Winter Craft Beers
In the past few years, craft beers have taken the world by storm. Rising from the depths of the basements of microbreweries and brewpubs, to dominating the mainstream spotlight and capturing the hearts of beer-drinkers all over the globe. But what exactly is a craft beer? Despite the common misconception of dubbing any lesser known beer as a craft brew, it is a simply a bubble term used to group any beer produced in small quantities – less than 6 million barrels a year – by an independently owned brewery. The independent production combined with the reduced quantity of beer produced allows for more time and care to be dedicated to each batch of suds. The consequent result is a final product far superior to that of larger breweries.
Despite the finer tastes, we have to be realistic: we’re students and regular consumption of craft beer is unrealistic unless switching to a liquid diet is part of your New Year’s resolution. Nevertheless, if these beers are consumed in moderation and savored rather than guzzled, they can even fit into the most modest of budgets. After all, getting through another desolate six-month winter in Kingston is no task for the light-hearted, and what better way to survive than through the ingestion of a delectable combination of barley, malt and hops.
To the delight of all subjected to freezing temperatures, the LCBO has begun shelving its stock of winter craft beers ranging from chocolate-chipotle stouts to Belgian abbey ales made by monks. There is a craft beer able to reverse any one’s winter-induced seclusion. However, the majority of these beers are not for the light-hearted or the small-stomached. As filling as meal substitutes and having ABV’s above 6%, these beers will warm you up after a harsh walk through the snow.
I’ve had a chance to try a few of the new winter seasonal beers the LCBO has begun to stock within the past couple weeks. Here’s a list of my favorites:
Granville Island Winter Ale
Upon opening the can, a curious, and unique peppermint smell wafted into my nostrils and I didn’t know what to expect of the taste. My first thought after taking a sip was that the beer is reminiscent of peppermint bark, almost too much so. The taste comes on strong and is nearly overpowering at first but if you give this beer a chance, it will not disappoint and will become a regular dweller in your fridge.
Beau’s Bog Water
The first thing that came to mind as soon as I popped the top off this beer is that its name was certainly chosen accordingly. The smell reminds you of swimming in the lake on a warm summer day providing some hope of surviving another seemingly never-ending and bleak winter. The taste is exactly what you’d expect from Beau’s: crisp and smooth – two characteristics that have become a necessary accompaniment with Beau’s products– with a light citrus-flavored aftertaste that differs from their flagship brew, Lugtread. Drink with a hot bowl of chili, the two were destined to be together.
Brouwerij Het Anker Cuvée van de Kaizer Blauw
Similar to its name, this ale is a mouthful. At an ABV of 11%, this Belgian strong dark ale is the strongest I’ve ever tasted. It has a light but, unique taste quite similar to that of white wine and a caramel aftertaste that’s almost as dry as vodka. Brewed yearly on the 24th of February to celebrate the birthday of Roman emperor
Charles the fifth, this beer is delicately crafted with extra fine Belgian hops. Without preservatives, or chemical additives, and topped with a cork, this beer can be aged or – for the more impatient like myself – enjoyed at once. This is an excellent one to drink with a friend on a slow night in.
Mill Street Winter Seasonal Sampler
This is an amazing sampler containing the famed Mill Street Organic Lager and Tankhouse Ale, the newly popular 100th Meridian (a personal favorite), their two winter seasonal’s Dammerung Dunkel and A Winter’s Ale, and lastly a vanilla porter draught. Dammerung Dale is a dark beer and to be honest, I expected it to be better. It’s got a sweet, nutty taste with subtle malt hops and leaves a bitter aftertaste with hints of caramel. A Winter’s Ale easily makes up for Mill Street’s disappointing dark winter seasonal. It is one of Mill Street’s strongest beers to date with an ABV of 7%, but its rich flavor hides the stronger taste usually associated with strong beers. Brewed with honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger, this beer is unlike any Mill Street has produced and is a must-try this winter.
Opened in the Gastown area of Vancouver in 1995, the building bought by the founders unknowingly contained a steam heat system. Through careful experimentation, the inventive brew masters at Steamworks have created a one-of-a-kind steam brewery, the only one in Canada. Using this distinct and rarely utilized brewing technique, some of the greatest beers I have ever tasted have been produced. Having only started bottling their crafts for sale in 2013, many of their beers are as of yet unavailable in Ontario although the LCBO has stocked their seasonal winter sixer, which includes: the Heroic Red Ale, the Pale Ale, and the Black Angel IPA – a dark IPA with an IBU of 70. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a couple of these, savor them, and praise the mastery with which they were crafted.
Hopefully a few of these will help you get through the winter still intact, after all, we’ve got spring seasonals to look forward to.
Daniel Rottman, Online Contributor
Graphic: Sophie Barkham