What Are the Marks of a Good Winter Ale?

Winter Ale in Snow- Columbia Distributing

Throughout the year, breweries introduce seasonal beers. One of these recurring brews is the winter ale, otherwise referred to as a winter warmer. Read on to learn what defines this cold-weather beer and how to determine the quality of a winter ale.

Winter Ale Defined

First brewed in Northern Europe centuries ago, the winter warmer category consists of strong, dark ales that produce a warming effect. To give off that cozy feeling, these brews feature a distinctive malt presence with low, leveled and balanced hop bitterness. While winter ales usually range in color from brownish reds to nearly pitch-black, there are also winter beers available that exhibit a pale amber color.

Consider Alcohol Content

One of the definitive features of winter warmers is their strength. The average alcohol content of a winter ale ranges from around 6.0% to 8.0% ABV. Some winter warmers may even reach 10% ABV and beyond. The reason behind these slightly higher ABV levels is to make you feel warm.

Check If It’s Spiced

Although winter ales don’t have to be spiced to be considered a winter warmer, oftentimes, brewers will add some spice during the brewing process for a bit of a punch. These types of beer are usually brewed before the holiday season using seasonal spices, like nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla, which meld with the brew for an enjoyable sipping experience.

Stock up on all your winter ale must-haves or add some new brews to your restaurant or bar menu with help from Columbia Distributing. Our selection of beers spans from domestic and imported favorites to beloved craft beer brands, giving you a full range of winter warmers to choose from. Contact us today to learn more.


Best Beers for the Game

Beer- Columbia Distributing

From dedicated football fans to devoted basketball enthusiasts to true American baseball supporters, picking a game-ready beer is not always an easy task. But at Columbia Distributing, we offer a large selection of domestic, imported and craft beer to suit any palate. Keep reading to learn which styles of beer are best for the big game.

Consider What’s in Season

During the big game, it’s hard to go wrong with a seasonal brew. Oktoberfest beers, pumpkin ales and other autumnal brews are the perfect complement to the football season, while spiced ales and hearty stouts are great for games during the colder months. While watching spring and summer sports, like baseball, consider choosing a beer that’s light, crisp and refreshing, such as a light-bodied Lambic, bock or wheat ale.

Brews for Pairing with Game-Day Entrees

On game day, your selection of appetizers and main courses may dictate the type of beer you want to serve. When it comes to the big game, consider making your selection based on beer and food pairing recommendations. The following brew styles complement a full range of typical game-day fare, from tantalizing pizza to savory grilled meat:

  • American Stouts
  • Bocks
  • Imperial IPAs
  • Lagers
  • Pale Ales
  • Pilsners
  • Porters
  • Wheat Ales

Get Ready for the Big Game with Columbia Distributing

As your bar, restaurant, retailer or event center gears up for the next sports season, make Columbia Distributing your go-to source for domestic, imported and craft beers. With more than 80 years of distributing experience in the Pacific Northwest, we’re uniquely positioned to help your business find the right beer for the big game and beyond. Contact us today to learn more about the brands we distribute.

Top 3 Recipes to Top Up Your Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate--Columbia DistributingWhen it comes to spiked hot chocolate, recipes with liquor may come to mind. However, did you know that you can make a delicious cup of alcohol-infused hot chocolate using beer? While stouts work best in the following recipes, thanks to their roasted malt flavor profiles that taste of coffee or dark chocolate, you can experiment with other types of dark beer as well. Here are three delectable ways to serve up decadent hot chocolates that blend your love of beer with this timeless cold-weather beverage.

  1. Stout Hot Chocolate with Ice Cream

Savor a rich, hot beverage with this mouthwatering stout hot chocolate recipe from Floating Kitchen. Combining chocolate stout beer with milk, cocoa powder, dark chocolate shavings, sugar and vanilla ice cream, this recipe is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth on any cold winter day.

