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Beer for the winter

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Perrin IPA is poured at Hopcat in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on February 26, 2013. The city has a strong beer culture and many craft brewers. (Andre J. Jackson/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Many people reach for a cold bottle of their favorite brew in the summer months as a way to kick back, relax and enjoy their time outdoors.

With Old Man Winter ready to take hold of the region for the next couple of months, that begs the question: are there any beers people reach to during the winter and holiday seasons?

To find out, we reached out to Jim Goodburn, Grand Armory Brewing’s head brewer, to talk about beer during the holiday season and throughout the winter.

Here’s what he had to say:
What beers that are considered more as something you would drink during the winter months than during the summer?

The biggest difference in beers between summer and winter is the color and viscosity of the beers. In summer, people want a beer that is light, cold and refreshing. In winter, they prefer a beer that is dark, thick and perhaps served at a slightly higher (45 degree) temperature.

Summer beers include IPA’s, saisons, blondes and hefeweizens to name a few. Winter staples are the stout, porter and brown. Stouts are known for — but don’t have to have — higher alcohol content. The most famous example of this is the Russian Imperial Stout that clocks in over 10 percent.

Are there any special brews made for the holiday season?

Typically there are a couple of beers that come out around this time of year; the most prevalent being the Christmas ale. This beer is brewed with cinnamon, vanilla and sometimes vanilla or orange peel. The idea is to be reminiscent of the spices used in baking of Christmas foods. Grand Armory doesn’t do a Christmas ale.

How does the holiday season impact craft brewers?

We have noticed a major influx of our merchandise being sold in the last few weeks. We have also noticed our cans and gift boxes being sold at a higher volume than normal. My wife and I have definitely become prone to giving beer and beer related gifts, but that could be because of my job.

The variety of beers available make for a seemingly endless amount of gifts that can be given. Our taproom alone offers 20-plus types of beer that can be given in growlers as gifts; not to mention the various cans that we have started to offer.

There is a subculture within the beer world of collectors that seek out hard to find “whales” that are barrel aged or hard to find beers that are often traded that opens up a whole new option for gift givers. Then you have people like me that collect shirts and hats from the various breweries that I visit as a badge of honor that I’ve truly been to all the places I claim.

Sponsored by: Grand Armory Brewing