You can pour, you can sniff, you can sip, you can swish, but a drink is a drink, so drink it how you wish.
I've worked at the Beer Store for over three years and have seen hundreds of beers come through our inventory with a multitude of flavours and styles. With such a diverse offering for consumers today and that whole "winter is coming" thing, I'm going to give you a quick run down of beer culture and hopefully give you some pointers if you're looking for new beer varieties.
The beer culture can involve a lot of snobbery, and I don’t think that’s right. You will not know if you like a drink if you don’t try it. Generally the type of beer, or the IBU number (International Bitterness Units scale, a gauge of beer's bitterness) may give some hints as to what it may taste like, but those indicators don’t do the tasting for you. My steadfast advice is to pick it up, crack it open, drink a mouthful, and ponder on the things it does to your taste buds.
Beer can be all sorts of things - bubbly, fruity, smooth, flavourful, bitter, thick, light, strong etc. These are the things that a drink should be judged by, the delivery of what it is meant to be. Beer will also always have a flavour to it. Flavour is difficult to nail down because it is so subjective. The can or the bottle will usually name a few spices or fruits that the beer is supposed to taste like, but whether or not they are detected is another story. This is why I when I explain a beer to people I use the building blocks of what the beer is and leave the flavours up to the individual.
Another important point to mention is that I don’t believe in a grading system. There is no 1-5 star marking scheme that I use because whether or not somebody likes a beer is totally up to them.
Having said all of this, here are 7 great Canadian beers for winter in the Great White North.
WHISTLER BREWING COMPANY
POWDER MOUNTAIN LAGER
An exceptionally light, yet dense beer. It is easy drinking with a super clean finish and many ambiguous flavours. Boasting a low 5% Alcohol By Volume (ABV), by winter’s standards, it is still one to be had when the temperatures are low because of it’s stubbornness to be different. This can be purchased by the bottle in a 12 pack mixer among some other great brews, which is a shame because they could all stand on their own.
BIG RIG BREWERY
MIDNIGHT KISSED MY COW
Not your typical milk stout. A delightful kiss of carbonation and a quick shot of bitterness quickly smooths out into a rather light and clean finish. After a few sips the intended sweetness makes itself known and plays a part in delaying the aftertaste. Regardless of all the tricks this beer plays with your mouth, it is definitely something to try this winter.
The personification of a winter beer. Another tame 5% ABV, but has the breadth of flavours of something much more rich. The first sip tingles, and then dissolves into a soft smokey aftertaste. This is a big beer, but it is not as big as the Mad Tom, or the Twice as Mad Tom that Muskoka also offers.
GRANVILLE ISLAND BREWING
LION'S WINTER ALE
The most festive of the bunch with more pronounced Christmas-like flavours. At 5.5% ABV it is heavy, but only as heavy as it needs to be to carry all the flavours that it does. There is no tingling, no bitterness, only a calm sweetness that seems to clear the palate before painting it’s flavours. Would be perfect to snack on after a hearty dinner.
WATERLOO BREWING CO.
Unique is my best description of this beer that's brewed an hour west of here. There are only a handful of coffee beers available, but none like this Waterloo creation. A sneaky-smooth strength at 7% ABV that is full of contradiction. This beer is meant to replicate a hot, dark-roast coffee, but it is a cold, thick beer. For those nights when it is too late for a coffee, one of these double-doubles would be an almost seamless, non-caffeinated, replacement.
This has an incredibly smooth flavour to it and is probably the smoothest beer I have come across. Flavours do not jump out of this beer, they merely settle on your tongue as it makes its way through your mouth. The chocolate is very evident along with it’s partner, the cranberry. It is a rather high ABV at 8%, but it doesn’t affect the drinkability at all. The bottle is big (750 ml), and it is filling, and it is strong, but it all comes together to be a delightful experience that is almost too smooth to believe.
THE CHOCOLATE MANIFESTO
In typical Flying Monkeys fashion, this whale of a beer is something that must be tried to be understood. There is not much to say about this beer that isn’t already written on the outside of the box, but this isn’t on there, so, ‘wow.’ A 10% thick and smooth meal in a bottle that is not like anything you have had before (probably). Super rare to come across, and pricey, but very worth it. For comparison, imagine a beer twice that of the Muskoka Winter Beard. If you see this on a shelf, put it in your basket!