Last call: From Revolution’s Straight Jacket barrel-aged barleywine to Odell’s Isolation Ale and Pig Minds’ Joe Daddy coffee stout, we asked for your favorite winter beer
Last Call from our winter 2024 issue: What is your favorite winter beer?
As someone who generally prefers double IPAs and barrel-aged stouts, I’ve got to say right now I’m really digging Flipped the Switch, our imperial dark Czech lager, which has some real depth with the maltiness and utilizes chocolate rye. It has some complexity without the heaviness, but it also gives you the warmth you want in the wintertime. We also have a bourbon barrel-aged version at Mikerphone if you’re looking for something a little boozier.
— Mike Pallen, owner and founder of Mikerphone Brewing
2XMAS double ale (brewed with figs, orange peels, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger root) from Southern Tier is a guilty pleasure. I have to get a six-pack every year. It brings me back to the early days of starting the brewery and Christmas celebrations with friends when we were first getting into craft beer.
— Scott Schahrer / Co-owner of White Oak Brewing in Normal, IL
For lighter-bodied winter beer, I like dark lagers. They’re still warming but refreshing as well. Some must haves are the Black Lager, Black Pils and Zoltonator from Goldfinger Brewing and the Czech dark lager and rauchbier from Dovetail Brewing. Double Clutch in Evanston highlights lagers and is a great venue too.
I’m also a big fan of barleywine and old ales, as they go great with heavier winter meals. Revolution Brewing has some great barleywines like Straight Jacket and Ryeway to Heaven. They are among the best around. Half Acre has a great old ale called Orin and a terrific barleywine called World of Bog.
Winter is stout season too, so I always pick up Revolution’s Deth’s Tar and Eugene Porter for a low ABV option. Half Acre’s Benthic is probably one of the best adjuncted stouts in the city. In the suburbs, Phase Three has Curvature and Eunoia for adjuncted stouts and Minutiae for a barrel-aged non-adjunct. You can usually find some on tap, and the new Elmhurst location has on-site cellar selections as well. An honorable mention goes to Mikerphone’s Pick of Destiny series of barrel-aged stouts that are picked by local bottle shops and, occasionally, customers.
— Michael James
I like Odell Brewing’s Isolation Ale out of Colorado for a winter option. It’s one of my favorite beers and a great winter warmer. It’s nice and malty.
I would actually say Spotted Cow from New Glarus. It’s a memory thing for me. I would always go pick up my grandma in Wisconsin for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I would bring her back to our house for the holidays. … And it was like a special bonus to go pick up Grandma because I could pick up a beer on the way home that was good and exclusive to Wisconsin. It was rare and fun to hit it up once or twice a year.
— Greg Hartman
I’m a big IPA fan, but I like Odell Brewing’s Isolation Ale out of Ft. Collins, Colorado for a winter option. It’s one of my favorite beers and a great winter warmer. It’s nice and malty, and I wouldn’t drink it any other time. It’s got to be cold enough.
— Aaron Burns
I think our bock (called Bockford) is everything you want in a winter beer. It reminds you what season it is. Deep flavors, and a perfect beer to have in your hand and look out at the snow falling. It’s a good contemplative beer.
— Reed Sjostrom, Prairie Street Brewing
The vanilla and caramel notes are great with the Straight Jacket barleywine. I love the consistency of Revolution. It’s so drinkable and it goes really well with the weather.
Run for the Roses, a mint julep-inspired ale at Short Fuse in Schiller Park. I found it really interesting, and it appealed to my senses a wine drinker. It opened my palette in a way that most beers don’t. I think it would be great with certain desserts.
— Greg Bublitz
I’m going for 10 percent or higher — to help deal with the weather — like one of the barrel-aged beers from Pig Minds Brewing in Machesney Park near Rockford. Conflux of Time especially. It’s like the peanut buster parfait from Dairy Queen. Always one of my favorites.
— Mike Belden
I have to go with Shiner’s dunkelweizen, Holiday Cheer. It’s the peach and pecan that I like. Just reminds of Christmas.
— Larry Schaller
For me, it’s all about Revolution’s Straight Jacket barrel-aged barleywine. The vanilla and caramel notes are great. I love the consistency of Revolution. It’s so drinkable and it goes really well with the weather. Sipping that on a winter night is just great.
— Patrick Mucha
I became a brewer because I love all styles indiscriminately, and I’m a gigantic fan of Is/Was Brewing’s Tree Tipper. It’s a saison made with with spruce tips and honey-cured mixed fermentation.
Is/Was is very experimental with their adjuncting, and I feel like sometimes the Chicagoland area is short on love for those mixed-class fermentation projects. People are really sleeping on this style, and yet Chicago produces some of the best around.
Aaron Sleger, the Cicerone from Artale & Co. wine and beer store here in Rockford, turned me on to Is/Was as well as their Tree Tipper. Artale is one of the best bottle shops I’ve ever been to if you happen to be out this way.
— Chris Langguth, Pig Minds head brewer
I’m an easy man. Give me something that’s made well, and that’s my favorite beer at that particular time. But there is a definite seasonal skew to my drinking habits in the winter, so I’d say a good barrel-aged imperial stout, barleywine or winter warmer. Some favorites from my Rockford brewery neighbors are the Joe Daddy coffee stout from Pig Minds, the black walnut stout at Carlyle Brewing and the 90-Pound Hammer barleywine from Prairie Street Brewing Company.
— Alex Cando, Urban Forest Craft Brewing