By Julie Johnson
Seasonal beers have been a powerful driver in the growth of the specialty beer sector, and winter and holiday seasonals arguably present the best examples of their appeal.

With their generally more robust character, higher alcohol levels and additions of spice or citrus, the winter seasonals offer the greatest contrast to “beer as usual.” A bock beer in spring or a fest beer in autumn may offer some variety to beer enthusiasts, but the arrival on the shelves of a limited-release imperial stout in December will have those enthusiasts lining up at the retailer’s door.

Revolving Seasonals

Virginia-based Devils Backbone Brewing Company has a comprehensive seasonal program, with a new beer rolling out monthly. Each brand is available for two to three months, meaning that three seasonals are generally available at all times, with the mix constantly shifting. The program capitalizes on the enthusiasm for novelty among many beer consumers.

The brewery also organizes its portfolio into brand families, with each family of beers appealing to a slightly different type of beer drinker or beer-drinking occasion. The company’s seasonal selections draw from those different brand families.

Three Devils Backbone beers will come to the market over the winter months. As brand manager Elizabeth Lipscomb explains, the first in the sequence is Kilt Flasher, a Scotch ale. “This is from our Trailblazer brand family; we like to say that those styles are ‘off the beaten path’,” she says. “They’re a little more elevated than you might see in our other brand families: higher alcohol, a little bit more complex flavors. They’re expanding that tasting adventure for the craft beer consumer. As they’re growing and looking for something different to try, we like to suggest they try our Trailblazer series.”

She describes Kilt Flasher as “a hearty Scottish ale with nice, rich, warming complexity, perfect for the onset of winter with these cooling months. It’s going to be rich brown in color with ruby highlights. The flavor profile is packed with toffee and toasted malt.”

The next beer in the seasonal line up is Ginger Brau, a ginger-flavored lager from the Daypack series brand family, all of which are canned, lower in alcohol, sessionable beers that “you can throw in your pack and head off to craft your adventures,” Lipscomb says. The lager is infused with three different types of ginger during the brewing process, which accentuates the traditional holiday spice and makes food-beer pairings easy.

The third beer, Dead Bear, is a member of the Peak series brand family. “They combine intensity, adventurous flavors, and usually special brewing techniques. We say that they are the pinnacle of our brewer’s art,” she adds. The imperial stout is draft only and available exclusively at on-premise accounts. However, Lipscombe hints that “consumers will be seeing a lot more of Dead Bear in 2017. We’re looking forward to bringing it out in 2017 and even having some interesting twists on the beer.”