K-W HOLIDAY GUIDE 2012: Winter Warmer

Ali Connerty reviews some local winter ales that are right for the season.

Ali Connerty

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start planning festivities with family and friends. And what could be more important at a gathering of your favourite people than the beer supply? The LCBO and local pubs in K-W are fully prepared for the holidays with an extensive collection of creative, seasonal brews from some of the most popular craft breweries in Ontario, including Creemore, Muksoka and Mill St.

Wellington Brewery Iron Duke Strong Ale

This Guelph-based brewery has released a seasonal strong ale for those cold, snowy nights. Only available at the Wellington Brewery, or specific LCBO locations and restaurants, it is definitely worth the 25 minute drive to pick up a six-pack. A mild body with a malty, finish makes this a nice beer to pair with chocolates, preferably sitting by an open fire. The aftertaste of chocolate will trigger your sweet tooth and have you craving truffles all night long. At 6.5 per-cent alcohol content and $12.95 for six bottles, these are the party favours your guests will want at the end of the night that are easy on the wallet.

Grand River Russian Gun Imperial Stout

This is not a stout for the faint of palates. Cambridge-based Grand River Brewing`s seasonal beer is available at the LCBO for $4.95 a bottle, already chilled and ready to drink. Dark, creamy and smoky is what to expect with this season`s most popular type of beer, the stout. With a heavy body and hoppy finish, Russian Gun could be a meal in itself. Plus it comes in a 500ml bottle. At 8.0 per cent, you’ll want to share this with your stout-loving friends and family.

Muskoka Brewery’s Winter Beard

This cranberry-chocolate stout comes in a bottle designed for sharing; with 750 ml it can easily act as an appetizer beer for three to four people. The first sip can be a bit shocking to the unprepared palate; this is a strong beer. After a few sips though, you can really begin to taste the chocolate. The beer eventually develops a cranberry-filled body with the complementary chocolate after-taste, while keeping the dark, smoky characteristics of a stout. At a slightly higher price point — $10.95 for a 750-ml bottle — it lacks some of the ‘bang for your buck’ quality a pricier beer should have. As stouts go, it lies on the sweeter end of the scale, the cranberry flavoring adding to the festive vibes. At eight per cent alcohol content, it will definitely break the ice at all your holiday soirees. If you like Guinness with a twist, check this out.

Mill St. Cobblestone Stout

This stout is the perfect winter ale. It’s dark, creamy viscosity is nicely balanced with a slightly bitter after-taste. The dryness and balanced body of this beer really make it easy to drink. If you don’t know what a stout tastes like, this is a great beer to try first. It’s dark but not too strong, dry with a smoky after-taste, but not as heavy as a Guinness at only 4.2 per cent. Plus, it’s produced close by in Toronto and available in pint-sizes cans at the LCBO for only $2.90 a pop. It will have you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside all winter long.

Mad & Noisy Hops and Bolts

A small batch-brewing offspring of Clearview’s Creemore Springs, their seasonal brew offers an alternative to the saturated dark beer holiday market. A creative India Pale Lager — a twist on the more common India Pale Ale — this beer has the initial taste of an IPA, but the slightly hoppier finish of a lager. The caramel body is nicely balanced with lighter citrus notes (and a little bit of apricot) and would pair nicely with any light meat; turkey with cranberries and stuffing in particular. A great table beer, you won’t feel full after having a pint of this, though it may contribute the inevitable ‘after dinner nap’. Available at Charcoal Group’s Beertown on tap and priced at $7.85/pint, you definitely want to taste it.