When the weather turns, beermakers reach for their stash of coffee beans, nutmeg, clove and other seasonal spices – even here in the mostly frost-free Valley of the Sun. Here are 13 Arizona craft beers to warm what little winter we've got.

Winter Seasonal Beer Guide

Written by Niki D'Andrea Category: Drink Issue: December 2016
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Sleepy Dog Brewing Max’s Holiday Spice
Thyme in a bottle? More like nutmeg, raisins and pumpkin in a stein. This amber-colored, Baltic-style porter spices things up with hints of ginger and clove, and makes a festive fireside sipper with a light and lingering earthy finish. 6% ABV. Available on draft and in bottles.
1920 E. University Dr., Tempe, 480-967-5476, sleepydogbrewing.com

Wren House Brewing Company Jomax
Made with Magnum and Willamette hops, and Ethiopian coffee beans roasted locally at Press Coffee Roasters, this oatmeal stout touts a surprisingly mild and smooth finish. “We add whole coffee beans in the boil,” brewer Preston Thoeny says, “and we add sugar and yeast to the tank, and bottle directly from the tank. Then we let it sit 4-6 weeks.” Perfection. 6.9% ABV. Available on draft only.
2125 N. 24th St., Phoenix, 602-244-9184, wrenhousebrewing.com

SunUp Brewing Co. White Russian Imperial Stout
Steeped for a week in the whole white Russian coffee beans that give it a fresh-roasted aroma, this imperial stout broods with rich chocolate flavor beneath a creamy head. Hints of mint and vanilla round out this perfect and potent stout. 9.2% ABV. Available on draft and in cans.
322 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-279-8909, sunup.beer

Pumpkin Trio

Maligned by some, gulped in volume by others, pumpkin beers are typically branded as autumn products but are sure to linger in taprooms and bottle stores until spring.

Four Peaks Brewing company Pumpkin Porter
“A classic,” says Arizona Craft Brewers Guild executive director Rob Fullmer, lauding its balanced sweetness. Brewed with pumpin purée. Grand Canyon brewing company Pumpkin Springs porter “It's got a little extra chocolate malt dimension,” Fullmer says of this 5.8% ABV release.Includes ginger and sweet potato malts.

Pedal Haus Brewery Pumpkin Lager
The reopened Tempe brewery shot out of the gate with this rare pumpkin style, ideal for pairing with turkey, cranberries, et al.

 

Historic Brewing Company Piehole Porter
Though available year-round, HBC’s Piehole Porter captures the flavor of Christmas like few other craft beers. Brewed with fresh cherries and Ugandan vanilla beans, it’s lip-smacking-good. 6% ABV. Available on draft only. Craft 64 in Scottsdale is known to keep it on tap.
historicbarrelandbottle.com

Freak’N Brewing Company Pinon Hazelnut Coffee Brown Ale
Despite deriving some of its ingredients from piñon trees and pine nuts, there’s nothing earthy or piney about the flavor of this malty beer from Peoria-based Freak’N Brewing, which opened in June 2014. It has a very nutty nose and tastes like a coffee stout. 5.3% ABV. Available on draft only.
9299 W. Olive Ave., Peoria,
623-738-5804, freaknbrew.com

SanTan Brewing Company Winter Warmer
“Winter Warmer was the very first seasonal beer we created at SanTan,” founder and brewmaster Anthony Canecchia says. “This brew starts with an English ale base, then we add fresh spices, ginger and honey. It tastes like you’re drinking a glass full of Christmas.” 9.5% ABV. Available on draft only.
8 S. San Marcos Pl., Chandler,
480-917-8700, santanbrewing.com

Mudshark Brewery Ancho Chile Chocolate Imperial Stout
Craft 64 co-owner James Swann calls this very limited-edition offering from the Lake Havasu-based brewery “high-gravity, high-alcohol,” and let the 2015 batch age in his cooler for a year before tapping the keg. Full-bodied, with a smooth and smoky palate and a burnt dark chocolate finish. 8% ABV. Available on draft only.
mudsharkbeer.com