  1. Spiked Hot Chocolate with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream

Straight from The Gourmet Kitchen cookbook, this spiked hot cocoa recipe calls for sugar, heavy cream, whole milk, bittersweet chocolate, vanilla extract and bourbon barrel-aged stout. The result is a piping-hot alcoholic beverage that makes the perfect dessert.

  1. Hot Chocobeer

This hot chocolate with beer recipe from The Hungry Hedgehog is easy to make and only requires five simple ingredients. If you have a stout or another kind of dark beer, half and half, sugar, chocolate chips and cocoa powder on hand, you could even whip up a decadent, steaming serving right now. Top off your mug with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate shavings for an extra touch of sweetness.

At Columbia Distributing, we offer an extensive selection of stouts from domestic, import and craft beer brands. To learn more about what style of beer will work best for your hot chocolate recipe or other creative concoction, contact us today.

Fermented Strangeness: Weirdest Brews

Fremont glass

Beer drinkers have been embracing microbrews since small, independent brewers began creating their unique hoptastic flavors in the early ’80s. Now referred to as craft beers, microbrews no longer make up a tiny segment of the beer industry. By the end of 2016, craft beer makers accounted for 5,234 of the 5,301 breweries in the U.S. While this is great for beer connoisseurs, craft brewers find themselves in a very competitive landscape. This makes it difficult for brewers to come up with a truly unique beer, so many strive for a little weirdness to grab consumers’ attention. If you’re looking for a slightly crazy concoction, consider one of these strange fermented brews.

Rogue Brewing | Newport, Oregon

Voodoo Doughnut Grape Guerrilla
ABV: 7.5 percent

Part of Rogue’s line of doughnut-inspired beers, this ale was inspired by the Grape Ape doughnut by Voodoo Doughnut, which features vanilla frosting topped with purple sprinkles and grape dust. Their iconic bright pink bottle features a purple gorilla for this strange brew. Many beer raters agree it’s a good attempt at a jelly doughnut with a grape soda zing.
Voodoo Doughnut Mango Astronaut Ale
ABV: 5.3 percent

Another ale in Rogue’s line of doughnut-inspired beers, this one was inspired by Voodoo Doughnut’s Mango Tango doughnut — a creation filled with mango jelly and topped with vanilla frosting and a tangy orange powder. The hot pink bottle sports a quirky, top hat-wearing astronaut.
Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout
ABV: 5.7 percent

Dubbed Rogue’s Rooster Sauce, this stout pairs perfectly with spicy food. One of the ingredients is Huy Fong original hot chili sauce to give it the kick you’d expect from a fiery brew. The bottle mimics the hot sauce marketing down to its distinctive rooster.

Fremont Brewing | Seattle, Washington

Coffee Cinnamon B-Bomb
ABV: 14 percent

This B-Bomb is barrel-aged in American oak whiskey barrels and uses a blend of Winter Ale with Golding hops, coffee and cinnamon. Beer lovers enjoy a unique bourbon, oak, cacao, leather and dark coffee blend that brings a spicy chocolate coffee flavor and cinnamon whiskey aroma.

Coney Island Brewery | Brooklyn, New York

Kettle Corn Cream Ale
ABV: 5.5 percent

A combination of corn and honey malt gives it a biscuit and slightly spicy hop aroma. This craft is brewed with caramel syrup, so it finishes slightly sweet and is reminiscent of kettle corn, a popular boardwalk treat.
Cotton Candy Kölsch
ABV: 4.8 percent

Made of pureed strawberries, strawberry juice and Coney Island’s own cotton candy flavoring, the light golden beer has a pink tinge and finishes with an unmistakable cotton candy taste. This craft is also available in cans at the brewery.

Ballast Point | San Diego, California

Indra Kunindra – Curry Export Stout
ABV: 7 percent

This India-style Export Stout gives unique beer lovers an explosion of South Asian flavors that include a burst of Madras curry, Kaffir lime leaf, coconut, cumin and cayenne. Available in draft and 22-ounce bottles year-round in limited quantities.
Cinnamon Raisin Commodore
ABV: 6.5 percent

A stout with some spice, brewers combined cinnamon and raisins with their dark, bittersweet American stout to blend the perfect amount of sweet and spice that leaves you with a roasted malt flavor.

