This week’s Canada’s Craft Beer post comes from our West Coast craft beer guy, Bryan Clegg. Bryan loves winter seasonal beers, and he brings you not three, not four, but six different brews! His tour takes us to five different breweries: Steamworks, Bridge, Postmark, Parallel 49 and Central City. It's like Santa came early!
Winter is a beautiful time. Cool, crisp air, layers of pillowy white snow (or cool, wet air and rain here in Vancouver's Lower Mainland), and epic winter beers.
Winter seasonals can be a very broad category. They can include beers that warm the body with a high IBU like Barleywine and Russian Imperial Stout. They can include normal stouts, porters and brown ales. White IPAs are okay, Belgians, reds and even beers made from juniper. Basically anything released between mid-November and March (or June if we define winter in prairie terms) counts as a winter beer. Then there are all the beers with Santa’s face plastered all over them … Yes, winter seasonals are a wide and wild category. I love it dearly.
For this month, I picked out four beers with obvious seasonal aspirations: three covered in holiday graffiti and one with the confidence to be counter-subtle and call itself a “Winter Red.” But then I thought, how can this be a Winter Seasonal Extravaganza with only four beers? So I went and bought two more. So this month I’m bringing you no less than six beers for the holidays!
Steamworks Brewery — Blitzen Belgian Tripel
This beer from Steamworks Brewery offers a nice fruity nose. Body came off as a mix of Tripel and Pilsner. The majority of the time, Tripels use Pilsner malt as their base, but they don’t tend to keep the light Pilsner character. Finding it here actually surprised me, considering that at nine percent ABV this beer is anything but “light.” And yet there it is. Fortunately the body was still nice and sweet thanks to the presence of Belgian candi sugar.
ABV: 9% | Available: BC
Bridge Brewing — The Grinch Winter Seasonal Ale
A bit more of a standard winter seasonal from Bridge Brewing. Dark brown pour with small beige head. Roasty with caramel notes, close to a porter style but coming in a little lighter. Easy to drink by the fire.
ABV: 6.5% | Available: BC
Bridge Brewing — Sleigh Booster Imperial Red Ale
Nice red pour, smells sweet and a little hoppy. This Bridge winter seasonal has lots of caramel and nuttiness on the palate with some hop bitterness to back it up. Another high ABV beer that doesn’t taste like it. Dangerous, but good.
ABV: 9% | Available: BC
Postmark Brewing — Winter Red
I’m a big fan of Postmark’s labels. Every time I see one of their beers in a store I find myself holding the bottle and admiring the art. So here we have another red, but this one is a lot lighter than the offering from Bridge, making it a little safer to quaff down. A bit of sweetness, some herbal notes and a bit of maltiness. Nothing that really separates it from the pack, but still a pretty nice beer.
ABV: 5.5% | Available: BC
Parallel 49 Brewing — Toques of Hazzard Imperial White IPA
This is one of my favourite winter releases. And not just because the name is awesome and the label art is brilliant. I wouldn’t necessarily think of an IPA as a winter beer. But it’s a White IPA, and White = Snow, so that makes it okay, I think. Either way, this is a super hoppy, super fruity, super good beer. One of my all time faves from P49. This has been around for a few years now, and anyone that hasn’t had it owes it to themselves to get out there and get one.
ABV: 9.2% | Available: BC
Central City Brewing — Gingerhead Gingerbread Stout
One of Central City’s collaborations with the radio station CFOX, this gingerbread stout is an excellent winter warmer. Gingerbread flavour through and through, from the nose to the mouth. It reminds me of the gingerbread houses I used to eat as a kid (when I wasn’t supposed to — it was my brother, I swear!). The low ABV is a bit of a surprise, as I feel like it could have gone a bit higher, but at 6% it’s reasonably sessionable, and I think that’s what they were going for. As an added bonus, this beer makes great pancakes!
ABV: 6% | Available: BC
As much of an extravaganza as this is, I’ve only barely touched the surface of what’s available out there this year. Be sure to check your local liquor store to see what other great offerings are available!
Bryan Clegg is the beer columnist for VanFoodies.com. Bryan has a wide and accommodating palate; whether it’s a tasty low-IBU ale or a ride on the IBU train to Hop Country, he’s happy to drink and share a story about the ride. Follow @vanfoodies on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.