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Is There Still Room for Big Beers?

Low ABV might be making headlines, but higher alcohol beers still delight and impress.

For those of us who lived through the craft beer revolution, it may be odd to see today’s drinkers – especially the crafty ones – skewing more towards lower calorie, lower alcohol beers. Back in the day, the darlings of the American craft scene were brews like barleywines, tripels and quads, either imported from Europe or brewed right here in the U.S. with an American twist. These beers, boasting ABVs in the double-digits and complex flavor profiles to match, helped establish beer as a real contender in the realm of cuisine and food pairings.

But over the years, our tastes have changed a bit, with more emphasis placed on characteristics like lower calories and sessionability. Lower ABV beers fit into the wellness-centric lifestyle of many consumers, who want to enjoy a beer or two on a weeknight without worrying about how their heads – or waistlines – will be impacted in the morning.

That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for big beers in the modern consumer’s glass, though, especially when nights are long and snow is falling. While lower ABV beers hit the spot when the weather is warm, there’s nothing like savoring a malty beast of beer on a cold winter’s night, whether you’re cozied up on the couch or out on the town with friends.

Speaking of going out, don’t overlook the impact of presentation – nothing draws a customer’s eye like a beer bottled with cork and cage, an honor generally reserved for finely crafted big beers. The premium packaging perfectly communicates to your customers that this is a beverage to be sipped and appreciated. Whether on the shelf or opened tableside with panache, these beers are sure to impress.

So, is there still room for big beers? Of course! Though consumers are choosing lower ABV beers on more occasions these days, what they’re really looking for is moderation. It’s all about balance, and that means occasionally indulging their beer tooth with a finely crafted, big-bodied brew. We’ll raise a toast to that!

Brawny Brews Sure to Satisfy

No matter the occasion this winter, these are the best beers for…

Enjoying with a hearty beef stew: Kasteel Nitro Quad (11% ABV)

Imported from Belgium, this gastronomic beer has a complex character and subtle notes of port. Delicate hop bitters in the finish follow hints of roasted and caramelized malt, a perfect pairing with the rich, complex flavors of a classic beef stew.

Savoring with dessert: Allagash Curieux (11% ABV)

This intriguing beer is made by aging Allagash Tripel in bourbon barrels for seven weeks. The aged beer is then blended back with a portion of fresh Tripel. The resulting rich, golden ale features smooth notes of coconut, vanilla and a hint of bourbon, perfect for pairing with creamy, decadent desserts like crème brulée.

Warming up after shoveling: Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot (11% ABV)

A deep-copper ale with intense malty notes of date and fig, Blithering Idiot is Weyerbacher’s classic barleywine with a warm and fruity finish that begs for the next sip. Brewed in the British tradition of balanced, hearty ales, this beer can be dressed up or down, enjoyed from a snifter or drunk straight from the bottle. Either way, it will warm you from the inside out.

Going big for Valentine’s Day: Chimay Cent Cinquante (ABV 10%)

Originally brewed in 2012 in honor of the 150th anniversary of Chimay, Cent Cinquante (a.k.a. green bottle) offers a beautiful taste of Belgian tradition. This strong, sophisticated and refreshing blonde ale displays a balanced flavor and a floral fragrance, combined with hints of dried fruit and spices for the perfect date night brew.

The wine drinker: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (ABV 9.6%)

First introduced in the winter of 1982, Bigfoot is a cult classic brewed in a barleywine style. This strong, robust, bruiser of a beer has the refined intensity of a wine and is prized by beer collectors for its supreme cellarability. Under the proper conditions, it can age like a fine wine, developing new flavors and character as it matures in the bottle.

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