Tag Archives: Seasonal Beer

New Brew Friday

TGIF beer enthusiasts. This morning my usually seasonal hometown was blanketed in lovely new snow so it is only fitting that today’s review is for a big winter beer.


Winter Beard


Muskoka Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout

Winter Beard pours a deep black brown with just a thin skim of head. At first pour this one is chocolate and cold coffee on the nose but as it warms you get some vanilla sweetness in the mix and less coffeeiness, less harshness really, overall though not a strong nose. Winter Beard is thinner in the mouthfeel, lighter bodied, than your average winter stout, which is good considering it is a large format 750ml bottle. Lots of chocolate flavour as you drink with just a hint of dried fruit and some vanilla character. The finish really carries through with the chocolate so the double chocolate moniker does indeed fit this beer. The cranberry was pretty subtle and to be honest I could not probably not say for certain I knew it was in there without the label.

Overall an easy-drinking sweet stout that is quite accessible. Bonus points for the great beer label!

New Brew Friday

Ah, winter beer season that most glorious time of the year when the craft beer pours forth dark and heavy, tipsy from time spent in the company of bourbon, and smelling like a bakery on a Saturday morning.

While I am boycotting the majority of holiday ale offerings this year after having (over) indulged when I (over) estimated I could (should) consume twenty- four Christmas themed brews in my de facto advent calendar for last year, luckily, for me, boycott is a fairly loose term. This means I can still cherry pick the odd seasonal for consumption in front of a roaring fire.

Having been pleasantly surprised by Young’s Double Chocolate Stout I felt pretty safe picking up Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Bitter from my local liqour store. The Young Brewery and Wells Brewery merged to become the Wells & Young Brewery in 2006.

Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky toffee pours a deep black brown with lots if airy dark mocha head dying down to a light lacing and skim. Roasty malt and sweet caramel on the nose with some chocolate notes. A light bodied and clean bitter that presents flavours of cold coffee, toffee, powdered chocolate and roasted grains. This beer initially has a dry slightly bittered finish but as you drink more bitterness comes through on the finish.

Overall a nice, non-gimmicky, seasonal beer that hits all the flavours you want in a winter offering.

Sunday with a Chance of Rasberries

It is still summer and that means it is still okay to drink beer brewed with raspberries. For you see like the looming onslaught of seasonal pumpkin beers heading down the pipe that one can and must only consume in October, I tend to view raspberry (or berry beers of any kind) to be a summer time indulgence.

With that caveat in mind I picked up a can (yes, a can) of Berried Alive from Longwood BrewPub in Nanaimo, British Columbia.


Berried Alive


The Beer-dict

Berried Alive pours a bright raspberry colour with great clarity and some off-white foamy head. A huge fruity nose all sweet and earthy and one of the most berry berry beers I have ever tried. That is to say a lot of raspberry flavour comes through while you drink it, so much in fact that at times I felt some of the beer part of the equation was being drowned out. At the same time the raspberry is not cloying or artifical, it has that subtle sweetness and hint of tart that speaks to the real deal. Quite light-bodied at 5% ABV, clean drinking and thirst quenching when it is cold. The finish hints at a the ale underneath imparting a slight hoppiness and, well, more berry. Overall a nice treat now and then but definitely not a beer that would make it into regular rotation but hey that’s why it is a seasonal right!

One other thought I liked to toss out there, while drinking this beer, even after de-canning it (i.e. pouring it in a glass) I feel like some of the can taste lingers. Most likely this is all in my head stemming from my early childhood phobia of drinking anything from a can believing it tasted like aluminum but nonetheless given the choice, and I am usually given a choice in the beer I consume, I will continue to choose a bottle over a can.

Reflections on a Christmas Beer Bender

Bottle Caps

It is now a few days past Christmas and I have had some (beer free) time to reflect back on my Christmas Beer Advent Calendar.

So what have a learned during this period of sober retrospection?

Well, the term Christmas beer really means very little aside from any beer that comes out in the fall to winter season, sports a holiday themed label and (usually) a beer name incorporating a cheesy Christmas pun.

