy use of oats in its mash. The style has become increasingly popular, and DuClaw believes the trend will only continue. Beers this dark often have a hard time finishing smooth, but the oat base achieves such a balance, masking the beer's potency — at least momentarily.
Where to find it: DuClaw Brewing Co. – Arundel Mills (7000 Arundel Mills Circle, Hanover); DuClaw Brewing Co. – Bel Air (16 Bel Air South Parkway, Bel Air)
Here's something for fans of DuClaw's most famous beer, the award-winning Sweet Baby Jesus! Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter, to keep an eye on: Next month, the brand will debut For Pete's Sake!, a stronger Imperial version. For those looking for a richer flavored version of the old favorite, you will soon be in luck.
Full Tilt Brewing
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When it comes to food and drink, consumers care more than ever about how products are made. Craft beer — with its emphasis on quality ingredients and small-batch process — lends itself well to the trend.
In Abell, Full Tilt is proving its commitment to local sourcing with its newest beer, Old Line Harvest Ale (6.6% ABV). The beer's whole-cone wet hops come from Black Locust Hops, a farm in northern Baltimore County, while the recipe's honey arrived from Hays Apiary in Smithsburg. If the other beers on this list sound too dark or strange, this offering should be more accessible.
Where to find it: Smaltimore (2522 Fait Ave., Canton); Bistro Rx (2901 E. Baltimore St., Patterson Park)