As East End breweries head into winter and the holidays, they are preparing beer in keeping with the season.
Unlike lighter summer beers, these seasonals are dark and warming. For taking to a party or enjoying a night at home sitting by the fireplace, local taprooms will fill up your growler or offer bottles of their craft microbrews.
“During the winter, we make a beer called Antifreeze English Old Ale,” Greenport Harbor Brewing Company co-founder John Liegey said. “It runs a little high in alcohol—it’s about 7 percent. It’s brewed to get you through those cold winter nights.”
It is a dark, malty beer with a hard candy flavor, he said. “Really delicious and almost deceivingly easy to drink, because with 7 percent you want to be careful.”
Greenport Harbor Brewing has a second winter brew for 2013-2014, Hammer & Sickle, a Russian imperial stout.
“Its one of our limited beers,” Liegey said. “We only do one batch of it. It’s 10 percent, so it’s a really strong alcohol beer.” Hammer & Sickle has a lot of body and depth, with a chocolate and coffee flavor to it, according to Liegey. He said it is a complex beer meant to be sipped, while Antifreeze is more of a pint beer.
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company does not currently sell bottles, but a growler or keg can be picked up from the tasting room at 234 Carpenter St, Greenport. Winter hours are Friday from 3 to 7 p.m., Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Kegs can also be ordered from most East End beer distributors.
“Every year for the holidays, we brew a French Country Christmas Ale,” Southampton Publick House brewmaster Evan Addario said. “This smooth but deceptively strong amber ale is one of our most popular seasonal brews.”
He said Christmas Ale is a take on the classic Biere de Garde style, with a complex spicy malt flavor accented by a mild herbal character of imported French Strisslespalt hops. The 7.2 percent alcohol content has a warming effect in the finish, he added.
Christmas Ale becomes available on tap at the Publick House starting at Thanksgiving. A limited run of 750 milliliter bottles go on sale in early December.
The Publick House’s staple winter seasonal is Southampton Imperial Porter. “This is our version of the strong, dark ales that were brewed in Britain and exported to the Baltic countries during the 18th and 19th centuries,” Addario said. He called it rich and flavorful with notes of chocolate, toffee and caramel and said it is an ideal beer for pairing with rich seasonal foods—or just a reprieve from a cold winter day. The alcohol content is 7.2 percent.
It goes on tap at the Publick House and up and down the East Coast in early December, and bottles will also be available. Visit the Publick House at 40 Bowden Square, Southampton, to pick up bottles or enjoy a draft.
Crooked Ladder Brewery, which opened in Riverhead in July, is also coming out with a Christmas Ale, as well as an experimental ale dubbed Santa Spice.
Duffy Griffiths, Crooked Ladder’s brewing partner, said that the Christmas Ale will be “a hoppy amber ale, along the lines of a double IPA.” The 6 percent alcohol content will also be noticeable in the flavor.
Santa Spice is a spiced ale, akin to a pumpkin beer. But instead of pumpkin, this beer will be spiced with peppermint, “which nobody has every done, so we’re going to do a small batch and see how it goes,” Griffiths said. He is only brewing three barrels—or 93 gallons—of Santa Spice.
Both Crooked Ladder Christmas Ale and Santa Spice will be available by the glass or growler at the tap room, 70 West Main Street, Riverhead, in the same facility where the beer is made. Crooked Ladder is not sold by the bottle, but kegs may be ordered from local beer distributors.
Montauk Brewing Company, which opened in June 2012, has its Eastbound Brown Ale on tap now and anticipates releasing as as-of-yet unnamed stout around Christmas. “Stout and brown ale just kind of feels right when the weather’s cold,” co-founder and partner Vaughan Cutillo said.
Eastbound Brown Ale has a chocolately flavor and a coffee finish, “which is a great choice for the holiday season,” he said.
The brewing company’s stout is in the testing stage now. Cutillo expects it will have an alcohol content closer to 5.0 percent.
Test batches, of one barrel at a time, are made in Montauk at the Montauk Brewing Company tasting room. Cutillo and partners Eric Moss and Joseph Sullivan brew their batches at Cooperstown Brewing Company, but hope to start construction soon at the backspace of their tasting room, turning the old woodworking shop into a brewery.
He said their year-round brew Driftwood Ale, at 6.0 percent alcohol, is also a great choice for this time of year. “It’s our flagship for a reason.” It is an extra special bitter, which is along the lines of a pale ale with a bit more balance between malt and hops, according to Cutillo. It is dark, but surprisingly smooth and creamy and pairs well with turkey, he said.
Eastbound Brown and the stout will be available at the tasting room only, 62 South Erie Avenue, Montauk. Driftwood Ale is available at the tasting room and available from local beer distributors. Montauk Brewing Company beer is not yet available by the bottle.
Long Ireland Beer Company has two brews for the winter season. Black Friday Imperial Stout is released the day after Thanksgiving. The doors of the Riverhead tasting room open at 9 a.m. and Long Ireland hands out waffles made with beer topped with vanilla ice cream and candied bacon, co-owner Greg Martin said. It has a considerable alcohol content of 8.5 percent.
The beer company’s Winter Ale, at 7.2 percent alcohol, is spiced with ginger, allspice and cinnamon. “This is a dark red beer with caramel and spice notes,” Martin said. “The higher alcohol also warms your insides.”
Long Ireland Beer Company is located at 817 Pulaski Street, Riverhead.