Grain to Glass: 6 Winter Beers Made with Local Ingredients

One of our favorite things about Pennsylvania craft beer is how broad it’s range of style is, and how each style is perfectly suited for a specific situation. For instance, grilling and chilling on a sunny summer day, only the lightest and crispest beer will do. However, when the winter settles in, with its cold days and long, dark nights, we reach for local beers with a little more heft (and, to be honest, a higher ABV). Beers that are darker and robust (think: stouts, porters, strong ales) get those qualities from more deeply roasted malted grains — for a refresher on what happens in a malthouse, head here — which lend cozy tasting notes, ranging from caramel to chocolate to coffee.

Because malted grains play such an important role in cold-weather beers, high-quality grains are even more important to a beer’s recipe than in more hop-forward brews. We’ve found six Pennsylvania winter beers from breweries that are committed to using locally sourced malted grains; each one is just perfect for snuggling up under a blanket and binge-watching, chatting with a friend next to a firepit, or enjoying with comforting meals.

Bonn Place Brewing Merci!: Tis the season for gratitude and Bonn Place is here with just the beer to celebrate all you’re thankful for. This dark strong ale starts with a number of dark specialty malts fermented with a preferred blend of English-Style Yeast strains, as well as sweet, earthy Pennsylvania pumpkins, local maple syrup and spices. Then, they push it further by conditioning on blackberries and oak for a complex, luxurious 9.5% ABV brew. Find it Bonn Place’s taproom or shop online.

Cartesian Brewing Gram’s Stout: This South Philly local origin brewery is known for its intentional, experimental, well-crafted beers, many of which have a story to tell. In this case of Gram’s Stout, the story is a good one! This extra stout is made by Cartesian’s head brewer, Alex Leh, for his grandmother who always says that dark beers aren’t dark enough! This one is dark indeed, with notes of dark chocolate, toffee and coffee and a bit more sessionable at 5.4% ABV. Find it on draft at Cartesian’s taproom throughout the winter months.

PA Winter Beers

The Furrow Blendery Hello Old Friend: This beer from The Furrow Blendery (a new-ish side project at Locust Lane Craft Brewery) is a strapping Imperial Stout that uses a well-kilned malted barley from Deer Creek Malthouse. A combination of freshly brewed beer was blended with Imperial Stout that had previously rested for between 8 and 12 months in spent whiskey barrels from Manatawny Still Works. Coming in at 9%, it drinks quite smooth and dry, with notes of baker’s chocolate and subtle whiskey undertones. It is, according to Locust Lane, “the most PA-centric stout that ever stouted.” It’s available on draft and to-go at Locust Lane’s taproom in Malvern, or order online for pick-up at the Downingtown or Malvern farmers markets or for shipping statewide.

SUCCESSION Fermentory Nekyia: This ChesCo farm brewery adds to its line-up of locally-driven beers with rotating seasonal and limited releases like Nekyia, a winter super saison brewed to commemorate the winter solstice. It’s brewed with floor malted pilsner, rye, Vienna and caramel malts from Deer Creek Malthouse. It offers a unique profile, conditioned on smoked chilies, turmeric and citrus leaves, and comes in at 9.8% ABV. SUCCESSION’s brewery is not open to the public, but you can order its beers online for pick-up at farmers markets where the brewery vends, or for direct shipping to Pennsylvania residents only.

PA winter beers

Tröegs Independent Brewing Mad Elf: One can’t really talk about Pennsylvania winter beers without mentioning Tröegs’ Mad Elf. This beer is an iconic part of many peoples’ holiday tables and festivities, and for good reason. Mad Elf’s celebratory profile is a delightful combination of sweet and tart cherries (five varieties, in fact), a spicy Belgian yeast with baking spice characteristics, Pennsylvania honey and chocolate malt, and pours an alluring ruby red in the glass. Buy it online or at Troegs taproom in Hershey, or use its Brew Finder tool to locate a retailer near you!

Urban Village Brewing The Wolf Schwarzbier: What is a Schwarzbier, you may ask? This is dark lager with origins in Germany that usually have a pronounced malt quality and a bittersweet flavor with notes of coffee and chocolate. The Wolf from Philly’s Urban Village is true to form, a beautifully roasty brew made with malts from Deer Creek Malthouse. For being so dark in color, it’s really easy drinking; pair it with the truffle fries or mac-and-cheese on Urban Village’s food menu for a combo to beat back the winter blues!

To discover more breweries that use Pennsylvania grains and malt in their beers, check out the PA Grain to Glass Brewery Trail!

This series is made possible by support from Deer Creek Malthouse through the Pennsylvania Malt and Brewed Beverage Industry Promotion Board and grant funding from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Deer Creek Malthouse

Deer Creek Malthouse (Glen Mills, PA) produces high-quality, flavorful malt ingredients made from local grain. Founded in 2012, Deer Creek is the first commercial malting operation in Pennsylvania since prohibition. The Company is dedicated to improving the regional grain supply chain for all stakeholders and leads many advocacy and value chain building initiatives, including the Philadelphia Grain & Malt Symposium. Deer Creek also produces a variety of consumer food and beverages using their grain and malt ingredients such as zero proof Barley Tea.

  • All other photos: Courtesy of their respective breweries