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Team BeatRoute’s 12 Beers of Christmas

By Joshua Erickson, Keir Nicoll, Graeme Wiggins, Erin Jardine and Willem Thomas

VANCOUVER — The best way to countdown to December 25? With beer, of course. And since Vancouver is such a fertile breeding ground for the craft variety, it’s a perfect way to both support local and get into the holiday spirit. BeatRoute hit some of the city’s finest breweries to find the tastiest seasonal offerings to celebrate with.

Photo: Courtesy of 33 Acres

33 ACRES BREWING

33 Acres of Ocean – West Coast Pale Ale (5.3% ABV)

Christmas brings about feelings of nostalgia and this beer fills that need quite well. It’s a West Coast style pale ale that has a nice pine/evergreen flavour that has a bit of hop kick without being overpowering. It’s a drinkable beer that has a refreshing citrus flavour, and that pine touch will remind one of the Pacific Northwest and keep with the season nicely.  (GW)

33 Acres of Darkness – Schwarzbier (5% ABV)

While 33 Acres avoids falling into the stereotypical seasonal trap, that doesn’t mean that their beer has no seasonal aspects. Says 33 Acres manager, Dustin Sepkowski, “It’s important that seasonal brews will interest us and encourage us to try them, but also to have our core staples be just that. A beer that is clean and drinkable, and the consistency to earn the trust of beer drinkers.”  33 Acres of Darkness is a seasonal favourite, selling much more during the winter months than otherwise. It’s a black ale that while isn’t super strong, nor super thick, provides the comforting warmth that’s perfect for the cold months—warm and satisfying without being filling. (GW)

33 Acres of Euphoria – Belgian Tripel (9.2% ABV)

Having trouble dealing with in-laws, or other family members?  Maybe 33 Acres of Euphoria is the right beer for you. It’s super strong at 9.2% so it will get you buzzed quite quickly, but it’s delicious banana and spice flavour will make it enjoyable to drink down.  It’s strong but not overpoweringly so. It’s got a spiciness that will encourage drinking and an alcohol content that will make sure you’re going to be able to handle whatever your gross uncle has to say. (GW)

BRASSNECK BREWERY

Spirit of DIXmas IPA (7.5% ABV)

Six years ago, on Beatty street, stood a well-regarded brewpub by the name of Dix BBQ & Brewery. Following its closure, the brewers moved on to other projects, but they’ve kept the spirit of Dix alive with the help of Nigel Springthorpe and Brassneck Brewery, through a yearly tradition of a collaboration in the much-loved Pacific Northwest IPA style called the Spirit of DIXmas. Brassneck, one of Vancouver’s premier craft breweries, actually operates using Dix’s brewing system, having purchased it following the closing of Dix’s doors. As the very first IPA produced by the Main St. brewery, Spirit of DIXmas is a lovely, welcome addition to BC’s massively varied IPA family. It’s strong (as expected), aromatic, and flowing with flavour notes running from pine to citrus and beyond. Made with Centennial, Citra and Simcoe hops, Spirit of DIXmas is an excellently balanced IPA with that requisite light-handed touch of bitterness that leaves you craving another glass. Get down to Brassneck before it’s sold out. (WT)

PARALLEL 49 BREWING

Photo: Leigh Eldridge

Ugly Sweater (5% ABV)

This dark and warm milk stout is light in alcohol, but rich in flavour. Sweetened with lactose (milk sugar) and chocolate, it leaves a pleasantly lingering coffee aftertaste. (KN)

Salty Scot (7.5% ABV)

A sea salted and caramel Scotch Ale, Salty Scot is a darker brew that maintains a harmonious balance between its two flavours. (KN)    

Toques of Hazzard (9.2% ABV)

Toques of Hazzard — an Imperial White IPA — has a malty tartness that’s not quite sour, with flavours of gooseberry to keep the brew light bodied. (KN)

Along with these brews, Parallel 49 is also offering a Season’s Greetings case in partnership with Central City Brewing, which features 24 different beers — one for every day of the advent calendar.

Photo: Courtesy of R&B Brewing

R&B BREWING

Nitro Dark Star Stout (4.6% ABV)

It’s just not winter without a seasonal stout and R&B is delivering one with a twist. Served on nitro, the Dark Star Stout is smooth, creamy, and surprisingly mellow for a stout. Not too heavy — very Guinness like in terms of comparison — with rich notes of chocolate and coffee. (JE)

Ursos Arctos (10.4% ABV)

For those that like their stouts strong, this is the beer they are looking for. The Ursos Arctos is a Russian Imperial stout with a hard hitting 10.4% and 70 IBU. Very rich, very heavy, and with super concentrated caramel notes, the Ursos Arctos is a very complex tasting beer with layers of flavour that hit you in waves as you drink it. Not for the faint of heart, but one of the best beers you will taste this winter. (JE)

Photo: Courtesy of Strange Fellows Brewing

STRANGE FELLOWS BREWING

Krampus (8.5% ABV)

A brewery that never fails to challenge themselves and the palette of their consumer, Strange Fellows Brewing is featuring two limited release holiday seasonals that explore the dark side of folklore themes and quirky traditions. For example, their principal holiday beer is an ode to the anti-father Christmas, Krampus himself. “We actually have a Krampus costume that one of our bartenders made, you can come here in December with kids and have a photo on the throne with Krampus, and we made at least four or five kids cry,” laughs head brewmaster, Iain Hill. If you’ve seen Krampus, you’ll know why kids are crying. The beer is a Belgian Abbey Dubbel. “It’s not a hoppy beer, more based on malt and yeast flavours,” Hill adds. “It needs to age a long time and we made it months ago. It’s brewed in the historic style of Belgian monasteries — like a Trappist ale.” (EJ)

Boris (9% ABV)

The second winter seasonal is Boris, a Russian Imperiale Stout. Strange Fellows experiments extensively with aging beers and attaining flavours through a barrel, and Boris is the beer that puts Strange Fellows through its paces. (EJ)

STRATHCONA BREWING COMPANY

Belgian Dubbel (7.8% ABV)

Don’t be alarmed by the high ABV of this local take on a classic Belgian style. Relative newcomers to Vancouver’s bountiful craft beer scene, Strathcona Beer Company’s strikingly authentic version of this dark, malty treat of an ale is a lip-smacking gift boasting a robust, rich flavour that avoids the overly complex palate distractions some Belgian Abbey ales tend to get lost in. Accessible to both those seasoned in the expansive world of Belgian beers, and to others who’ve never heard of world-renowned ales such as Chimay or La Chouffe, this single-batch Dubbel is highly drinkable — dangerously so. As a beer style sometimes recreated less-accurately than others by craft breweries, it’s impressive and appreciated to have such a faithful rendition of one of the tastiest, winter-appropriate brews available right in our Eastside backyard. Made with dark Belgian candy sugar imported directly from Belgium, this Dubbel is sweet, reaffirming, and (be careful — remember the ABV!) worthy of repeat refills. (WT)

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