Hopped with love

What to get a beer-lover for the holidays

David Accomazzo | Boulder Weekly

What do you get for the beer lover in your life that has everything? Or more appropriately, has tried every Kolsch, Baltic porter and barleywine money can buy?

The winter months in Boulder bring about a flush of seasonal beers, each tailor-made to be enjoyed during the cold weather. The holidays also bring a glut of high-gravity seasonal beers, made in small batches and available only until they’re gone. These are expert-level only: These beers are complexly flavored heavy hitters, not for the inexperienced beer drinker, and should be approached with caution. But should one of your loved ones have a serious hop addiction, you can’t go wrong with one of the beers listed here. And if you have someone in mind who’s a little more adventurous yet still somewhat of a novice, a great entry point into the world of high-gravity beers is Boulder Beer’s Killer Penguin.

Weighing in at a hefty 10 percent alcohol (a regular beer is around 5 percent), Killer Penguin is a barleywine-style ale and is one of the best-known beers from Colorado’s oldest brewery. Yet despite the sophistication and complexity of the ale’s citrus-tinged, hearty, roasted flavor, Killer Penguin is actually pretty easy to drink for a high-gravity beer, making it great for an adventurous beginner. Available only in 22-ounce bombers and for a limited time, Boulder Beer kicks the class up a notch with this one. Each bomber is hand-dipped in wax and affixed with an emblem denoting the vintage (that’s wine-speak for “year made,” if you were wondering). The beer takes three months to make, as opposed to the standard two to three weeks, says brewmaster and part-owner David Zuckerman.

“The time to drink Killer Penguin is with your wife and friends. It’s a snowy night. No one’s going anywhere and you pour some Killer Penguin,” Zuckerman says. “[The flavor] is like peeling an onion. But there are no tears. It’s tears of joy.”

Want a great gift idea? Zuckerman suggests buying five bottles of KP each year and letting them sit in your fridge. Try one this year, buy five next year, try one from each year, and compare the beer’s flavor from one year to the next as it ages. If Killer Penguin doesn’t appeal, then try one of these other seasonal offerings from local breweries. (All info courtesy of the respective beer company.)

Twisted Pine Brewing Company

Name: Northstar Imperial Porter

Style: Double Baltic-style Porter

Color: Black

International bitterness units (IBU): 30-35

Alcohol by volume: 9.1 percent

Availability: Winter seasonal

Info: Northstar gives off an aroma of toffee and dark fruit laced with licorice. It has notes of chocolate-covered raisins, which harmonize well with subtle traces of roasted nuts and molasses.

Avery Brewing Company

Name: Maharaja

Style: Imperial IPA

Color: Deep Amber

IBU: 102

Alcohol by volume: 10.5 percent

Availability: December 2011 to March 2012

Info: A deranged amount of hops: tangy, vibrant and pungent, along with an insane quantity of malted barley, fashioning a royal scarlet hue and an exquisite malt essence.

Name: Mephistopheles

Style: Belgian Stout

Color: black

IBU: 107

Alcohol by volume: 16.4 percent

Availability: December 2011 release, until supply runs out

Info: Mephistopheles does not love light. With huge roasted notes, herein he patiently lies, waiting and willing to do your bidding, but for a price.

Left Hand Brewing Company

Name: Fade to Black Vol. 3

Style: Pepper Porter

Color: Dark, rich mahogany

IBU: 1,984 Skoville units

Alcohol by volume: 7.2 percent

Availability: Released in November, it will be available through February.

Redstone Meadery

Name: Winter Soltice Mead

Style: Mountain Honey Wine — Winter solstice vanilla bean mead

Color: Golden

Alcohol by volume: 12 percent

Availability: Oct. 1 until it runs out, which the meadery predicts will be earlier than ever. Available at the meadery and at select liquor stores.

Info: A non-carbonated honey wine with vanilla bean and cinnamon stick flavors. No sulfites added, only real ingredients, real fruits, real spices, whole vanilla beans, whole cinnamon sticks, and it’s gluten-free.

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