11.22.2011

International Winter Beers To Try Before You Die

With temperatures dropping and holiday dinners just around the corner, Metrocurean reached out to DC beer expert Greg Engert for a list of five cold weather brews to try now. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group beer director declared this edition his “International Winter Beers to Try Before You Die,” and they must be pretty damn good to have made the list.

These rare beers will be available at Churchkey and Birch and Barley in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned for Greg’s line-up of five domestic beers you can’t live without…

1. Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale
Kiuchi Brewery, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan

Greg says: “The Commemorative Ale, perhaps more so than any other beer from Kiuch'si expansive catalog, evokes the innovative spirit of international influence. Complexly spiced in the Belgian tradition with coriander, orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla beans, then fortified into a rich, warming, brandy-ish intensity through the Eisbock method made famous by German brewers. Following fermentation, the ale is kept at 24 degrees, causing water and protein to crystallize. Once removed, this concentrated nectar matures for six months in preparation for the icy days and nights that call for its annual unveiling.”

2. Fantôme de Noël
Brasserie Fantôme, Wallonia, Belgium

Greg says: “As with all of the rustic brews that have been concocted by Dany Prignon in his modest stone farmhouse since 1988, each corked and capped bottle of this alluring elixir is as unique as it is scarce. Dany crafts this brew in exceptionally small batches on spartan brewing equipment with a complex blend of yeasts. What results is a full-bodied, slightly roasty, richly fruited ale underscored by an old world vinous character that is earthy, herbal and tantalizingly tart.”

3. Tsjeeses Reserva 
De Struise Brouwers, Luxembourg, Belgium

Greg says: “Glowing golden-amber in color, the Tsjeeses Reserva begins its life as Tsjeeses, a 10% Belgian Strong Ale conditioned for 8 months on the very best stone fruits Struise can yearly source. To become Reserva, the brew gains an additional 6 months of maturation, this time on oak chips. At once, honeyed and nutty, almost sherry-esque, then bursting with juicy fruits, followed by dry and toasty accents, with hints of caramel and coconut. A powerful yet brightly exquisite winter option that fittingly garnered its name by impressing one of its creators; Urbain's Flemish-accented English remark upon tasting the beer is phonetically splashed across the label: ‘Tsjeeses (what a beer...)’.”

4. 25 Dodici 
Birra Del Borgo, Lazio Region, Italy

Greg says: “25 Dodici is as festive as its name suggests and practically demands to be sipped during the convivial times surrounding the 25th day of the 12th month. Though assertive in strength at 9.5%, and endowed with a concentrated explosion of fruits (think plums and raspberries), 25 Dodici maintains the sort of elegant balance and — some might say dangerous— lightness of body one expects from a great food beer. An excellent choice for your holiday table, particularly with the rich, earthy intensity of lamb or steak, as well as with all manner of game birds, 25 Dodici is equally transcendent as a nightcap sipped slowly within the warming haze of a winter's fire.”

5. Père Noël
Brouwerij De Ranke, West Flanders, Belgium

Greg says: “Winter beers have tended to skew toward big malty profiles. But hopheads need not go thirsty during the coldest months. Among the first of the international craft brewers to once more champion this noble flower, the gents behind Brouwerij De Ranke decided to not only announce their intentions through their brewery's name (De Ranke refers to the rows of hop bines that once dutifully lined the landscape of Belgium), but also to demonstrate a year-round commitment with their hoppy Belgian Holiday Ale, Père Noël.

"Nino Bacelle and Guido Devos went from homebrewing to full-time craft brewing, and their ideals have survived and thrived. Père Noël, while moderately strong at 7 percent, is golden in color and bracingly dry in the finish. The flavor is hugely multi-faceted: fruity and spicy (from the classic Belgian Ale yeast fermentation), but with grassy, earthy, floral hop notes pitched perfectly against a malty backdrop of fresh bread lightly drizzled in caramel.”










Ashlie Hughes is pursuing her longtime dream of writing about food and travel. During her free time she enjoys trying new restaurants, searching for the perfect cocktail, and daydreaming about traveling the world. She currently writes a column titled The Aperitif and other articles for Patch.com.
















Ashlie Hughes is pursuing her longtime dream of writing about food and travel. During her free time she enjoys trying new restaurants, searching for the perfect cocktail, and daydreaming about traveling the world. She currently writes a column titled The Aperitif and other articles for Patch.com.






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