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Chocolate, coffee, cinnamon and ginger warm Midlands-brewed beers for winter

River Rat Brewery’s My Morning Stout is an ale made with with coffee, vanilla and cocoa.
River Rat Brewery’s My Morning Stout is an ale made with with coffee, vanilla and cocoa. file photo

Move over, pumpkin spice. Outta the way, mulled wine. Thanks to the Columbia area’s team of dedicated – and mightily creative – craft brewers, ’tis the season for artisan-produced beers, sours, ales and stouts.

At Twisted Spur in the Vista, manager Rebecca Baldwin reports that owner and head brewer Chris Baldwin got the season started with American Porter, a deep brown, dry, heavily malted brew that goes well with barbecue and, surprisingly, chocolate.

If you’d rather drink your dessert, try one of Baldwin’s infused Porters, which come in flavors like Irish cream, caramel, tirimisu and cappuccino.

“They’re carbonated with nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide, which makes them super creamy,” she explains. “We’ve also got a nitro Porter that’s delicious.”

Prefer a lighter brew? Twisted Spur will also be serving up zesty sours in apple caramel and other cool combinations as well as Sexy Mexi, the team’s most easy-drinking creation.

Warm with cinnamon but bright with a tang that comes courtesy of a bit of extra fermentation, Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company’s Merry Cinnamas is like Christmas in a glass.

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You’ll have to wait a few weeks to see what sweet treats brewmaster Drew Walker will throw into the vat for River Rat Brewing Company’s annual Christmas brew – past additions have included candy canes and cookies – but the taps are already flowing with two other holiday favorites, My Morning Stout and Winter Warmer.

“It’s easy to start the day with My Morning Stout,” he says of the caffeinated ale smoothed with the sweet trifecta of coffee, vanilla a cocoa. “It’s a great beer.”

Coming in at the other end of the spectrum is Winter Warmer, an aromatic brew infused with orange, cinnamon and ginger. “It’s got a great roasty backbone,” Walker said.

RELATED: New brewery to open in the Vista.

Conquest Brewing has crafted a number of seasonal brews, including Old Naps, a Scotch Ale rich with nuances of toffee and chocolate; golden Novemberfest, a huge, nutty lager and Harlequin, an Imperial Stout thick with a complex blend of cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger. Winter warmers and other seasonal surprises are on the way, and will only be available at the brewery.

Brewmaster Matt Rodgers has created a full menu of seasonal offerings at Lexington’s Old Mill Brewpub including a floral but citrusy Saison brewed with local rye and heirloom wheat; big, bold Bail Breaker, a double IPA with an 8.2 percent alcohol-by-volume punch and, for dessert lovers, Cookies and Cream Milk Stout, which Rodgers brews with lactose for the sweet silkiness it imparts. Vanilla and cocoa nibs add richness and a delectable aroma.

“The Milk Stout has become a holiday tradition,” Rodgers said. “Customers love it.”

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