Many of these beers are a limited-edition release, so if one of these strange brews sounds tasty to you, better grab one quick before it disappears!


7 Ciders and Beers to Keep You Warm

While traditionalists will claim that distilled spirits are the only type of drink that can warm you, we beg to differ. In fact, we are firm believers in the “warming” value of ciders and beers. Here are eight of our favorites that prove the point:

  •  Maredsous Tripel – Brewed by Benedictine monks in Belgium, this light amber brew with a very foamy head sports a 10% alcohol content that is well hidden by its rich caramel taste and somewhat banana-like overtones. It is also guaranteed to warm your insides faster than a glass of Chardonnay or Burgundy.
  • Flatbed Cider – Made from the most flavorful apples in the world, Flatbed Cider combines a bright splash of initial flavor with a warm and glowing finish. In addition, this cider is produced with a true “green” sensibility as the apples are grown, fermented and bottled on the same local farm.
  • Coedo Brewery – Manufactured on the other side of the globe in a town just north of Tokyo, this beer is brewed as an American-style pale lager. Still, it has its differences – most notably that it opens with a nice citrus bite followed by sweet maltiness and ends with a bitter finish. All in all, a great way to experience the warming sensations of springtime while enduring the cold of winter.
  • RhubarbarianThrough one of the largest makers of hard cider in the Pacific Northwest, the artisan craft brewery known as 2 Towns is one of the most respected by aficionados because of its avid use of fruits other than apples such as pears and rhubarb in their ciders. This particular cider is not for the faint of heart and will put some rosiness in your cheeks.
  • Chimay Premiere– Another monkish brew this time from Trappist ones – This Chimay “red” is well regarded. It offers a dark-brown colored beer with a very strong flavor reminiscent of raisins, prunes and dates. It is quite filling as well as fortifying and will get you through a tailgate party better than any cup of cocoa.
  •  Blackthorn Cider – With its distinctive but decidedly bittersweet flavor, Blackthorn Cider provides a medium-bodied character through a synergistic combination of low acidity and high tannins. It will leave you intrigued by its flavor that you will barely notice the cocoa.

For further information on these and other artisan ciders, craft beers and non-alcoholic beverages, visit us at Columbia Distributing. We can be found online at ColDist.com or reached directly at 800-949-5997 to make a beverage order.



The important relationship between drinks and snacks

Drinks and snacks at bar

Many times when people hear the word “pairing” they think of snobbery and a stuffy aristocrat picking a cheese for his wine. The truth is that we all pair our food and drinks, perhaps without even realizing it. We pick the best snacks for drinks all the time. Think about it, when you go to the movies, you carefully select your drink and your snacks so you get maximum enjoyment.

Food plays a role in the flavor of a drink, it can enhance or inhibit.

Finding the perfect drink to go with your favorite snack may not be easy and it may take several tries before your find the best relationship, but don’t give up because when you do finally find the right match your snack or mealtime will be forever improved.

Here’s what to consider when searching for the best snack and drink combination:

  • Consider how the drink enhances your snack flavor. Your beverage can pair nicely by contrasting with the flavor of your snack or by being a flavor twin and mirroring the flavor of your snack. A great example of this is with hard cider. A hard cider from Flatbed Cider could pair well with a pork chop or kale chips or both.
  • Consider the drink characteristics. Important characteristics to consider are the impact, body and alcohol content of your beverage. Keep in mind that if you are eating light you’ll want to pair your snack with a beverage with lower alcohol content. For instance a premium soda from Jones Soda Co. could pair well with Kettle Chips or a light sandwich.
  • Consider the acidity of both. For fatty foods an acidic drink will help clear your palate. If your snack is more acidic or spicy, you may want a drink that is neither acidic or spicy.
  • Consider carbonation. With some snacks the fizz from an ice cold drink can enhance your snack or mealtime experience. There are some snacks though that may not pair well with a fizzy drink. Alcoholic beverages will be more acidic and soda will be fizzy, so a good option is Snapple Tea., available in many flavors.
  • Consider sweet and bitter. While a contrasting flavor in your snack and drink can sometimes work to complement each other, remember that a super sweet treat and a bitter drink will most likely not pair well together. Keep in mind that any drink with tannins will increase the spiciness of food, so if you are not part of the some who like it hot crowd, steer clear of tannin-rich drinks when you’re having a spicy snack.
  • Have fun. Remember that snacks and drinks should be fun. Don’t let the idea of having the perfect drink-and-snack combo keep you from enjoying either one. Remember that what tastes great together to you may not taste great for your friend. Finding the right drink and snack fit is personal and subjective.

