Happy — and maybe Hoppy — New Year

New Year’s Eve is just days away, which means the libations will be flowing freely at parties and special events everywhere. And while champagne traditionally helps to ring in the new year, craft beer lovers have plenty of alternatives to make their spirits bright.

Milkstout-DamianathegirlAs is the case when consuming any alcoholic beverage, it’s important to designate a driver and drink responsibly. Craft beers not only come in many styles, but also have typically much higher alcohol content than the mass-produced beers from the large national breweries.

Heavier beers like stouts and porters are especially popular during the colder winter months, and many also carry a higher percentage ABV (alcohol by volume). If you’d like to stay true to the darker beers but also drink something you can enjoy for the entire evening, try a nitro stout or porter.

More and more craft breweries are embracing the nitrogenated method as the gas used to carbonate select beers. The result is a creamier brew than the typical CO2-carbonated beverages.

“The nitro has a completely different mouth feel,” said Jacob Rivera, beer buyer at Liquorama in Upland. “It’s silkier on the palate and doesn’t have that beer heaviness.”

Claremont Craft Brewery features a nitro milk stout among its rotating taps, it is currently pouring two other stouts on nitro. Hamilton Family Brewery in Rancho Cucamonga also offers a nitro Irish style dry stout. If you’re looking for something to open at home, try the Milk Stout Nitro from Left Hand Brewing Co. in Colorado. It’s readily available at most local liquor stores.

Stone-Coffee-Milk-StoutMilk stouts in general offer a delicious, subtle sweetness that makes them easy to drink. Old Stump Brewery in Pomona has nice milk stout. I’m not as wild about the Eight Maids-A-Milking milk stout from the Bruery in Placentia, but there are plenty of others at local bottle shops, including Stone Brewing Co.’s nicely balanced Coffee Milk Stout and several from Belching Beaver in Vista, including its famed Peanut Butter Milk Stout.

Mark Heffernan at Rök House Brewery in Upland recommends yet another alternative to the big dark beers – his brewery’s “Legend of Old Baldy.” The beer is a spiced English pale ale made from the original recipe from Old Baldy Brewing Co. in Downtown Upland. Originally called “Old St. Nick’s” and then “Winter Spice” at the long-shuttered brewery, the beer is a tribute to the late Bill Romero, who ran Old Baldy Brewery.

Rivera says another popular option for this time of year is a seasonal mint porter. San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing Co. recently introduced its Peppermint Victory At Sea imperial porter and Bootlegger’s Brewery in Fullerton offers its winter seasonal Mint Chocolate Porter. However, the Bootlegger’s version tastes more like the mint you’ll find in toothpaste than the mint you taste in a peppermint patty.