During my twenty-four day chug-a-lug I had hoppy beer and malty beer, strong beer and weak beer, dark beer and light beer but if I had to try and place what I consider a Christmas seasonal I think it is something a little stronger, bigger bodied, maltier and incorporates some sort of seasonal ingredient like spice or chicory or vanilla.

Personally, I like winter warmers, stronger liqoury beer, something to be sipped and savoured while you are snuggled up indoors.

During my reviews I found myself hauling out the candy canes for big caramel malts and rich heavy stouts though one or two beers really surprised me with their creative take on Christmas, Southern Tier Krampus for one, while others redeemed themselves being beers I did not like on previous tastings, Cannery Brewing Maple Stout and Lagunita’s Brown Shugga come to mind. Some of my go-to brewers did not fail to deliver, Evil Twin Soft Xmas and Oakshire Ill Tempered Gnome, and a few breweries really surprised me either as completely new to me or ones not normally on my radar, Great Divide Hibernation Ale and Samuel Adams Merry Mischief. The Canadian Christmas veterans, Mt. Begbie Bob’s your Dunkel and Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale, delivered reliable entries in the calendar.

To those few Christmas beers lingering in the fridge I promise I will get to you as soon as my liver indicates its willingness to get back on board.

Finally, I would like to say a huge thank-you and Merry Christmas to the generous Canadian breweries who assisted me with my Christmas Beer Advent Calendar by providing me with a seasonal beer for review. Please know how much I appreciate your willingness to donate a beer, your timely and considered responses to my request and your amazing people who often brought beer right to my house sometimes in Christmas bags and once with cookies!

I hope everyone enjoyed following along with my Christmas beer advent calendar and I hope you discovered a wonderful new beer to help you through the holiday season. Stay tuned for my Beer Egg Hunt where I countdown the best of the best Easter themed brews (just kidding).



Candy Cane

Through the Beer we all will be together

Christmas Eve is finally here and we get to open the final door to our Christmas Beer Advent Calendar…

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear but Howe Sound Brewing‘s Father John’s Christmas Beer (Winter Ale actually but Christmas beer fit the poem better).


What do snowmen eat for breakfast? 

Howe Sound Father John's Winter Ale



Father John’s Winter Ale pours a clear reddish chestnut clour with lots of cream coloured head on the initial pour; head eases off to a light ring around the glass and a skim across the top. There is a big nutmeg and ginger nose, which is sweet, hot and spicy at the same time. First sip is pretty complex; honeyed sweetness, rich caramel malts, Christmas spices, vanilla and a touch of hop all going on at the same time. As you drink this one feels medium bodied, a touch syrupy and there is a winter warmer quality. Not a lot on the finish to this one. Overall this one really makes me think Christmas, the combination of spices, malt forward flavour, touch of alcohol-ness, with nice graphics on the label and a bottle made for sharing.


As such I am giving Father John’s Winter Ale seven candy canes.

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The Bottles are Flowing…

It’s December 23th so lets open our second to last door…

It’s Abominable Winter Ale an organic offering from Hopworks Brewery.

Hopworks Abominable Winter Ale

Abominable Winter Ale is housed in an amazing yeti adorned bottle; perhaps my favourite artwork of the season. Abominable pours a very clear amber orange with just a little white head and some lacing. Lots of citrus hops on the nose and a bit of malt. First sip is a mix of hops, spicy and citrus, at the front of the palate then the caramel malt flavour comes through at the finish. As you drink the bitterness becomes more prominent making this one pretty typical for a Northwest Coast ale. Mouthfeel is clean, medium bodied and there is some strength to this ale giving it a bit of a warmer quality; however, setting aside the winter-eque bottle nothing else really seems that Christmas like to me it just seems like a good Hopworks ale.


I am giving Abominable seven candy canes (six for the beer and one for the bottle) out of the possible ten.

