Austin has already had one snow day this month. With any luck, we’ll also get a winter that gives us lots of chances to enjoy porters and stouts — all the dark and roasted beers extra suited for this time of year. And with Christmas around the corner, we’re getting spiced holiday ales, too.
Regardless of the weather outside, local breweries are producing plenty of these seasonal suds for us now and over the next few months. Here’s what to seek out on draft walls and on shelves around Austin.
Austin Beerworks Sputnik
It’s the second year running for Sputnik, a Russian imperial coffee and oatmeal stout, to be in cans. And according to the brewery, the cans are more widely available this year than last, giving more of us an opportunity to hoard them for cozy nights on our couch. (Once the cans are gone, at least it’ll still be on draft in local bars.)
Sputnik is “a crazy and complex kitchen-sink-style oatmeal stout with a coffee twist,” featuring the roasted goodness of Cuvée Coffee, according to the brewers. Which is all to say that it’s pretty much one of the best wintertime brews Austin has to offer.
St. Elmo Mary Christmas Ale
South Austin’s St. Elmo Brewing christens all of its beers with people names, often from real people, and the holiday beer that released yesterday is no exception. Employee Mary Agnew pitched in to help brew the sweet, balanced beer, a small batch made with orange peel, cinnamon and Amarillo hops. Just this week, the brewery also introduced crowlers, so can some up to enjoy by your Christmas tree.
Black Star Co-op Recalcitrant Dockhand
Two years after earning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Fest, the robust porter — bursting with notes of coffee, molasses and chocolate — is back on the menu at the North Austin brewpub. ‘Recalcitrant’ means uncooperative, but you’ll find this beer falls right in line with the sort of dark and roasted drink you want this time of year.
Uncle Billy’s Belsnickel Holiday Ale
The Barton Springs brewpub has actually produced two seasonally appropriate beers, including this new spiced Belgian amber. It’s one of the first beers that new head brewer Stephen Wagner has taken on, and he has added a nicely balanced “winter flurry of spices,” as the brewery notes, for flavors of cinnamon, clove, vanilla and nutmeg coalescing in the festive beer.
The second wintry brew on the menu is the returning Shokolad Chocolate Russian Imperial Stout. It’s made with heaping amounts of cocoa nibs from local purveyor SRSLY Chocolate, so basically you could consider it a perfect liquid dessert.
Idle Vine Santa’s Secret Stash
Surely Santa doesn’t only drink milk. Regardless, we’ll want to enjoy this beer during the holidays, as it’s an imperial oatmeal stout with cocoa nibs also sourced from SRSLY Chocolate. It’s on tap at the welcoming Pflugerville brewery, but as of last week, there are also six-packs of the dark and roasted beer that you can take to go from the taproom.
Zilker Elfie Sunshine Imperial Coffee Milk Stout
What happens when the East Austin brewery takes its already delicious year-round Coffee Milk Stout, turns up the booze and adds nearly 20 pounds of cocoa nibs? The delectable Elfie Sunshine, which releases on Dec. 28, is the result. This year’s batch features coffee from Spokesman, a South Austin coffee shop that has been collaborating with Zilker on the milk stout.
At the Dec. 28 release, you can order a five-beer flight and can get much more than plain ole Elfie. Taste the 2016 Whiskey Barrel Elfie Sunshine, 2016 Nitro Whiskey Barrel Elfie Sunshine, the Coffee Milk Stout and the Coffee Milk Stout on nitro. The first two are very limited, at one keg each.
Lazarus Darkhaven English Dark Mild with Earl Grey Tea
Looks can be deceiving. This pitch-black nitro beer appears to be something you’d have to nurse slowly — but that’s not the case. Though it tastes similar to a porter, with light herbal notes from the addition of the tea, it’s actually very low ABV. The newly released Darkhaven is part of Lazarus’ 12 Days of Christmas celebration leading up to the East Austin brewery’s one-year anniversary on Christmas Eve.
Celis Dubbel Coffee Porter
Remember the Gypsy Coffee Porter that Christine Celis made at Uncle Billy’s before she resurrected her father’s brewery this year? The new seasonal is a similar recipe, but it’s less sweet and features — in keeping with Celis’ Belgian origins — a Belgian dubbel yeast. An infusion of organic, cold-pressed Guatemalan and Mexican coffees from the local Summermoon Coffee Bar gives the porter subtle chocolate notes.
Pinthouse Pizza Big Lebarrelski
The Burnet location of the brewpub is hosting a winter beer bonanza just before Christmas. On Dec. 22, stop in for brews like the showstopping Big Lebarrelski, which is the Woodford Reserve Bourbon barrel-aged version of the Dude, a White Russian Imperial Milk Stout with lactose and Tweed coffee. As if that wasn’t good enough, there will be other new releases tapping, like the Rye’d the Lightning Imperial Dry Irish Stout.
Independence End Credits Walnut Brown Ale
Once again, Independence Brewing has teamed up with the Alamo Drafthouse to produce a cozy sipper that pairs with just about any of the current movie releases (including that one about a galaxy far, far away). It’s the second year for End Credits, which was created last year as a way to bid adieu to 2016.
2017 has similarly been memorable, so Alamo and Independence (whose Austin Amber label design pays homage to the local theater chain’s iconic sign) brought the beer back, albeit in a different style, to help us once again toast to a long year’s close. The beer is in all Alamo Drafthouse locations in Texas.