“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” we tell ourselves. The holidays are all about coming together and cherishing what is most valuable in our lives: each other. So why don’t we do that in the summer?
Quite simply, because we don’t have to. Winter has a way of forcing everyone inside. On a more primal level, we need to gather around other humans for warmth. ‘Tis the season!
To make matters worse, a lot of us suffer from winter depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (or just SAD for short, because doctors are hilarious). When I moved from Pennsylvania to Florida, I did so partially because I believed I suffered from this. After living in the Sunshine State for the better part of a decade, I realized, SURPRISE! I have winter depression AND the year-round kind.
I’m not going to advocate using alcohol as a way of coping with depression, but I’ll sure as hell advocate for drinking a lot around my relatives. And I know I’m not alone. Literally. The cold forces us into bars (FORCES us), restaurants, theaters, etc. Our economy absolutely demands we shop a lot this time of year even if we can’t necessarily afford it, and our jobs usually provide respite from the cold, grey monotony of our daily lives in the form of office holiday parties. On top of that, there’s the traveling. It’s stressful enough even when it doesn’t feel like your entire city is traveling along with you. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the holidays are boozy AF.
Beer drinkers tend to gravitate toward barrel-aged brews. We dig both the complexity and the typically high alcohol content. Barrel aging imparts the beer with a variety of flavors and aromas from the barrel itself, which has often already been used to age spirits or wine. At a minimum, it can take most of the year to fully barrel age a beer. As it gets warm, the barrel will expand, and as it gets cold, the barrel contracts. This process of expansion and contraction is crucial for imparting the beer with flavor and aroma. It just so happens that a lot of these beers are ready in time for winter. So, much like us during this time of year, the beer is cooped up inside for long stretches of time until it’s filled with even more alcohol and ready to cut loose.
This year, I’m a big fan of Hopworks’ Kentucky Christmas. They take their already festively stellar Abominable Winter Ale and age it in bourbon barrels. It’s rich and smooth without tasting or smelling too strongly of alcohol (but, boy, is there alcohol).
The holidays don’t have to be such a bummer. While drinking with friends and coworkers is commonplace at BREWVANA headquarters, perhaps you know some folks who could use a little loosening up this time of year. Check out BREWVANA’s private Holiday Dinner Tour for groups- the best way to celebrate during the holidays!