Searching for Western North Carolina craft brews to pair with all of your winter adventures? Look no further. Here are our expert pairings of local beers and seasonal fun, both for cozy indoor get-togethers and invigorating outdoor activities.
Bonfire or Fire Pit Party
When it’s cold and gets dark early, it’s natural to want to gather around a fire, whether outside or in. Dark, sweet beer and a crackling blaze go hand in hand. I recently needed to cut down a huge dying Catalpa tree on my property, so I threw a Solstice bonfire party. Among other brews, we sipped on Green Man Brewery’s The Dweller Imperial Stout. This complex stout tastes of roasted coffee and chocolate. At 10 percent ABV, it will warm your insides while the bonfire keeps your toes toasty.
Another lovely option for fireside sitting is Catawba Brewing’s seasonal King Coconut Porter (5.5 ABV). This tropical candy-bar-in-a-can will sweeten your tongue and warm your insides.
The Dweller is available in 750-milliliter bottles, and the King Coconut comes in canned sixers. Both brews pair well with fire-toasted marshmallows and mittens.
Supper Club or Book Club
When you want to impress, bring along Ginger’s Revenge Lime Agave Ginger Beer. Yes, ginger beer is beer, as cane sugar is a fermentable option. It’s also gluten-free, which is a win for many folks. This concoction is a beery take on a Moscow Mule for when you want the taste of a cocktail without the high alcohol content (it’s only 5 percent ABV). Lime Agave Ginger Beer also is a nice change for wine drinkers who want to try something different.
Another tasty, gluten-free option is Bold Rock’s Rosé Hard Cider. Offering the berry notes of a sparkling wine, this cider pairs well with long conversational dinners and historical novels. Both the ginger beer and the rosé cider are available in bottled six-packs.
Outdoor Winter Adventure
Whether you’re skiing, ice-skating, sledding, or mountain biking, you likely could use a beverage at the end of your adventure. If you’re lucky enough to have farm friends who offer hayrides (a treasured childhood memory for me), beers for the adults and non-alcoholic cider drinks for the kids are de rigueur. Try not to sneeze into your beer.
Highland Brewing’s Cold Mountain Legendary Spiced Ale (5.9 percent ABV) is an ideal companion to invigorating outdoor adventures. When Western North Carolinians need a spicy winter warmer of a beer, they turn to this iconic, beloved seasonal. This brew sometimes gets harder to find after the holidays, so if you haven’t hoarded some, look for Highland’s Black Mocha Stout. This rich beer’s pop of roasty chocolate might get you back out for more adventures (5 percent ABV). Cold Mountain is available in 22-ounce and one-liter bottles while the Mocha Stout comes in bottled six-packs
Super Bowl Party
Beer and football are natural partners, and brews and the biggest party game of the year are inseparable. For this year’s Super Bowl, enjoy a six-pack of Brevard Brewing’s dark lager, Munich Dunkel. This beer may be as dark as winter, but don’t let that fool you—it’s an easy-drinking German-style lager. The Dunkel’s ABV of 5 percent means most can quaff more than one dur- ing this long, intense ball game. Bring enough to share with friends.
Another great game-day option is Nantahala Brewing’s Bryson City Brown. It’s also a smooth, dark-colored beer that’s surprisingly light in terms of taste and ABV (3.8 percent).
The Dunkel is available in six-packs of cans, while the Brown sells in bottled six-packs. Just don’t forget to put your beer down before you do a touchdown dance celebration.
Romantic Valentine’s Dinner (For Two or One)
I’ve been single for numerous Valentine Days, and I proudly admit to treating myself with a fancy beer and some high-end dark chocolate when that’s the case. Self-care is important, y’all. Whether you’re single or part of a pair, Asheville Brewing’s Love Ninja Porter is an ideal choice for the holiday of love. This seasonal release offers a swoon-worthy combination of raspberries, vanilla, and French Broad Chocolates cacao nibs, all in a smoothly drinkable nectar (5.6 percent ABV).
Another Cupid-approved option is Hi-Wire Brewing’s German Chocolate Cupcake 10W-40 Stout (8 percent ABV). This new release combines all the delicious flavors, including sweet cherries, coconut, and chocolate. It’s Valentine’s Day, so of course you want chocolate in your beer. Both Love Ninja and German Chocolate Cupcake are certain to pair well with whatever you might have in mind. Love Ninja is available in 22-ounce bottles, and the German Chocolate Cupcake comes in a pint-sized can.
Spa Day or Hot Tub
Several local spas allow you to brown-bag your beers, including Shoji Spa & Lodge with its private outdoor hot tubs. If you can swing a spa day (always ask before bringing your own adult beverages) or if you have a friend with a hot tub or sauna, you deserve a Celebration. Sierra Nevada Brewing’s Celebration Fresh Hop IPA is brewed with fresh hops for a pine-forward, light citrusy aroma that pairs perfectly with a hot tub on a fir-covered mountainside (6.8 percent ABV). Another smooth but hop-forward brew for your steamy soak is French Broad River Brewery’s Frog Horn IPA. This 6.5 percent ABV beer is sold in both bottles and cans. The Celebration is bottled, so you should decant it into an unbreakable drinking container before you hit that hot tub.
These are just a few examples of the wide variety of specialty craft brews created by Western North Carolina breweries for your winter wonderland enjoyment. Of course, I believe the first rule of beer pairing is drink what you like, when you want it, even if it seems quirky.◊◊
Anne Fitten Glenn is the author of two beer history books: Western North Carolina Beer and Asheville Beer. She lives within walking distance of a dozen breweries and loves writing about and drinking local craft brews