Seasonal beers to keep warm over the holidays

A quick lesson on winter beers. 

As the exam season approaches, students’ stress levels are increasing exponentially. A wonderful way to release the tension is to go for a beer or two with friends after intense study sessions — or to celebrate the end of finals.

During this time of the year, there are a variety of seasonal winter brews available. According to Arnold Martillana, manager of BierCraft Wesbrook, the difference between winter and summer beer is the demand for structure and taste. 

Just like you would love to drink a thirst-fulfilling pale ale on a hot summer day, a more lingering and thick stout is more likely to satisfy your desires during winter. Most winter beers tend to be darker in colour as the brewers use darker malts in the beer making process and increased yeast to elevate the sweetness. 

“The flavours that you will find in winter beers are the things that you think of as you curl up next to a warm fire,” said Martillana.

The question is which beer to drink? 

There are many choices out there that will accommodate your tastes. To narrow down your options, here are some reviews of the best winter beers from the best local breweries and restaurants.

First up is a beer go-to on campus – BierCraft Wesbrook. A huge selection available, one highlight is the Grimbergen Dubbel, a Belgian style beer with a sweet flavor profile. With six per cent alcohol, hints of orange zest, nutmeg and cinnamon spice provide a wonderfully well-balanced combination of flavours. Another choice would be the Mcauslan Oatmeal Stout from Montréal. Characteristic of a stout beer, it is darker and has a thick, creamy head. The oatmeal flavour adds sweetness, but it is still less sweet than the Grimbergen Dubbel. This stout is a smooth, warm and easy drink with a slight bitterness at the end.

Heading away from campus is the famous Brassneck Brewery on Main. Known for their growlers, patrons fill their vessels with one of the many selections on offer, made on-site. The most popular beer this season is Spirit of Dixmas, a winter IPA that is made once a year in collaboration with two other breweries. It is a strong 7.5 per cent old-school IPA with a malty and bitter flavour profile. 

Next is the Spirit Animal, a 10 per cent winter warmer which will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. It ages for seven months on American oak and takes some of that oakness in, which you can taste in the beer itself. Inertia — an Imperial Stout nine per cent — will satisfy a more roast-filled flavour palette, bringing in chocolate, liquorice and coffee notes into your beer. Brassneck’s beers are all on the stronger side, but well-balanced so that the brew doesn’t taste too "hot" — the term for when you can taste the alcohol in the beer.

With all this newfound knowledge on seasonal beers, the only choice left to make is where to head for your post-exam brew.