PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- You don't need to spice up a beer or put Santa Claus and wreaths on the label to make a great winter beer. Sometimes you just need to darken it up and give it enough kick to warm you.Though it's a great time to sip the last of the fall's pumpkin ales and sample the first of the holiday season's winter warmers, this is also stout season. Though the folks at Diageo Guinness (DEO) seem more than happy to let mainstream American beer drinkers believe St. Patrick's Day ushers in stout season here in the U.S., American craft brewers use this time of year to introduce their malty holiday porters, creamy sweet stouts and high-octane limited release imperial stouts.
Alcohol by volume: 14%
Practically the entire beer-loving Chicagoland area lines up for the bourbon-barrel-aged Bourbon County Stout in September, but the original 15% ABV recipe may not be the best Goose Island has to offer. Bourbon County Coffee Stout was released in November, made with La Tortuga beans from Chicago's Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea. That roasted coffee flavor melds with hints of vanilla and chocolate to dampen the bourbon burn just a bit. The Cherry Rye Bourbon also hit the shelves in November, adding some seasonally appropriate dark cherry tartness to the equation. Goose Island fans keep waiting for Bourbon County Stout to water down or go year-round after Anheuser-Busch InBev's (BUD) purchase of Goose Island last year. While that day seems ever closer as Goose Island execs and brewers leave and barrel capacity grows, this year's batch indicates the good times won't end this winter.