Brew Ho Ho

December 2016 | view this story as a .pdf

In a state where delicious beers and vicious winters define us, more and more local breweries are creating seasonal winter brews.


Get tasting, and you’ll be feeling as jolly as Santa in no time–red nose, belly, and all.

You’ve spent the last five hours battling the northbound turnpike antics of Massachusetts–Holy smokes, where do these guys learn to drive? (Likely the same Caribou DMV you did, bub.) Finally, you’ve pulled into the driveway and you’re home in good old Portland for the holidays. The porch light’s been left on, casting a heartening glow on…mom’s new handmade farmer’s-market dried-herb-and-sandalwood wreath. Are those oranges? What happened to the synthetic pine and holly berries, a staple in every family photo since you were eleven? And is that–is that a fake tree? (A PVC-free, sustainable, eco-friendly artificial tree, to be exact.) Are those matching, hand-knitted stockings? There are only two! Whose home are you in? First Bowie, now this? Oh, don’t worry, the décor may change, but your childhood memories will always remain.

Now, chin up, off you go to the fridge for one of dad’s ice-cold beers. That’s where the real memories are. If there is one thing you can depend on in this ever-changing world, it’s dad’s favor of a New England classic. But what do you find when you open the fridge door? Dear old dad’s not drinking Narragansett anymore. Instead, help yourself to a hearty winter brew. Dad stood in line for an hour or two. 

From spruce tips to figs, the ingredients found in your brewers’ batches sound more like a shopping list for A.C. Moore, but one thing is clear, these seasonal beers are far from the ales you used to sneak on Christmas Eve. So pull out the family growler, stoke the fire (or turn up the space heater), and start checking your list tonight.

Hibernal Fluxus 2016   

Allagash Brewing Company, Portland

Belgian-Style Stout – 8% ABV

This Belgian-style stout is brewed with figs and is a balance of roasty and sweet with notes of “bitter baking chocolate, espresso, biscuit malt, and mocha.” Allagash will donate a portion of the proceeds from Hibernal Fluxus to Window Dressers, a group helping Maine families in need to conserve fuel and reduce heating costs through the winter.

Snow Blower Beer   

Austin Street, 1 Industrial Way, Portland 

American Barleywine – 9.5% ABV

“An American barleywine, Snow Blower Beer packs plenty of malt flavor with just enough bitterness to balance everything out. We recommend this beer AFTER snow blowing, shoveling, or anytime you need a warming beverage during the cold Maine winter.”
–Will Fisher, Austin Street Brewery

Jolly Woodsman   

Banded Horn, Biddeford

Coffee Stout – 7.5% ABV. “Special with wood-roasted Kenyan espresso from the Speckled Ax. Tasting notes include orange, cacao husk, cranberry juice, and bitter chocolate.” –Alexis Albert, Banded Horn Brewing Co.


Barreled Souls with Banded Horn, Saco

Belgian Strong Ale – 10% ABV. “The Champagne-inspired Belgian Strong Ale fermented with four different yeasts including Brettanomyces . It becomes more complex and acidic over time. It’s available at the Banded Horn tasting room in Biddeford.” –Alexis Albert, Banded Horn Brewing Co.

Phantom Punch    

Baxter Brewing Company, Lewiston

Stout – 6.8% ABV. A tribute to the 1965 World Heavyweight Championship when Muhammed Ali delivered the knockout blow to Sonny Liston. “Packs a wallop of its own, with a ghostly hint of cocoa nibs and vanilla beans.” –Baxter Brewing Company 


Bear Bones Beer, Lewiston

Stout – 7.5% ABV. This dry stout is brewed with spruce combined with roasted malts and hints of mint and chocolate. Available at the Great Lost Bear, the Quarry Tap Room, and the Bear Bones tasting room. 

Vienna Lager   

Boothbay Craft Brewery, Boothbay

Lager – 6% ABV. “Balanced clean ruby colored lager brewed with German malts, hops and yeast. Hallertau hops balance the malt to allow for great drinkability and a touch of sweetness at the end.” –Edwin Mitchell, Boothbay Craft Brewery

Prelude special ale   

Shipyard Brewing Co., Portland

English Ale – 6.7% ABV. This winter go-to is a “rich, nutty and full-bodied.” Not a fan of the heavy porters? This classic is the brew for you.