McFate Brewing Company Rum Barrel-Aged Imperial Milk Porter
Aged in rum barrels for more than six months, this porter packs huge rum notes on the nose and leaves a slightly boozy burn on the finish. If McFate – which now runs taprooms in both North and South Scottsdale – runs out of this limited-edition seasonal (and they usually do), the McFate Gingerbread Stout, made with house-made gingerbread, makes a stellar substitute. 9% ABV. Available on draft only.
Two Valley locations. mcfatebrewing.com

Goldwater Brewing Co. Machine Gun Teddy’s
Named after the iconic Mandall’s Shooting Supplies sign of a machine gun-toting Teddy bear that used to hang on the brewery building, this lightly hopped brown ale made with caramel, chocolate and Victory malts boasts a big nutty flavor. It’s one of 16 house beers featured in the ambitious tap program at Goldwater, which opened a little over a year ago in Old Town Scottsdale. 7% ABV. Available on draft only.
3608 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale,
480-350-7305, goldwaterbrewing.com

Craft 64’s A Winter’s Tale
“It’s gonna be a nice, rich brown ale, with a little bit of hop character, fresh raspberry purée and, of course, nutmeg,” Craft 64 owner James Swann says of his winter/fall seasonal, made in collaboration with brewer Uwe Boer at SunUp Brewing. Now in its second year, the Old Town  brewpub boasts four house brews to complement its legendarily locavorian tap program: 36 handles, all Arizona beers. 6.5% ABV. Available on draft only.
6922 E. Main St., Scottsdale,
480-485-6353, craft64.com

Interview with a Brew Lover
Nobody loves Arizona beer more than Craft 64 owner James Swann – and he’s got the 36 in-state-only taps to prove it. We asked him to ruminate on winter seasonal beers.

What are some of the general characteristics and attributes of winter seasonal beers?
“Generally, they’re bigger, bolder, full-bodied beers, more barrel-aged. Winter seasonal beers tend to be a little higher in alcohol, a little higher gravity, because that extra alcohol gives them a warming effect, if you will. They all tend to have a darker malt profile for the most part, and tend to have some sort of spice characteristics which set them apart from your everyday beer. You’ll find beers out there made with nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, things of that nature.”

Tell us about a couple of the Arizona craft seasonals you’ll have on tap.
“We’ll have the Dragoon [Brewing Co. Half Moon] Dunkel Weisse, which is an Old German-style lager, a dark wheat ale. Whether or not they’re going to add any particular spices to the beer, I don’t know, but the German hefeweizen yeast they’re using will impart those characteristics of clove, banana, things of that nature, to give the beer a spicy characteristic. Sleepy Dog Brewing Max’s Holiday Spice is a wonderful little holiday beer. If I’m not mistaken, they’re using allspice and a few other fun and nifty things in that beer, which make it interesting.”

Are you seeing any emerging beer trends this winter?
“As everybody begins to use more and more hops in just about everything, the winter seasonals are becoming a little more hoppy, as well. I think you’re going to notice more hop character, especially in the local breweries. Everyone here loves their hops… so if I had to predict what winter beers are going to look like this year, coming locally from our breweries, I’d say they’re all going to have a little more hop character than A) you remember, and B) you might expect. Hoppy holidays.”

– Niki D’Andrea

Young Beer

Three new Valley breweries to check out this winter.

Goldwater Brewing Co.
The most recent in a wave of craft breweries that crested over Scottsdale, this family-owned operation has won converts with its diverse selection and comfortable, restaurant-style digs in Old Town. Plus, you gotta love the name. Doesn't get more Arizona-y than that. 3608 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottdale, 480-350-7305, goldwaterbrewing.com
 
Oro Brewing Company
Located a few doors down from Worth Takeaway sandwich shop on Mesa’s resurgent Main Street, this spanking-new nano-brewery boasts a strong AZ-centric tap program (Huss, Historic, Goldwater, et al) on 10 handles – and plans to feature its own beers this winter. 210 W. Main St., Mesa, 480-398-8247, orobrewing.com

Veritas Brew Lounge
For a deep, deep excursion into the heart of West Valley craft-beer darkness, soldier into Buckeye for this brew lounge and cigar patio in the Verrado community – or, at least, visit when the place opens later this season. It will be the Valley's westernmost brewpub upon arrival. ETA: January 2017.
veritasbrewing.co

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