Winter Beer to Warm the Cockles

The weather outside is frightful but a beer could be delightful — even if it’s not the first drink that comes to mind after a brisk day in a wintery wonderland.

Most people don’t crave beer after freezing their extremities. Hot chocolate with Baileys? Maybe. Hot toddy? Yes please.

Most beer can’t transition from cold-and-carbonated quencher to piping-hot soother. But, if you can get your hands on a bottle of Quelque Chose, a cherry beer brewed by Unibroue Brewery in Quebec, you have a shot at it.

This beer has been brewed by the brewery since 1996 and clocks in at 8.0% abv. It is considered a mash-up of a brown ale and a Belgian kriek (cherry) ale.

You can heat it up over the stove, pour it into a mug and drink it like a hot cherry cider. It has a sweet and tart cherry character and overtones of spices like cinnamon and clove that harkens something festive.

You can also drink it at cellar temperature (8-12º Celsius) in a tulip glass or brandy snifter if you can’t bring yourself to insult a beer by purposely torching it.

But, you don’t have to drink simmery beer to fully enjoy a malted beverage in the depths of winter. Yukon Brewing’s Lead Dog is supposed to be served warmer than fridge temperature; it has a depth of flavour that emerges when it warms up. The same is true of their Midnight Sun Espresso Stout. The snowy season brings on a lot of bigger, darker, spicier beers.

Yukon Brewing Co. has their Spiced Winter Ale on tap at the Brewery and if you take a quick jaunt to Skagway you can pick up Alaskan Brewing Co.’s Winter Ale flavoured with spruce tips.

Winter is actually the perfect time to be kicking back with big beers, especially the kings of beer, and I don’t mean Budweiser.

Barleywines are beer monarchs that reach wine-like alcohol rates of 12%+ abv, hence the name. A few British Columbia breweries now brew barleywines.

Look for Driftwood Brewer’s Old Cellar Dweller, a brew from Victoria, in British Columbian liquor stores for a stellar example of the style — just don’t expect to get them at regular beer prices. The ingredient bill is big and these beers need a bit more aging than your usual lager before they go to market.

Big beers aside, there is something undeniable about Canadians’ love affair with beer that transcends the seasons — that’s why there are beer vessels insulated in blankets of snow during outdoor hockey games, and cans of crisp lager at-the-ready while ice fishing at Snafu Lake.

In my opinion, beer and winter go together just as well as beer and lawnmowers.

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