By remembering the four aspects of making a great food and snack fit and having fun while eating and drinking you are sure to come across a perfect combination. Get started today and check out the flavor profiles of our beverages. You never know when one might be the best match for your favorite snack.


Pairing BBQ And Craft Beer For A Meal To Remember!


Americans have a love of barbecue that is legendary. Whether it’s brats or burgers, Memphis style ribs, or pork shoulder mopped with traditional Eastern North Carolina vinegar sauce, there’s a cooking style to meet every taste.

Like barbecue, craft beers aren’t pigeon-holed into any one style or location. Craft beers pair with a variety of foods from grilled meats to desserts. Choosing the right beer for barbecue is an art. Eating delicious barbecue while sipping the perfect beer can make any meal memorable.

Let’s look at four outstanding craft beer and barbecue pairings that can take your next barbecue to a new level of deliciousness!

1.    Memphis BBQ paired with Santa Monica Brewery Surf Ninja Imperial Stout

Memphis barbecue is big on pork and piles on the dry rub which is typically sweet with just a little heat. “Memphis-style” sauces are usually thin, tomato-based, tangy and sweet

American stouts such as Santa Monica Brewery’s Surf Ninja Imperial Stout are the perfect beer for Memphis-style barbecue. They offer a malt-laden flavor that can clear the sugary tang and pair beautifully with the smokiness.

2.    Kansas City BBQ and Garage Project Ayinger Dunkle Weisse

Kansas City barbecue is cooked low and slow over hickory. The sauce is famous for “sticking to the ribs of both animal and man.” Tomato-based with brown sugar or molasses, Kansas City sauce is a complex layering of sweet and sometimes spicy flavor.

The beer for Kansas City-style barbecue is a strong roasted malt brew like Garage Project Ayinger Dunkle Weisse. It offers a nice balance between malt sweetness, complementing the molasses, and hop character which emphasizes the spice.

3.    Eastern NC Style BBQ and Waddell’s Scottish Ale

Famous for slow pit cooked whole hogs that spend a day over the coals, Eastern North Carolina barbecue uses a vinegar based sauce that lathers the hog, from first heat until it’s finished. This all day low-and-slow basting gives the meat a deep rich tanginess with layer after layer of earthy spice.

Scottish ales like Wadell’s are the perfect beer for barbecue cooked with a vinegar based mop sauce. It works great with slow-cooked proteins and offers a malty sweetness that pairs well with the sour tang of a vinegar-based sauce.

4.    The “Great American Burger” and New Holland Brewing Dragon’s Milk

Who doesn’t love a burger? It’s a grilling staple! A properly dressed burger gives you four of the five basic tastes: salt (cheese) sour (pickles) sweet (ketchup) and umami (meat). The taste that’s missing is bitterness and that’s where the beer comes in!

New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk is a dark stout that features a roasty malt bitterness that mingles with deep vanilla tones. Because it’s fermented in bourbon barrels, it also has a delicious oaky taste that compliments any burger.

As a basic rule, contracting flavors work exceptionally well to enhance each other. Much like wine, darker, more robust beers like stouts, porters and IPAs work well with grilled meats. Seafood or chicken often pairs well with light and crisp flavors like wheat or fruit beers.

