The man had trudged through the blizzard for days. The freezing wind blew relentlessly, and the snow fell so thick he couldn’t see three feet in front of his face. His stomach roared with hunger and his tired muscles screamed as loudly as the wind. He had lost one fingertip to frostbite.
At last, he saw it. The red cabin.
He stumbled to the door, and pushed it open, gasping for breath and warmth.
There, on the bare floor, backlit by the light of a small fire behind them, stood five bottles.
“Winter warmers.” The man mumbled.
Yes. Winter Warmers. This variety is a robust beer with a big, malty presence. The base flavor is a rich, nutty malt, and it will be thick with that starchy sweetness that malt brings to beer. Winter Warmers range from ruddy red to black like a night after a snowstorm. Brightness from hops is minimal. This beer is not so much meant to challenge your palate, as to comfort it. Think of the Winter Warmers like a good looking man or woman who just lit a fire and is wrapping an elk pelt around your shoulders.
The man, exhausted and grateful for the cabin’s warmth, was unbearably thirsty. Though he’d spent countless hours trudging through sharp crystals of frozen water, his throat felt sandy. And worse, his heart was empty. All he cared about had abandoned him, the wind’s cold moan through the trees echoed the sound of his own heart.
“Drink me first!” The first Winter Warmer said. It spoke in an accent that the man could not place. “I am Affligem Noël 2008, brewed by Affligem Brewery in Belgium. My taste is as thick as my accent…if you try me, you’ll be filled with warm flavors of fruit, slathered with notes of carmel. And if you’re still cold, wait for the kick of pepper at the back of your throat.” The Affligem bowed deeply, illuminated by the firelight. “And your thirst will be entirely quenched. I am brightly effervescent with carbonation.”
“Be quiet, you pretentious Belgian.” The second bottle tried to butt the Affligem out of the way with a jab of it’s hips. It turned to the man. “You’re all alone, and your heart must ache because of it.” It smiled fully at the man. “I am Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale. Doesn’t your heart feel warmer just talking to me?”
The man blushed, because the beer was very welcoming indeed.
“The joy need not end with our introduction.” the Welcome Ale cooed. “Your heart will grow all the warmer with my scent of boozy pear and toasty toast. And when you take a sip, flavors of toffee and nuts will tumble through you, warming you from within.” The Welcome Ale winked at the man, who had now regained feeling in his face. “And with 6.00% alcohol by volume, you’ll soon forget all your lonliness.”
“Y-you sound very tempting.” The man stammered. “I would love to have a little comfort-”
“You don’t want comfort! You want astonishment!” The third bottle, with another accent that the man figured was from the Far East. “Yessir, I am Japanese. My name is Hitachino Nest Celebration Ale from Kiuchi Brewery. Others can claim to take your problems away, but they’re lying! With my 9.00% alcohol by volume, a few sips and you’ll be in a new place!”
“I would love that!” The man exclaimed, reaching for the Hitachino.
“Aaaand!” The Hitachino backed up closer to the fire, to make the man chase it. “I smell heavenly…vanilla, and orange, and spices!”
The fourth bottle spit at the Hitachino. “People who have tried you say that you’re muddled, have indistinct flavor, and they just call you “nice”.” The Fourth Bottle swiveled around to look the man, who’s hand was still outstretched stupidly. “Wouldn’t you rather try something ‘outstanding’?”
The man was growing a bit impatient. “I’ll take anything at this point!”
The wind outside roared angrily and blew the door of the cabin open. The fourth bottle closed it with a heavy thud.
“I am ‘outstanding’. I just closed a heavy door and I don’t even have arms.” The bottle walked directly in front of the man. “Look at my label! I am quite literally holy. I am St. Benedict’s Winter Ale, from Stevens Point Brewery. My heavenly flavors of sweet fruits, my silky, thick mouthfeel, and above all, my spicy scent and taste of hops will make you always remember me. And you’ll go straight to heaven if you die.”
The man slowly turned to look at the fifth bottle, who had been still and silent through the entire ordeal.
“What do you have to say?”
The fifth bottle shrugged. “See for yourself.”
And so the man, intruigued by the fifth bottle’s quiet confidence, reached for it, opened it, and took the first sip with reserved relish.
“Aaaah!” The man exhaled, feeling warmer, refreshed, and more human instantly. “The slight tang of cherry with sharp notes of pine! The warm, creamy, roasty barley malt! This Deschutes Brewery Jubelale truly speaks for itself.”
The man looked down at the four other bottles of beer, glowing amber and gold in the warm firelight.
He drank them all that night. Though he was still alone, still a solitary figure in a frozen field of white, his insides were warm, and his heart was glowing.