Month: December 2017
Strictly speaking, “winter beer” or “winter ale” isn’t a specific category of beer like stout, amber or gose. It isn’t a style that reaches back decades or centuries to Europe, and it hasn’t really become an emerging craft trend in the US either, although it’s a common seasonal lineup for most craft breweries. As a bartender and bottle shopkeep I hear requests for winter ales this time of year. I always wonder what exactly the customer is wanting–because the genre of beer is so vague, I’ve always got to prompt the customer for more information. There are some major recurring characteristics of a “winter beer,” however, and you are probably already thinking of them. Here in the northern hemisphere around the winter holidays it’s cold, dark, and either snowy or rainy and damp. These environmental factors change the way we eat, interact, feel, and yes, drink.
It’s winter here in Seattle, which means it’s time to enjoy all the sauerkraut (and drink all the beers, but that’s not limited to one season)! I love a good fermented vegetable, and I have a particular affinity for well-made German-style beers, and it turns out the two go great together. Of course, you would not really eat sauerkraut alone–it is usually a side or garnish to sausage, roasted meats, or other hearty fare, although I also enjoy it with a variety of other foods. Because meat is typically easier to pair with beer than a funky sour veggie, we’ll start with sauerkraut and go from there. I chose a lovely kölsch from Zoiglhaus Brewing in Portland because I recently discovered them (their beer is fantastic!), but you’re welcome to pick your favorite kölsch from elsewhere. Keep in mind that the majority of American-made kölsches are a little softer and less crisp than a traditional German style. As for the sauerkraut, live (unpasteurized) is best for flavor complexity. If you need a little more background on kölsch as a style, check out my style spotlight article here!