The Peak presents a guide to local winter brews made and sold right here in B.C.
Winter sucks. It brings rain, and a sadness that can only come when the sun sets before 4:30 p.m. By the time we finish term papers and exams in the fall semester, we have only a brief break until the madness begins again, and what better way to deal with the grief than with winter ale? It’s designed to have a higher alcohol content to warm the soul that gets crushed with the descending sun.
Red Racer Winter Ale
If you are reading this from the Surrey campus, you are within stumbling distance (which is how you will leave if you drink this beer correctly) of getting this beer straight from the brewer at Central City Brewing, who incidentally is a past winner of the Canadian Brewer of the Year award and also attached to SFU Surrey.
Red Racer’s winter production is robust with a heavy, roasted maltiness. Badass, even. The brewer’s description includes flavours such as treacle, but if you can actually tell the treacle apart, you don’t need to read this article . . . you pretentious jerk.
Granville Island Brewing Lion’s Winter Ale
A comparatively light ale to parallel Vancouver’s comparatively light winters, this beer’s male is sweet and subtle with a flavour built on what is touted as a “vanilla-like finish”, which is actually supplied by real white chocolate. Like that smug cousin we all hate, Granville Island’s microbrewery never fails us, and this beer is no exception. By leaps and bounds the better of GIB’s two seasonal products. If you haven’t had many beers, start here.
Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale
In lectures, I dream of a Shrum Bowl-like competition between SFU, represented by Central City Brewing and Quest University, represented by Howe Sound Brewing. If such an event were to occur, Father John would be the MVP of the competition. The malt is subtle and sweet, the bitterness almost floral.
This beer is perfectly balanced and the well-trained tongue can discover a new flavour with each sip — nutmeg, vanilla, molasses, and honey, among others. Tread carefully; this is a beer geek’s brew. A refreshing beverage for those post-snowfall days when you can sit with friends in lawn chairs at the bottom of a steep hill and watch the cars skid down . . . then help.
Tree Brewing Vertical Winter Ale
Some say the highest form of flattery is imitation. Following the success of GIB’s winter ale, Tree joined the party with one of their own that builds on the original formula — this time with real vanilla, not to mention made with no preservatives and is not pasteurized (and a little cheaper than GIB). Drink on a Tuesday night during a video game marathon without the threat of an 8:30 a.m. class.
Nelson Brewing Co. Faceplant Winter Ale
For every person who describes this beer as water with a log in it, there is another who claims it as a personal favourite. Nelson Brewery prides itself on using entirely organic ingredients. You’ll find that there is inconsistency between each batch, creating a win-win game of Russian roulette. If you win, it’s great beer. If you lose, then it’s beer.
As the name might suggest, Faceplant tastes earthy and a little bitter with notes of molasses. Drink on the lift, in the chalet, or at an evening soiree.