Jailbreak Chocolate Chili Stout   

Bigelow Brewing Company, Skowhegan

Chocolate Chili Stout – 7.6% ABV. “Smooth stout has notes of rich chocolate, roasted coffee and smoky sweetness imparted from the roasted malts and chocolate nibs used in the brew.  Chimayo chili offers a slight heat.” –Pamela Powers, Bigelow Brewing Company

Angels with Filthy Souls   

Bissell Brothers, Portland

Maple Porter – 8% ABV. This maple porter is the first dark brew from Bissell Bros. and is offered through December.

Dead Sled Ale    

Black Bear Microbrewery, Orono

Scottish Ale – 7% ABV. “Crisp, clean, Scottish Ale is distinctly malt forward and endlessly drinkable for the winter nights.” –Tim Gallon, Black Bear Microbrewery

Salted Caramel    

Blank Canvas Brewery, Brewer

Dunkelwiezen-style Ale – 4.7% ABV. “Ale with an extra long boil to caramelize the sugars. It tastes like a salted caramel candy and is very easy to drink.” –Stephen Genthner, co-owner of Blank Canvas

Saco Salmon Redd Rye   

Dirigo Brewing Co., Biddeford

German Roggenbier – 4.5% ABV. “Full bodied German roggenbier made with pilsner, caramel, and Munich malts.  Earthy and bold with a pleasant bitterness and a smooth finish. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Saco Salmon Restoration Alliance.” –Molly Bull, Dirigo Brewing Company


Fore River Brewing Co., South Portland

Irish Red Ale – 6.3% ABV. “Hearty ale focuses on the complexity of the malt bill. Presents with a caramel, toasted malt note with a touch of malt sweetness. English and domestic hops provide a balance without overwhelming the beer with unwanted aroma or bitterness.”–John LeGassey,, Fore River Brewing Company


Ice Scraper   

Foulmouthed Brewing, South Portland

Barleywine – 10% ABV or higher. “Dark, malt-forward style with high alcohol, a rich flavor, and balanced bitterness that is perfect for the cold season.” –Craig Dilger, Foulmouthed Brewing

Midnight Special    

Funky Bow Brewing, Lyman

Porter – 8% ABV. “Blended with the fresh cold brewed coffee to create one of our most popular dark beers. At first the chocolate and caramel malts move across your palate while the fresh coffee flavor takes over to balance this beer.” –Glen Halliday, Funky Bow Brewery & Beer Co.

The Penobscot Icebreaker  

Geaghan Brothers Brewing, Bangor

Winter Ale – 7.3% ABV. “A classic winter spice ale with orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses, and pumpkin to help warm you on any winter day. This winter ale is available through late winter.” –Lisa Sturgeon, Geaghan Bros. Brewing

Storyteller Doppelbock Lager  

Oak Pond Brewing Co., Skowhegan

Lager – 7.7% ABV. “This dark lager brewed with a blend of North American and European malts, hopped with a German noble variety. It runs through February and is available from Augusta north and at the brewery.” –Adam Chandler, Oak Pond Brewing Co.


Oxbow Brewing, Newcastle

American Sour Ale – 8.5% ABV. Tim Adams at Oxbow says the beer is fermented and aged in bourbon barrels. Bottles can be purchased at Oxbow Blending and Bottling in Portland and at the Newcastle tasting room.

Red Flannel Ale  

Penobscot Bay Brewing, Winterport

Brown Ale – 7% ABV. This brown ale carries a sweet aroma, rich malty flavors, and Perele hops for bittering. It pairs well with sausage, rich stews, and chili.” –Joan Anderson, Penobscot Bay Brewery


Rising Tide, Portland

Coffee Porter – 5% ABV. This coffee porter is a collaboration with Tandem Coffee Roasters and features notes of coffee, chocolate, dark fruit, and berries.

Slick Nick Long Winter Ale  

Sebago Brewing Company, Gorham

Winter Ale – 7.2% ABV. A Maine winter classic, Slick Nick has a smooth body and a malty warmth with a touch of hops.

Snow Day  

SoMe Brewing Company, York

Porter – 8% ABV. “A robust porter with Belgian candy syrup. It will be out in bottles and draft throughout Maine in January. We also have a bourbon barrel version that will be released around the first major snowfall!” –David Rowland, SoMe Brewing Company 

Barn Burner    

2 Feet Brewing, Bangor Chilli Saison, 7.4% ABV. This saison is made with roasted jalepeños, offering a warming tingle from your lips to your toes.  

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