January is a slower month for beer releases. The rush of the holidays (and winter beers) are behind us. It’s really not until March/spring that we get the next big rollout of craft brews just in time for Spring Break. That being said, there are still plenty of beers dropping this month (or that dropped late last month) to try this season.
Since we’re still in the middle of winter, many of the beers dropping are highly spiced winter warmers, dark ales, or big IPAs full of big hop flavors to cut through the grey days and shitty weather. In short, it’s a great time if you’re a lover of big and bold beer flavors across several styles.
Hopefully, the eight beers we’re giving love to this month will pique your interest and inspire you to explore exciting brews made near you or sold at your closest bottle shop or brewery. The picks below are regional craft beer releases from breweries that we vouch for along with seasonal bottles we’ve been looking forward to tasting again.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST DROP: Alaskan Brewing 35th Anniversary Ale
Average Price: $9, 22-oz. bottle
This might be our most overlooked brew of late 2021. This anniversary beer takes Alaskan’s famed and multi-award-winning smoked ale and amps it up with birch syrup. To make one gallon of that syrup, Alaskan simmers down 100 gallons of birch sap. That syrup is then cut with wildflower honey before being layered into the beer.
While this sounds like it’d be overly sweet, it’s not even close to that. The beer has more of a tart raspberry vibe with a honeyed smoked dark chocolate counterpoint. Those notes are accented by a slight woody nature that’s closer to wet bark than anything else while mild notes of smoked plums rest in light touches of burnt espresso beans with a hint more of that smoked dark chocolate.
This is a shockingly well-balanced and delicious imperial stout. What’s exciting about this is what’ll happen if you cellar it. Three, five, hell, ten years from now this might be a mind-blowing beer experience. So, grab some now and get ready for a great ride.
SOUTHWEST DROP: Stone Xocoveza Tres Leches
Average Price: $10, 22-oz. bottle
This beer is the colliding of tres leches cake, imperial stout, and spiced hot chocolate in a can. The beer is brewed with rice and oats in the mix alongside Centennial hops. Then chocolate, coffee, Pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg are added to really drive home the wintry vibes of this one.
This bursts forth with heavy notes of cinnamon-spiked lattes with a double shot of espresso, full-fat milk, a pump on vanilla syrup, and a swirl of caramel. The espresso smoothes considerably on the palate with this softness that’s like that little bit of “crema” that forms on the top of a well-pulled espresso made on a real machine. The chocolate softens as well and feels more like milk chocolate with a touch of caramel in the center. The spice stays on the sweeter side of things while still providing a touch of warmth on the backend.
If you like big, sweet, wintry coffees from Starbucks this time of year, then this is going to be your jam.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN DROP: Upslope Oatmeal Stout
Average Price: $12, six-pack
This limited release from Boulder’s Upslope feels like a late holiday gift when it drops every January. The base of deeply roasted malts and oats is bolstered by a small dose of East Kent Golding hops. That gives the taste a little bump of light hops to cut through the thicker aspects of the stout.
This really smells like a malting kiln full of chocolate roasted malts next to creamy coffee bricks. There’s a light touch of toffee sweetness that adds to the creamy vanilla and dark chocolate maltiness. The hops are there as a ghost, lurking beneath everything yet reminding you that they once existed. The overall experience is velvety and accented with a hint of earthiness on the very end.
This is a yearly favorite. Every January this drops and it’s hard not to buy it by the case. You get a real sense of the chocolate and vanilla without losing the fact that this is indeed beer.
SOUTHERN DROP: Jester King Eezy Peel
Average Price: $18, 750ml bottle
Stepping away from the dark ales, this beer is a farmhouse wheat ale that’s fermented with winter mangos. The base of the beer is made with TexMalt Llano Pilsner malt, Denton County Wheat malt, and raw wheat. That’s then slightly touched with Oregon-grown Golding hops. During the secondary fermentation, fresh and frozen mango is added to the mix at about two pounds per gallon of beer, which is quite a bit of fruit.
Tasting Notes (from the brewer):
“The result is a really dry, drinkable, quenching fruit beer, which again has been one of our go-to’s lately.”
With Jester King’s reliability, this feels like the perfect counterpoint to all the heavier/darker ales we’re seeing right now.
MIDWEST DROP: Bell’s Hopslam Ale
Average Price: $19, six-pack
Bell’s Hopslam just hit the shelves and we’re pretty excited. The beer is all about the hoping process. Six varietals are chosen from the Pacific Northwest to really highlight citrus and fruit in the beer. The real star of the show is Simcoe hops that are layered in during the dry-hopping process.
The beer invites you in with a mix of grapefruit oils, peach peels, and wildflowers that’s perfectly counterpointed by a sweet, almost honey, malty base. That honey drives the palate as the grapefruit bitters move slightly towards the pith and the florals matched by a slightly dank nature with a hint of apricot and peach lurking beneath it all. The beer stays fairly dry through the finish as the honeyed malts, bright grapefruit, and stone fruits really drive home a balance.
This is an all-around delicious beer. It’s also another great counterpoint to the dark brews on the shelf right now. This is the promise of spring in a can.
NORTHEAST DROP: Brooklyn Winter IPA
Average Price: $11, six-pack
This winter IPA is all about building balance between spicy malts and Simcoe and Trident hops. The brew is made with medium roasted malts, bringing in a touch of a red hue to the final product along with a little spice that feels almost like a rye whiskey. Those malts are counterpointed by dank hops that add to the wintry dimension of this beer.
You’re reminded of a stewed plum with plenty of meaty plum and dark spices next to pine resin, orange oils, and a touch of … juniper. Those spices kick up on the palate and touch on eggnog nutmeg, clove, and Red Hot cinnamon while the plum darkens towards dates and prunes. The resin stays almost fresh as the sweet and dark fruits meld with wintry spices on a lush finish.
This is winter in a bottle. It’s delicious while also holding onto a good balance between all the elements at play.
WILD CARD DROP: Modern Times Technomancer
Average Price: $4, 20-oz. can
This double IPA is all about amping up the super fruit hops. The primarily wheat brew is spiked with Bru-1, Strata, and Galaxy hops, giving the beer a classic hazy, fruit-bomb vibe.
Tasting Notes (from the brewery):
“This beer’s murky depths are replete with notes of pineapple, peach, and passion fruit that combine in an absurdly satisfying fashion. It’s a glorious, all-inclusive cruise through tropical waters, and your taste buds have VIP tickets.”
We trust Modern Times to make a great hazy IPA and there’s no reason to think this will be any different. Plus, a nice, fruity hop-bomb of a beer sounds great right now.
INT’L PICK OF THE MONTH: Fuller’s London Porter
Average Price: $8.50, four-pack
This is the porter that all others are measured by. The brew is a throwback to an early 1800s recipe that died out in the early 1900s. The beer is made at the Griffin Brewery in the Chiswick neighborhood of London, where they’ve been brewing beer since 1654. Needless to say, this beer has some serious history behind it.
You get a clear sense of well-roasted coffee beans on the nose that’s almost sour next to rich and brittle toffee candies, a rush of vanilla extract, and dark and bitter chocolate bespeckled with roasted almonds. That nutty chocolate drives the palate along with the coffee bitterness and sour that’s damn near burnt with that vanilla and toffee creating a nice counterbalance to the whole sip. The finish is soft but not creamy and really leans into the brightness of the coffee while letting the dulcet tones of the toffee, chocolate, nuts, and vanilla create a lovely end.
While this isn’t new by any stretch, it’s the perfect beer for now. It’s also what pretty much every other porter in the world (especially American craft) is chasing when it comes to flavor, texture, and vibe.