With the exception of the few rainstorms a few months ago, Southern California's winter this year has been very… warm. It's doesn't even qualify with sweater weather, what with the temperature hitting the 80s this weekend. That doesn't mean there's no reason to change up your drinking habits though. OC's breweries have the perfect beers for our not-so-frightful winter nights.
5. I Love It! – Noble Ale Works (Anaheim)
As much as we hoped for a taste of winter this year, we can't deny that we live in a little sunny paradise. What that does mean, however, is that we'll always have the perfect IPA weather. And what better IPA for an 80-degree Saturday evening than the award-winning I Love It! from Noble Ale Works in Anaheim. The beer took home the first place prize at the 2014 LA IPA Fest, beating out over 60 other beers from the greater LA area.
The victory is the second consecutive win for Noble brewmaster Evan Price. The beer, a delicious blend of all the hops used for Noble's single-hopped Showers Series, resulted in a zesty hop explosion. And with the beer's undetectable 7.5 percent ABV, almost anyone can love it.
4. The Patsy – Barley Forge Brewing Company (Costa Mesa)
Barley Forge quickly impressed the Orange County beer scene after opening late last year, and it's because of beers like The Patsy. Coconut and rye smooth out this pleasant stout with hints of dark chocolate and coffee — perfect for the inevitable cold snap. And at a welcoming 6.6 percent ABV, This beer will keep you at the brewpub for hours. Keep on the lookout for bottles in the months to come.
3. Rocco Red — Bootlegger's Brewery (Fullerton)
Red ales are getting brewed less and less as craft beer continues to grow throughout the country. But despite the West Coast's yearning for palate-wrecking IPAs and sunshine friendly pale ales, Bootlegger's Rocco Red is here and it's awesome.
This American Red Ale pairs well with any season but is best with a SoCal winter. Hints of smooth caramel and dry pine make for a simulated walk through the woods with each sip. So now not only do you get to brag to your friends on the East Coast about the weather, but you also get to brag about drinking this 2014 GABF bronze medal winner.
2. Darkstar November — Bottle Logic Brewing (Anaheim)
Some of the best beers take a bunch of time to age, so when Bottle Logic opened last year, we knew it'd take awhile for some of their best to be ready. Now, their first barrel-aged beer stout, Darkstar November, is ready.
This Russian Imperial Stout was brewed with molasses and rye before it went into bourbon barrels for eight months, and the end results are rich notes of caramel, vanilla and dark chocolate and a heavy 13.7 percent ABV. But despite the alcohol, Darkstar drinks smoother than most barrel aged stouts, and won't burn your throat with that boozy bourbon heat.
1. Mash & Grind – The Bruery (Placentia)
This list of winter beers would be incomplete without a bomber from The Bruery, and this years is Mash & Grind, a bourbon barrel-aged barleywine breed with coffee from Portola Coffee Lab. Tasting like a spiked cup of Joe, Mash & Grind may be best reserved for the advanced coffee and beer drinker, but if you've got a palate, you'll fall in love. Coming in at 12.5 percent ABV, Mash & Grind's not the booziest on the Bruery's tap list. Find it on draft in the taproom.