February sucks! I’m not going to sit around and pretend it doesn’t. Not only do you get the worst weather of the year but, after months of icy misery, the thawing, lamb-like appeal of late March still feels eons away.
Welcome to the survival mode portion of the calendar. You will have plenty of occasions to drink. Whether you’re celebrating the end of a Dry January, tippin’ some back on Super Bowl Sunday, or drowning your sorrows on Valentine’s Day, you’ll need some beer to get you through the bottom 28 days of 2023. Here are five that will help.
Broken Clock Pils, Love & Happiness Pilsner, 5.3% ABV, 30 IBU
Untappd claims that northeast Minneapolis co-op brewery Broken Clock doesn’t make Pils, Love & Happiness, but those fuckers are lying, because I scored a crowler of it at Ombibulous. Canned on January 11. And it was glorious. A year after they first announced the move, Broken Clock is now up and operating in their new spot at 1712 Marshall St. NE, and there’s no reason this bitingly clear German-style Pilsner can’t be a new flagship for them. It’s a beautifully crisp beer, easy to drink as a Hamm’s or Grain Belt Premium. But there’s so much bready, beautiful pilsner malt in this one, it really rises above the average sipper of its stature.
Talking Waters Zoomer Red IPA, 7% ABV, n/a IBU
We live in an era where flagships are under fire, and the word "amber" is stigma (looking at you, New Belgium and Sam Adams). Meanwhile, Montevideo brewery Talking Waters proves that sometimes, all you need is a fresh label to make a beer feel totally new. First released in 2016, Zoomer is a toasty red IPA hopped with Citra and Simcoe. Named for TW's affable brewery dog, this pub-style IPA pours the color of a redtick coonhound's coat. It's sweeter than a West Coast, with plenty of figgy dark fruit flavors from the Red X Malt. Prefer a younger pup? TW released a pitbull-branded double IPA called Sup Dog back in September.
Wild Mind I Dunked Once West Coast IPA, 6.8% ABV, n/a IBU
A waft of I Dunked Once will take you back in time, all the way to 2009. Wild Mind’s bitter, resinous West Coast-style IPA is everything that made the IBU race of the mid-aughts enjoyable: deep caramel flavors, bright pine aromas, and oodles of Chinook hops. I Dunked Once is brought forward in time with Centennial and CTZ hops, forsaking the once-standard Columbus and Mosaic in the recipe. You’d be forgiven for not knowing the difference, as despite the updates, this idealized West Coaster scratches a deep, primal craving for craft beer’s halcyon days.
Big Axe Salivator Doppelbock, 7.9% ABV, 24 IBU
Who likes bread? You? Germans? Most people? The answer is: all of the above. That’s what makes Big Axe’s re-emergent winter seasonal Salivator so, well, salivating. This 7.9% Doppelbock is a full meal, a fantastic apres snowblow spirit-restorer, chock full of biscuit and chocolate malt flavors, all sitting beneath a creamy head of foam. Serve it up when you’re feeling bleak about the winter up in Nisswa. Nothing makes February more livable than a beer like this.
Fair State Work Life Balance Barleywine, 13% ABV, n/a IBU
I recently dove into the world of Barleywine for a piece in Craft Beer & Brewing, and since then, I’ve felt a renewed kinship with the big-ABV ales—the viscous toffee currents, the intoxicating aroma of brown sugar. It’s all so decadent, and Fair State’s new Work Life Balance really had me feeling the #BarleywineIsLife vibes. This English-style Barleywine (Fair State calls it a “Barleywine Ale'' for marketing reasons, I guess) abounds with fig and raisin flavors, met with a hot, rum-like booze burn. I drank my first can after losing a broomball game in -15 degree windchill, and it set me back right.