No matter what grilled goody is your favorite, you can’t go wrong pairing it with a delicious craft beer!



All About Pumpkin Beers

Pumpkin ale
Every year in October, people who love beer celebrate the fall season with festivals, food and fun centered around their favorite beverage.

Pumpkin is the flavor of the autumn season. The bright orange fruit finds its way into pies, coffees and a variety of other foods. Breweries are applying the trend to beer flavorings. When high-profile producers like Rogue and Samuel Adams join the movement, people start to take notice.

But what is pumpkin beer? Where did it come from, and what can a first-time drinker expect?

Modern Taste from Historical Inspiration

Pumpkin-flavored beers are not a new invention. The pilgrims who came to colonize New England traditionally used barley malt in their brews. Unfortunately, they couldn’t grow barley in the soils of their new land. Importing the malt from England was expensive. Settlers turned to the pumpkin, a strange new fruit unknown to them before crossing the ocean, in the fermentation process. Using persimmons and maple sugar, a plain yet potent pumpkin ale was produced.

The industrious pilgrims soon found a way to grow hops and barley malt efficiently in the new world. Pumpkin ales quickly fell from memory and remained forgotten for much of the country’s history.

In the late 1980s, Buffalo Bill’s Brewery brought pumpkin ale back with one a brew inspired by one of George Washington’s favorite recipes. The original version used spices like nutmeg and cinnamon to mimic the flavors in of a pumpkin pie.

The New Breed of Pumpkin Beers

Today, manufacturers are using modern techniques to produce an updated version of this historical party staple. Different ingredients and brewing materials yield rich, flavorful drinks that can be enjoyed at a bonfire on the beach or in front of the fireplace with close friends.

Like the Buffalo Bill’s Brewery recipe that relaunched America’s interest in pumpkin beer, many manufacturers rely on spices and added flavors to produce a sweet drink that is reminiscent of dessert. Some of these recipes use very little, if any, actual pumpkin in the mix. Some brews, like the Dogfish Head version of this seasonal drink, do use real pumpkins in their process for a more authentic flavor. These mixtures tend to be slightly more bitter but with a richer, deeper taste.


Are you looking for a new favorite drink for the fall season? Pick up a few six-packs and have some friends help you evaluate these suggestions.

  • Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Wheat Ale has been widely available since 1995. This medium-bodied brew uses real pumpkins for a deep, dark experience.
  • Coney Island Brewing Company’s Freaktoberfest Pumpkin Ale evokes the smells of fall with roasted undertones, allspice and just the right amount of bitterness.
  • Ballast Point Brewing contributes the Pumpkin Down to the season’s collection. This Scottish-style ale blends real pumpkins with allspice for a thick, full-bodied drink.
  • Samuel Adams guarantees 30 pounds of pumpkin puree in each barrel of its Fat Jack Double Pumpkin Ale. Malt is added during the process to undercut the natural sweetness of the squash.

Columbia Distributing offers more than 300 brands of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. With such a large list, we are sure to have just the right thing for your retail space. Take advantage of the seasonal trends. Let Columbia Distributing stock your shelves with a pumpkin beer that will keep your customers coming back for more.


Craft Beer Ingredients by Season

seasonal craft beer by Columbia Distributing


In the past few years, the rise of craft beer has been startling — in fact, the total number of breweries in the States rose by almost 20% from 2013 to 2014; signaling the growing popularity of the many types of flavor profiles. The market has been trying to meet the demand, and so marketing your craft brew has been easier if you do it by season.

What Does the Season Matter?

The reasoning is actually somewhat similar to the wines you should drink with different kinds of meat and chocolate; some tastes simply complement others better. As examples, it is generally acknowledged that you want to save your darker, more involved beers for the cold wintertime crowd, and your lighter beers for the spring and summer. Incorporating this into your plan will have a distinct difference in results when marketing your craft brew.

