Six Must-Try Local, Seasonal Beers

By Tom Paille

VANCOUVER – As fall drizzles and drips its way into winter, we get the inevitable change in the weather from bright and cheery to damp and dreary. Local west coast craft brewers have developed the perfect coping mechanism: winter ales. We decided to get a taste of some of their offerings


Photo by Tom Pallie

Located in the old Settlement Building in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, Postmark opened its doors in 2014 following the success of Vancouver Urban Winery and the Belgard Kitchen. Behind that landmark doorway lies a welcoming atmosphere that invites you to get cozy after a sightseeing walk about Gastown. Postmark’s Stout is the perfect companion to warming yourself beside a fireplace, designed for sessionability with a bit less alcohol (4.8 per cent) and a sweet balance of malts for a chocolate, coffee, caramel taste that will warm your soul. –TP


Salty Scot

Photo by Tom Paille

This next seasonal has been around a while now. Salty Scot from Parallel 49 Brewing Company has been making comebacks for several years, for a reason. It’s a Scottish “Wee Heavy” style that combines sweet caramel and vanilla flavours with sea salt to intensify them. The Scotch Ale is bold behind these flavours and makes a great winter drink. Not too many at a time, though – with 7.5 per cent ABV, it packs a bit of a punch. With the food truck brought into the Street Kitchen for the winter, it’s a great excuse to visit and try one, or maybe two. –TP


Lions Winter Ale

Holding down top seniority of seasonal beers is the Lions Winter Ale, which has lovingly been brewed by Granville Island Brewing since 2004. This long-time favourite blends hints of vanilla, cocoa, and caramel into a deep, rich mouthful. Specialty malts ensure this ale isn’t too sweet on the palate, making it an amazing pairing with both sweet and savoury tastes (bacon jam, anyone? Or roasted olives?) The unique sweet and spicy flavours may have everything to do with the secret “winter flavourings,” but this ale is no secret beyond the wet and stormy shores of our west coast. –TP


33 Acres of Cashmere

When it comes to naming and branding their new beers, Mount Pleasant’s 33 Acres Brewing Company follow an aesthetic all their own, usually channelling themes of longing and romanticized nods to the natural world, while incorporating the company name with each beer. Dustin Sepkowski has been with 33 Acres since the beginning, and he calls the brewery’s process a “catalytic collaboration.” For their new Northwest Red Ale, they let the properties of the beer define it. Smooth and balanced, the 33 Acres of Cashmere harkens back to its namesake fibre, existing as an inviting, approachable ale. The bright amber colour and roasted malt flavour make this the perfect beer to sneak off to a cabin (or your basement suite) with for the night. Or, as it’s a limited-run beer, stop by the tasting room for a few. –Willem Thomas


Right Kind of Crazy

While beer presents you with a long list of reasons to enjoy its company, some find the high alcohol content (measured as the beer’s ABV) and requisite alcoholic punch of certain styles to be negative attributes, preferring lighter, watery lagers. Existing as the antithesis of those are Imperial beers, usually combining bold flavours with stratospheric ABVs. In west coast brewing, the Imperial style known as a Double IPA generally reigns supreme. Powell Street Craft Brewery co-owner and brew master David Bowkett’s take on a Double IPA hits the marks, boasting a 9 per cent ABV and bringing together three types of hops for a flavourful and hoppy, but remarkably easy drinking beer. Since opening in 2012 (look out for some neat plans for their fifth anniversary this month!), Powell Street has won awards for some of their creative versions of northwest pale ales, and the Right Kind of Crazy is a big, clear (almost sparkly, or you’ll think so after a few) IPA that will definitely raise your spirits during a rain-soaked December evening. –WT


Brrr! Winter Radler

Like a migrating bird, radlers (beer combined with juice or lemonade) seem to disappear as the warmer weather starts to turn cold. Viewed almost exclusively as a summer patio or outdoor drinking beer style, many BC breweries have taken to producing their own takes on it, with grapefruit and lemon most commonly hitting stores, and subsequently parks and beaches. Having only been opened in July 2016, Strathcona Beer Company can already lay claim to making one of Vancouver’s (and beyond) most popular radlers, the Beach Lemon Mandarin Radler. For brewer and co-owner Michael “Fezz” Nazarec, the question this year was how to translate that success into a similar, but winter-appropriate version. The answer? Huge quantities of fresh BC cranberries, which make the Brrr! Winter Radler possibly craft brewing’s first Christmas-ready radler. Tart and dryer than its summer sibling, it’s light and effervescent, while still retaining the juiciness that is expected of a radler. Follow this up with one of Strathcona’s stronger Belgian-style ales for a swift shift in flavour. –WT

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