Food & Drink

Philly’s 9 Best Locally Brewed Winter Beers

We Philadelphians all have our holiday traditions -- be they eating a seven-course fish dinner, sledding down the art museum steps, losing any remaining faith in the Eagles, or hunkering down and drinking. With locally made festive brews, the fun moments are more fun and the bad moments less bad. Here’s a peek at our old standbys and bold newcomers that will help make your days (and nights) merry and bright.

Victory

Winter Cheers
German wheat ale, 6.7% ABV
Downingtown
Victory’s refreshing take on winter beer incorporates spice and fruity notes with more surprising flavors, trading in predictable flavors for banana, citrus, and flowery notes. The end result has a grainy oatmeal texture with tropical undertones and drinkable maltiness, almost enough to convince you that you’re somewhere warmer.

Dogfish Head

Pennsylvania Tuxedo
American pale ale, 8.5% ABV
Milton, DE
Canada might have double-denim tuxes, but in PA, we have red-and-black flannel, which comes in handy in the cold months when the Pennsylvania Tuxedo brew is out. Now in its second year, the brewery collaborates with Woolrich to make the label and merchandising design of the grassy, citrusy brew that much more authentic. Basically, one sip is enough to convince yourself you just chopped down a tree.

Saint Benjamin Brewing Company

Bonne Annee
Belgian pale ale, 8.8% ABV
Philadelphia
New Year’s Eve and Day mark a very special time in Philly, and it’s not just because you can score overpriced dance party tickets or greet your morning hangover with sounds of the Mummers parade. The turn of the year also marks St. Benji’s annual brew, available December 31st and January 1st for an extra-exclusive New Years. At midnight you can trade in last year’s for its new blend.

Yards

Chocolate Love stout
Stout, 6.9% ABV
Philadelphia
Sure, the holidays will inevitably pass, but there’s a whole winter ahead that calls for hearty, dark brews. Just in time to nurse you through Valentine’s Day and the dismal weather awaiting, Yards’ adds Belgian dark chocolate to its traditional stout, forming the Love Stout. The brew features a taste of toasty malt and touches of vanilla and caramel.

Pat Pie/Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co

Neshaminy Creek Brewing

Mudbank Milk stout
Sweet stout, 6.5% ABV
Croydon
Bucks County’s seasonal winter stout is heavy on the sweetness; the creamy milk base tastes of roasted malt and chocolate, rounded out with lactose sugar. Its thickness could easily fill you up, but it’s a stout designed to be savored -- drink too fast and you’re bound for an inevitable sugar crash. There’s a healthy helping of hops to even things out, but it’s still a whole lotta sweetness. Brace yourself.

Troegs

Mad Elf
Pilsner, 11% ABV
Hershey
Philly’s quintessential holiday beer. Its jolly red hue is enough to make you feel festive, but hints of cherry, honey, cocoa, and cinnamon (and an 11% ABV) make this the perfect warmer-upper beyond what any regular hot chocolate can accomplish.

Tired Hands Brewing Company

Season of Perception
Imperial Espresso Romano stout, 9.3% ABV
Ardmore
Tired Hands’ most wintery brew is also one of its most potent, and incorporates all you need to stay warm in winter: dark roasted coffee beans, overtones of chocolate, and caramel malts foregrounding a dark wheat. Not to remain only a standard stout, Season of Perception weaves in a lingering taste of lemon zest, a surprising and carefully attuned balance against notes of ruby port wine and cherry.

Manayunk Brewing Company

Manayunk Brewing Company

Festivus
Winter Warmer, 7.0% ABV
Philadelphia
This red beer (“for the rest of us”) has sweet plum and ginger tones, making this brew from the ‘yunk dangerously drinkable. The level of ginger in this seasonal brew is not for the weak of tongue, but dig in when you’re truly ready for Christmas in a glass. Minty aromas and hints of brown sugar make the hops harder to detect.

Sly Fox Beer

Christmas ale
Winter Warmer, 6.5% ABV
Pottstown
Sly Fox’s take on a holiday ale infuses ginger in its mash, balanced out by cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg spices, and if there’s anything you ever need to feel festive any time of year, it’s nutmeg. The vanilla aromas could be confused with a pumpkin-happy harvest brew, but its initial sweet taste fades to a darker, dryer, raisiny taste.

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Marielle Mondon is Philly-born freelance writer who has been waiting all year to bring Mad Elf to her book club. Check out her Internet life on Twitter and Instagram @MarielleMondon.