Best Beers for Winter

November 1, 2009

Call them old ales, winter warmers, strong ales, October ales, or barley wines. These are the beers for the dark 'n' stormy months, old faithfuls that combine malt, spieces, and a comforting heft to create a drink that's all coziness and cheer (and sizable alcohol) for the long nights. Pair these with aged cheeses, game meats, and anything nutty.

Father John’s Winter Ale

Howe Sound Brewing Company

IN ITS OWN WORDS: A rich, malty seasonal ale brewed every fall for the winter months. Made with four different malts, Nugget & Hallertau hops, and a complex blend of spices (ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, and more)
ON TAP: We like it at Marmalade, where it should be on tap by mid-November. Share the cheese platter and watch the ships glide past on False Creek. Also available: Alibi Room, Village Taphouse and Beachhouse (West Van), Pony Express (Pemberton), and Creek Bread (Whistler).

Auld Nick Winter Ale

R&B Brewing Company

IN ITS OWN WORDS: This strong, ruby-red warming winter ale is brewed in the style of a Scottish "Wee Heavy."
ON TAP: The perfect time to check out Drive newcomer St. Augustine's Restaurant. The menu's long on comfort foods; we're sticking to poutine, Santa's gift to humankind. St. A's is one of six restaurants getting casks from the brewer in the coming days. Check Habit, Narrow, Hamilton Street Grill, Cascade, and the Alibi Room.

Old Puddin’ Head

Crannóg Ales

IN ITS OWN WORDS: Look for a big malty body and generous spicin—spicy hops, coriander, bitter orange, and plenty of chocolate and caramel malt. This is a slightly sweet winter warmer and, like all Crannóg Ales, it's organic.
ON TAP: Habit's cosy room (even snuger since the reno) keeps the chill at bay. We're eyeing sweet carrot and Brie perogies with our Old Puddin' Head. Late in November find it also at the Alibi Room, the Naam, the Roundel Café. The brewery promises enough to see us into the New Year.

Black Plague Stout

Storm Brewing

IN ITS OWN WORDS: Derives its name from the historical fact that at one time in Europe beer was about the only safe liquid to drink. Black Plague is Irish style dry stout brewed small batches in fall and winter.
ON TAP: East Hastings is the new Yaletown. So sharpen your elbows and fight for a spot at the bar at Au Petit Chavignol. And since it's the End Times, don't stop at just one but do prepare yourself with a protein injection via the Grand Tasting Platter, a selection of cheeses from Les Amis du Fromage plus house charcuterie and sides. Find it also at the Whip, The Foundation, Café Deux Soleils, the Wolf & Hound, and O'Doul's.


Märzen Brewmaster’s Oktoberfest-style lager

Russell Brewing Company

IN ITS OWN WORDS: The second release in Russell's Brewmaster Series. It is a medium-bodied, lightly carbonated dark beverage. A moderate, toasted malt aroma underlies a dominant herbal hop character that finishes with lingering earthy dryness.
ON TAP: We'll be digging into Chambar's new house beer later this month, but for now, let's stick to the quintessential Oktoberfest (and beyond) Märzen. To balance the hoppiness, anything with some richness and spice, especially if roasted meat enters the scene. Braised lamb shank with honey, figs, cinnamon & cilantro could help keep the dark at bay.

Legacy Ale


IN ITS OWN WORDS: An 11 percent barley wine aged a year on oak with Valencia orange peel
ON TAP: The Alibi Room had a keg earlier this fall, and they've napped another at the dark end of the year. Save this for the end of the night—think of it as the port to round out the evening with mushroom/hazelnut pâté with truffle oil, whole roasted garlic bulb, and crostini. Or to start the next phase, with a charcuterie plate of Berkshire pork country pâté, smoked ham, fennel salami , warm breads & house condiments.

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