Central City just announced their fourth cask festival in two years (two summer, two winter), establishing them as the de facto best, or at least most consistent, cask festival in the lower mainland. I went to the last summer cask festival held at Central City and it was excellent. The upcoming winter edition is going to be on Saturday January 26th from 11am to 6pm at the Central City brewpub in Surrey (right by the Surrey Central skytrain station). Your $30 admission gets you in, a tasting glass, and three beer tokens, where additional tokens are $1 each (a steal of a deal). Best call to book your tickets now, these cask festivals sell out fast.
What can you expect? Well, besides getting a bit day drunk (seriously, why do these always start so early?), you can expect some really strong winter beer. A version or two of Thor’s Hammer barley wine will surely be available, as will many other ~10% ABV beers. You’ll probably see a lot of winter spice on hand too, cinnamon, nutmeg and the like. Expect a few one off magical beers too (à la Tofino Spruce Tip IPA last time). See you there!
I made some glaring omissions in my previous post about BC Winter beers. My list was not complete and so I felt compelled to add the following beers to it:
Also, from outside of BC:
Any of the above beers will warm you up on a cold winter day and I highly recommend picking them up should you find them.
As the seasons change, so does the availability of craft beer. I, for one, am thankful for this, especially as I regard the changing of the current season as going from bad to worse. What better way to cheer yourself up in this dreary weather than to sip a winter warmer from one of BC’s great breweries? I can think of a few things, but none so simple and effective as grabbing a winter ale (or a few) and watching the healing Canucks thrash Colorado.
Many BC breweries have already released their winter beers and a few still have barley wines on the way. Joy to the world! Here are a few BC winter brews you might consider trying:
Also, some other fine non BC breweries have produced tasty winter ales:
If the rain, darkness, and cold displease you as much as they do me, I suggest one of the above as a temporary and enjoyable remedy.
Victoria’s Lighthouse Brewing is releasing its first ever seasonal limited release beer, a winter ale. It’s going to be an English style winter warmer, a malty sweet beer that can sometimes taste a bit spicy, although no spice was actually added to this one. It will be available on draught and in bottles starting tomorrow, Monday November 2nd. There are only 2000 six packs of bottles being released, so make sure to grab a box if you can. Lighthouse generally brews good beer and I imagine that their winter ale won’t disappoint.
What might be more significant than the launch of a tasty new beer is that this is Lighthouse’ first ever seasonal release. They credit their new bottling line as giving them the capability to release small batch beers in an affordable way. I hope this is the first of many seasonal releases for them.
Santa's Private Reserve
It is Christmas and surprisingly the ground is covered in snow – that means its time for a warming Christmas Ale. Christmas Ales and Winter Ales vary a great deal in style but they all tend to be malty and big, typically above 6% alcohol by volume. Some are spiced while others let the combination of malted grains, hops, yeast and water do all the work. No matter what style the Christmas Ale is, it should be warming and well suited for drinking during the holiday season.
After taking my dog for a walk in the snow this afternoon, I opened up Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve Ale with high expectations; I am a fan of Rogue Ales and have heard great things about their Christmas Ale. The first sip (more like a gulp) was a bit disappointing – the beer tasted like a pine tree. I looked at the beer, it had great colour looking similar to a Vienna Lager, and it had a thick frothy head, but still tasted foul. I couldn’t figure it out, I know that certain hops have a piney aroma and flavour, but this seemed a bit much, even for a brewery from the hop heavy Pacific North West. I continued to nurse my beer and within 15 minutes realized that I was making a terrible mistake. The problem did not lie with the brewer but with the drinker, the beer was just too cold.
The tongues taste buds are numbed by cold beer – this is a problem when it comes to a malt forward beer such as a Christmas Ale. As my beer continued to warm in my glass, the malt flavour became far more pronounced, balancing out the bitterness from the hops. In North America, most beer is consumed cold, but colder is not always better. Beer’s bitterness manages to shine through even the coldest beer, but the sweetness from the malt becomes almost nonexistent when served cold.
As it turns out, Rogue’s Christmas Ale has been my favourite beer this holiday season. When this beer reaches a cool cellar temperature, 10 – 13 degrees Celsius, its pine like bitterness is balanced nicely by its rich malt flavour. As you reach for your favourite holiday beer this Christmas, let it sit and warm up – you will be glad you did.
Erik and Chris enjoy Rogue Santa's Private Reserve this Christmas