Summertime Examples

If you’ve been in business for an length of time, then you’ve probably already got a solid plan in place for marketing your craft brew; something that incorporates search marketing in your local region and even paid advertisements. The next step is to tailor the flavors such that the seasonal ones dominate. In spring and leading into the summer, you should opt for fruit beers because of the lightness they confer to the cocktail. A cool shandy — lemonade and beer mix — goes a long way on a warm summer day.

Wheat, classic pilsner and pale and hoppy beers also work for summer evenings. You’ll appreciate the citrus flavor and fleeting spiciness at a summer barbecue, for example. Make the correct measurements for the additives, though, because you do not want a heavy brew this season.

Fall Brews

The gathering clouds and markedly cooler days make way for pumpkin, maple and amber brews. Autumn is the perfect time for nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice cocktails to liven up the spirits (pun intended). The lightness of summer is gone, and American renditions of the great German beer festival known as Oktoberfest crop up in towns everywhere. Consider adding appropriately colored banners when marketing your craft brew in the online space — they will attract more attention because of the season.

Winter Brews

The season of the heavy beer, as it were. Winter is the right time to brew those thick Imperials and Stouts and Porters that were much too heavy as summertime fare. These beers are like the Old Norse meads from the time of Thor and the Asgardians — they WILL leave you full and warm — and drunk, if you have as many glasses of this as you did of the classic Pilsners last summer.

An American favorite is eggnog-inspired spirits, which are more of a dessert beer. Lastly, Winter is also a great time for bourbon and chocolate/coffee mixtures to your liquor. Market these variously-flavored brews at the right time and you should see your bottom line go up.

Need an Energy Boost? Try These Energy Drinks

Columbia Dist Energy Drinks


A lot of people depend on their morning fix of caffeine to get the day started. For most, this comes in the form of a cup of coffee. In fact, many people may drink coffee throughout the day or even at night as a way to maintain their energy levels so that they can stay productive while at work.

However, coffee isn’t your only option. You can get the energy boost you need by enjoying wellness drinks or energy drinks, many of which also contain caffeine, the essential ingredient to an energy boost. The following are a few examples of wellness drinks and energy drinks that will have the same effect as coffee:

  • Red Bull – Red Bull is one of the most well-known energy drinks out there. It’s also the original energy drink. Studies have shown that Red Bull energy drinks not only provide a boost of energy but that they also improve mental capacity, which makes them a great alternative to coffee if you’re working late into the night. While Red Bulls contain a number of ingredients that are said to help improve energy levels, it’s the caffeine that really does the trick. A single eight-ounce can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine.
  • Wired Energy Drinks – Wired Energy Drinks produces a whole line of different energy drinks. One particularly unique offering is their Wired X B-12 Rush. Not only does one of these cans contain 100 milligrams of caffeine, it also provides 3,000 percent of your B12 daily value and 500 percent of your B6 daily value. This allows for an energy boost that’s more sustained than a lot of other options on the market.
  • Vita Coco – Coconut water is a great way to stay hydrated, but if you’re looking for an energy boost, then consider the Vita Coco Cafe drink. An 11.1-ounce carton of Vita Coco Cafe contains 120 milligrams of caffeine. It also happens to be a delicious blend of coconut water and coffee. There are several different variations available, including Original Latte, Vanilla Latte and Mocha Latte, the last of which actually has a bit more caffeine due to the cocoa powder in it.
  • Bai Drinks – If you’re looking for natural drinks that can provide a caffeine boost but that don’t contain food coloring, chemical compounds or potentially unhealthy additives, then Bai Drinks are a fantastic option. Although they do contain caffeine, they don’t contain nearly as much as most energy drinks do. Each Bai Antioxidant Infusion drink, for example, offers 35 milligrams of caffeine – about as much as a cup of green tea, which is generally enough for a small boost of energy.

It can be difficult to get through the day – or to even get the day started on the right foot – without the help of a little energy boost. Fortunately, coffee is not your only option. These are some of the excellent energy drinks and wellness drinks we offer here at Columbia Distributing.