Many people will ring in 2018 with promises to take better care of their bodies, eat better, drink less. Not me. Winter seasonals are some of my favourite beers, from bracingly boozy winter warmers and barley wines to smooth stouts. Grab a thick sweater and cuddle up with one of these to while away the next snow squall.
Tidehouse Brewing Company
5.2% ABV, N/A IBU
Halifax’s newest brewery will release its first regular bottled beer in mid-January. It’s described as a smooth, well-balanced American stout with subtle notes of chocolate, mocha, and coffee. This full-bodied beer promises to be rich, with just a touch of roasty character. Team Tidehouse says it will be “Darker than the spot where your heart should be.” Find it at the brewery in 750-ml bottles.
2Bulwark Winter Cider
Muwin Estate Wines
New Ross, N.S.
7% ABV, 0 IBU
“Cider is beer” vs. “cider isn’t beer” is a discussion for another time. What’s key here is that if you enjoy a spiced, fermented beverage, this is one to try. The Annapolis Valley farm and cidery’s Winter blends smooth sweet apples with festive nutmeg and cinnamon to produce a cider that’s different from its year-round offerings. Find it at the NSLC and private stores.
Picaroons Traditional Ales
7.3% ABV, 35 IBU
Dark in the glass with a red hue when you hold it up to the light. This ale packs intense dried fruit flavours and aroma, with winter spices that will perfectly accompany a hearty stew or steak. Or, you know, all by itself on a Friday night. It’s on the sweet side, with toffee and nutty notes from the malts and a warming alcohol finish. Find it at the private liquor stores while it lasts.
4Complexified (Baltic porter)
Big Spruce Brewing
10.9% ABV, 41 IBU
This big beer spent six months in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels at Big Spruce’s seven-barrel aging set-up. You’ll smell its massive alcohol content before you even touch your glass. Your first sip yields complex flavours including roast, bourbon, and a slight background sweetness. The alcohol burn lingers long after your last sip so take this one slow and enjoy. Sadly, only available at the brewery.
5Grande Cuvée Dopplebock
Les Trois Mousquetaires
8.6% ABV, 30 IBU
This series of beers from LTM is known for syrupy, intense flavours, and big ABVs. Dopplebock is the non-lager lovers’ lager, bringing full-body and bold molasses flavours to the table. It’s made with Quebec-grown malts that lend chocolate, biscuit, plum, and orange flavours, with a smattering of spicy hop notes. Break out the sharing glasses and wait out the storm. Available at private stores.
6Shortest Day Spiced Milk Stout
Prince Edward Island Brewing Co.
5.4% ABV, 0 IBU
A new release from Gahan, this brew is the perfect beer for those who appreciate silky milk stouts and spicy winter beers. It pours like black ink with a dark brown, persistent head. Vanilla wafts up out of the glass to your nose. Nutmeg brings this stout a surprising but exceptionally enjoyable seasonal flavour. Find it in cans at NSLC and the brewery.
7Vanilla Oatmeal Stout
5.5% ABV, 0 IBU
Don’t Alet the oatmeal in the name fool you, this stout is thin, but satisfying. Vanilla is the first flavour your tongue will meet, but on the finish you’ll find a sweet (but not cloying) stout that’s easy drinking. This offering is among the Cape Breton brewery’s new seasonal can offerings, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
8La Buckdjeuve (dark strong ale)
Les Brasseurs du Petit Sault Brewers
7.3% ABV, 29 IBU
There’s something beautifully nostalgic about sipping a beer from a short stubby bottle, even for those of us who missed them the first time around. This spicy beer offers a medium body with coffee, toffee, and nut flavours, plus a hearty dose of dark, dried fruits. While it’s edging toward the high side of the alcohol scale, the bottle is small enough that you can keep it all to yourself. Available in six-packs at the NSLC.
7% ABV, 20 IBU
A local tradition, this six-pack only appears in the coldest months of the year, when we need it most. Clove lends a unique flavour to this winter ale, while Demerara brown sugar gives it a sweet satisfying finish. Other beers in this style fall prey to fake tasting spice blends, this one stays true and is like sipping on your grandmother’s spice cake. Find it in stores and at the brewery.
10Russian Imperial Stout
Propeller Brewing Company
8% ABV, 60 IBU
Each year I look forward to trying this hometown favourite, but this year even more as I saved a few bottles from 2016 to compare. The option to age and compare seasonals is something of which we in a city of breweries should take full advantage. This beer’s notable characteristic is that its hop flavours blast through the roasted malts and dark fruit notes. Grab a few and put some away for a vertical tasting in 365 days. Find it in stores and at the brewery.
11Midnight (strong dark Belgian)
North Brewing Company
10.5% ABV, 25 IBU
This is my favourite local seasonal, and a 2017 Canadian Brewing Awards Gold medal winner. Dark Belgian beers are often aggressively sweet with a satisfying boozy finish. This one is no exception. Watch for dark dried fruit flavours, tart cherry, vanilla, and the lingering flavours of the Glenora Whiskey barrels in which it aged. Find it at the brewery.