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Fast away the Old Beer Glasses

Calvin and Hobbes Snowmen 4


Welcome to the last (possibly frenetic) weekend before Christmas so let us take a look behind door number twenty-two to see what libation will ease us into the final stretch…

It’s Auld Nick from R&B Brewing, “a strong dark ale brewed with specialty malted grains and the traditional hops of Kent, England”.

R&B Auld Nick

Auld Nick pours a very dark reddish brown with good clarity and just a little cream coloured head that quickly forms a light skin on top of the beer. Lots of roasted maltiness on the nose with a little bit of a herbal aroma. A big smooth mouthfeel with lots of body and that oh so essential winter warmer quality. Still get an herbal element as I drink but I can’t quite place what it is. Up front you get  rich sweet malt while the finish introduces burnt and bitter to the palate. Overall a great example of a dark ale that tastes like a Christmas beer to me; a good balance of rich roasted malt, bittered finish and enough strength to warm you up on a cold evening.


Auld Nick is saddled with seven candy canes out of a possible ten.

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O Little Brown of Bethlehem

Welcome to the 21st of December aka the much anticipated end of the world so let’s throw open the door to our twenty-first (and potentially last) beer…


We have Maple Stout from Cannery Brewing, which is described as “stout, dark and handsome” …sounds a bit like an online dating profile.

Cannery Maple Stout


Maple Stout, as its very plain spoken name suggests, is a deep black brown beer with mocha coloured head and a very syrupy sweet nose. First sip, is cold coffee meets, well, maple syrup. Medium bodied but definitely on the lighter side of the stout family with lots of roasted malt and chocolate flavours and a subtly bittered finish. The cloying maple syrup eases off as you drink this one. If you like your stouts a little more sweet and a little less bitter this is the beer for you. Overall a very nice and accessible seasonal though I have to say maple syrup makes me think early spring and not Christmas but what the heck.


I am giving this one seven candy canes out of the possible ten.

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Next beer I could be oh so good…

Snowman The Triumph of Perseverance


Welcome to day 19 and let’s take a look at our beery treat for today…

It’s Brown Shugga’ from Lagunitas Brewing Company, a sweet release at 9.9%.


Lagunitas Brown Shugga'

Brown Shugga’ pours a very clear amber copper colour with tons of airy cream coloured head. This ale has a citrus hoppy nose and first sip is pretty assertive hops followed by some big sweet malt flavour. As it warms up a bit the sugary-ness really comes to the front of the palate and hops settle down. Medium bodied this is a real winter warmer with a slightly cloying mouthfeel. The finish leaves a sweet taste in the back of the throat coupled with a dry bitterness. Brown Shugga’ is one of those beers that grows on you the more you sip (or it could be the high ABV messing with my perceptions) but I quite like the in-your-face flavours happening in the this beer. Overall a sweet Christmas treat.


Lagunintas Brown Shugga’ is awarded eight candy canes.

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Steep in Heavenly Yeast

It is just one week until Christmas and we open door eighteen to find…

Krampus Imperial Helles Lager from Southern Tier Brewing a behemoth 9% blend of hops, dark malts and lager yeast.


How many deer would a reindeer reign if a reindeer could reign deer?

Southern Tier Krampus

Okay first things first, brilliant beer name. The bottle depicts Krampus the Christmas Devil who, according to European tradition, beats the naughty children with chains and sticks – I am guessing there are fewer naughty European children since Krampus seems far far worse than the threat of coal!

Krampus pours a clear deep gold with bright white head that reduces to some lacing and a light skim. Big hop nose and first sip is floral and resiny hops at the front of the palate, then dark caramel malts at the back of the throat followed by a deep warming quality. Medium bodied and somewhat viscous this lager sure packs a wallop. The finish is surprisingly not that bitter but instead a little on the sweet side. Krampus is a sipping lager though lager may be a bit of a misnomer for this beer. Overall it is like a Christmas gift to hop heads everywhere; IPA meets Lager meets Winter Warmer, devilish indeed.


Krampus is getting eight candy canes out of a possible ten …I hope this does not make him angry.

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