The Lion In Winter

After our unseasonably warm November, your intrepid liquor reporter was beginning to think that his barley sacrifices to the beer gods over the summer had convinced the powers that be to let us skip winter this year.

Sadly, my hopes were dashed with the recent arrival of snow and cold, so it seems to be time to hunker down and prepare to endure yet another winter.

Yes gentle reader, it’s time to contemplate the milestones that come with the changes of season. The winter tires. The lack of exposed flesh to ogle. The switch from summer beer to winter beer.

Attentive readers in the audience may be scratching their head about that last one. Winter beer? What’s wrong with the beer I’ve been drinking all summer?

Much like the fashion faux pas of wearing white shoes after Labor Day, there are similar codes and mores in the world of beer drinking.

Veritably, that crisp and refreshing Corona that you chugged while mowing the lawn, or the Coors Lite you knocked back with friends at the backyard BBQ, are the beers of summer.

However, with the change of season, there comes a different style of beer, that is darker, more full-bodied, and often slightly higher in alcohol content. These beers are best consumed at cellar temperature (8-12°), rather than the 4-6° temperatures more popular with summer beers.

Your intrepid liquor reporter generally pulls a few dark beers out of the fridge and lets them sit on the counter for half an hour or so, letting them warm up to a more appropriate temperature.

When a darker beer is consumed straight from the fridge, the fuller flavor profile cannot be fully enjoyed, as the taste buds on the tongue are less receptive when chilled. Indeed, letting your beer warm up a bit will make it taste better.

This is generally less of an issue with light beers, as they tend to have very little malt flavor, and taste just as crisp and refreshing straight from the ice bucket, so don’t worry about drinking your summery beers straight from the fridge.

The megabreweries generally don’t pay much heed to changing their beer styles to match the season, largely due to the millions of advertising dollars they spend trying to convince consumers to always pick the same brand.

However, the smaller brewers tend to have a more sophisticated clientele, who are open to the idea of expanding their beery horizons.

Turning our attention to the west coast, we have Lions Winter Ale from the Granville Island Brewing Company in Vancouver. This beer is available from October to March every year, so you have plenty of time to pick one up.

The Lions Winter Ale is very approachable to the novice beer drinker, as it tastes like a medium-bodied brown ale with very distinctive caramel and vanilla tones from the specialty malts.

A quaffable winter beer can be a bit of a challenge, as many of them have high alcohol content and flavours overwhelming to the uninitiated. Luckily, the Lions Winter Ale weighs in at only 5% ABV, and has a relatively mild flavor that makes it easy to drink all night.

Your humble narrator has always enjoyed supporting the Granville Island Brewery. It was Canada’s first microbrewery, opening in 1984 to the delight of the local beer geeks.

The brewery was purchased by BC-based Andrew Peller wines in 2005, then changed hands again in 2009 when it was acquired by the Ontario-based Creemore Springs Brewing.

The megabreweries certainly won’t go out of their way to tell you this, but Creemore Springs Brewing is owned by Molson Coors, so the beer geeks all shed a tear back in 2009 when Canada’s first microbrewery was assimilated into the ranks of the purveyors of fizzy yellow water that we beer geeks call the megabreweries.

Luckily, Molson Coors is fully aware of the market segment that avoids the megabreweries, so they have stayed admirably hands-off to avoid killing the golden goose.

Perhaps thanks to the distribution power of their corporate overlords, Granville Island Brewing products can be found at your local booze merchant. You can find not only the Lions Winter Ale in six-packs, but also a variety pack to introduce you to each of their flavors. Pop in and take one home today!

About the author

Nick Jeffrey

Nick Jeffrey

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