Pull up a stool next to Old Man Winter and knock back one of these seasonal suds, brewed especially for this frosty time of year.


Now that the third millennium has officially begun, I'd like to offer a few predictions for the state of things to come. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the news is mostly bad. Our reckless leap into the future could begin to backfire and plunge us into a new Stone Age.

The virtual reality movement, I predict, will suffer a major setback when a virulent computer virus invades the video helmet of a 15-year-old in Minneapolis, causing him to mow the lawn. Teenagers will abandon virtual reality in droves and go back to comic books and loafing. Nanotechnology, I predict, will reach a grave impasse when scientists discover that it is physically impossible to miniaturize beyond the size of congressional intelligence. Hopes for a toaster the size of a credit card are dashed. Astrophysicists at NASA, I predict, will finally receive transmissions from a distant civilization, but will be stunned when they decode the signal as alien talk radio. On the bright side, Howard Stern will sign up for the first interstellar voyage.

One thing won't change in the coming thousand years: Beer will still taste pretty much the same. American beer has never been better, in fact, and there's no reason to change a good thing. Now that the hubbub of the holidays is over, grab one of these winter brews and take a breather. It's going to be a long millennium.

GREAT DIVIDE HIBERNATION ALE ($8 PER SIX-PACK)
Great Divide Brewing Company is another success story in American beer. Like so many other craft-brewers, owner Brian Dunn started as a home-brewer. Rather than continuing his seemingly futile job search, he decided to "follow his bliss" (as Joseph Campbell would say) and go into the beer business in 1993. After starting with just two employees - Brian and his wife, Tara - and an annual initial production of just 900 barrels, Great Divide has expanded to markets in 16 states.

The brewery facility is located in a converted 1920s-era dairy in downtown Denver. Long's Peak, at elevation 14,255 feet in the Rockies, is visible from the brewery and is used in the company logo. Hibernation Ale has been a winter tradition at Great Divide every year since 1995. This is a true strong ale, with an alcohol-by-volume content of 8.1 percent. Unlike lesser brews, this one ages well. It has robust flavors with a warming finish that will take the chill off even the coldest night.

OMMEGANG ALE ($8 PER FOUR-PACK)
There's been a renaissance of interest in Belgian-style beers inthe past few years, both imports and domestically produced versions. This one, a rich ale in the abbey style, comes from Ommegang Brewery in upstate New York. Ommegang is one of America's most specialized breweries, founded in association with the Belgian makers of Duvel and Scaldis. Appropriately, the beautifully designed facility, which manages to look both ancient and futuristic at the same time, sits on the site of an old hop farm.

The company's portfolio is based on various Belgian styles, and they also import several distinguished brands from Belgium. The flagship brew is Ommegang, which debuted in 1997 and has garnered rave reviews. (Ommegang, which means "walk about" in Flemish, is the name of a pageant devised in the 16th century to celebrate the visit of Charles V to Brussels. It's still celebrated.) Ommegang is a great winter warmer with chocolaty notes and a beautiful cloud of a head.