The festive drinking season is upon us, and I always make the most of the annual cornucopia of seasonal beers!
It all begins in September, when the shelves of our local booze merchants are crowded with special Oktoberfest Lagers.
By the time I have finished off the Oktoberfest-themed beers, usually with a few pretzels or bratwurst, the Pumpkin Ales appear on the scene, performing double duty for both Halloween and Thanksgiving.
As luck would have it, I finished the last of the Pumpkin beers just last week, at the same time my local booze merchant was stocking the shelves with the Christmas beers.
Always preferring to think globally and drink locally, my first seasonal brew was from the annual release of Cherry Porter from Calgary’s own Wild Rose Brewery, which I enjoyed fresh from the brass teats at the brewery’s tasting room. For the past seven years, this beer was only available in one litre flip-top bottles, but in a move towards standardization, the packaging has been switched to the more common 650mL bottle.
Long time readers may recall that this particular brew has earned a spot in the illustrious beer tome “1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die”, which I have been diligently plugging away at.
Made with ripe BC cherries, then aged with a dark porter-style beer, this brew reminds me of a smoky-flavoured black forest cake. The beer pours almost black into the glass, and has an intense flavour that will take your taste buds on a wild ride.
For those who enjoy dark winter beers with a plenty of aromatic hops but not excessive bitterness, look no further than Calgary’s original nanobrewers, the Dandy Brewing Company, and their seasonal release of In The Bleak Midwinter: Black IPA.
Looking north up the QE2 highway, Edmonton’s Alley Kat Beer has just released their 22st annual limited run of Olde Deuteronomy, a 10.3% ABV heavy hitter whose tremendous malt flavours are balanced with heavy additions of El Dorado hops.
Called a Barley Wine instead of a beer, the Olde Deuteronomy is one of the few styles that can be aged for years like a fine wine. I always buy a six-pack, drinking 3 in December, and aging the remaining bottles for vertical tastings over the following 3 years.
Looking west to BC, Phillips Brewing puts out a Christmas advent calendar of beer each year, and this year’s version is called the Snowcase Calendar. With 24 different beers in the case, I enjoy a different brew each day, from the first day of December all the way to Christmas Eve.
Longtime readers will recall that I have long been a fan of Phillips Brewing, and rejoiced when they finally expanded their distribution into the Alberta market a few years back, which makes it much easier to lay my hands on their sampler packs.
Across the water in Vancouver, for the 4th year in a row, Central City Brewing and Parallel 49 Brewing have collaborated to release a beer advent calendar that they call The Great White Wonder Adventure Pack, which boasts 12 assorted bottles from each brewery.
Although working my way through two separate beer advent calendars this month is a challenge, I have been giving it my all, enjoying multiple different craft beers each and every day.
There are plenty of the classic winter ales, but also unique styles like Scottish Heavies, Belgian Sours, and Cascadian Darks to whet your whistle. Whatever your favourite style, you are sure to find it somewhere in this sampler pack!
After the grand finale on Christmas Eve, I save one final extra-special beer while opening presents on Christmas Day, which is a beer especially made for Christmas.
Yes, I am referring to a bottle of Samichlaus, also known as the Santa Claus Beer.
For those readers not familiar with Samichlaus, it translates directly from the German into Santa Claus, and is a whopping 14% ABV lager that is brewed only one day per year, on the historical feast day of the 4th-century Saint Nicholas, then aged for 10 months and released just in time for Christmas. If I’m feeling particularly festive, maybe I’ll even leave a bottle for Jolly Old Saint Nick, instead of those dreary milk and cookies!