Getting After Them Winter Brews

Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or a hipster pretender, here are a few beers that have past and present Courier staff buzzing.

R&B Brewing – Chai Milk Stout

If you’re seduced by fancy-sounding words…

Freya Wasteneys, Features Editor

Not for the lactose intolerant, the Chai Milk Stout (5.7 per cent, 30 IBU) is the latest from R&B Brewing’s Mount Pleasant Series, and is infused with real lactose (!) and a Silguri Chai specialty tea from the Granville Island Tea Company. While I normally stick to my tried-and-true winter beers (I’m looking at you Phillip’s Chocolate Stout), the promise of dairy and spiced chai was enough for me to step outside my comfort zone. And I’m not sad I did. While I can’t claim to be an alcohol connoisseur (by any means at all), there are definitely a few familiar tastes up in this here beer. For one: chocolate. For two: coffee. For three: spices. A little milkiness too. Yum. Really, you can’t go wrong if that’s what you’re into. Also, it’s local on so many levels, so feel free to brag to all your friends about how you’re really trying to do a solid for the environment by sticking to a 10 mile diet (or kilometre if you’re feeling Canadian).

At the time of writing, yours truly has said beer on hand. On my right hand to be precise, making my typing procedure more of an awkward hunt and peck mission than the usual Mavis Beacon approved tippity tap. With that said, this beer is (clearly) perfect for a rainy evening of homework. Get some chill guitar acoustics, and some female vocals up in there, and you’ll have yourself a pretty enjoyable little evening, regardless of whatever dreaded assignment is brewing on the periphery.

For pairings, I would say a nice yam tempura sushi or a salmon-avocado roll. Perhaps a little unorthodox, but it’s all about the balance, right? But again, please be aware that I am unqualified to write this beer review – I would take this combo suggestion with a grain of salt (or a dash of full sodium soy sauce).

If you want to be like me, the Chai Milk Stout is available in 650 millilitre bottles and growlers at R&B. You can also find bottles at private liquor stores, and on tap at select local establishments while supplies last.


Dead Frog Brewing – Warhead Imperial Kettle Sour

If you are only pretending to like beer…

Megan Orr , Opinions Editor

I am all here for seasonal beer. Spring flavours with floral notes, summer citruses, fall pumpkin spice, and winter ales, dark and mysterious: I will drink them all to excess. Winter porters and stouts are particularly interesting, with their chocolatey coffee notes. Granville Island Winter Ale is a classic, and definitely one of my favourites. They also released a new Mocha Porter this year that is fantastic, but that’s not the seasonal ale I am here to hype.

No, I am talking about a different beast entirely. If you’re like me and you prefer your beer to not taste like beer at all, but more like candy, then this one’s for you. Enter: Warhead Imperial Kettle Sour. Yes, like the the sour candy, this beer packs a punch. You are probably thinking, ‘Wait, a super sour beer that tastes like candy? That sounds gross!’ – you aren’t wrong. One reviewer on Untappd even said, “Tastes more like a slurpee than beer.”
Delicious! I don’t care, more of this single-batch brew for me.

This 9 per cent tastes like the mythical blue raspberry, and like that totally made up flavour, it’s tough to actually find. Since this is a single batch which is only available from October to December, it is in short supply. BCL’s don’t have it, but private liquor stores do. Look for the pretty purple label with the classic Warhead explosion. Or you can try your luck and get it directly from the source: Dead Frog Brewery in Langley.

With a cloudy pinkish hue, this beer pairs well with confidence, or crippling shame. Enjoy it while you nostalgically ponder where the time has gone, and how you’ve suddenly become this craft beer drinking hipster. Remember when beers were only from a can and guzzled at slightly above room temperature because you had been holding it in your sweaty hands for so long? Ah, the good old days. At least this drink will remind you of the candy that no one actually enjoyed as a child. Mmm sour…


Tofino Brewing – Kelp Stout

If you like the tried and true…

Justin Scott, Contributor

I was in Tofino last weekend and re-visited one of my favourite breweries. Tucked away in an industrial area outside the heart of Tofino, there’s a brewery sharing the destination’s name. I had just finished a hike earlier and was meeting some friends at Tofino Brewing. When I pulled into the parking lot though, everything was different. The tasting area had moved to the other side of the lot which left me momentarily confused. Luckily, their staple beers haven’t changed and they’ve expanded with new ones as well. But, even with the new beers on the menu, I knew what beer I was ordering before I even walked in.

While many beers are enjoyable throughout the entire year, certain brews are more seasonally appropriate than others. When the West Coast’s dark and cold winters role around, it always means one thing – it’s dark beer time. Be it a dark ale, porter or stout, these darker and heavier selections are like a warm and cozy winter sweater or blanket in a glass. Even though Tofino had a new selection of adventurous and creative selections, their Kelp Stout is like the worn-in wool of your favorite sweater. There’s always something special about going back to your favourite pint of winters past. Brewed with kelp from the Tofino area, this dark and smooth stout has a nice mixture of chocolate and caramel notes with some saltiness from the sea. Sitting at 6 per cent, it’s not too strong but is still full bodied and leaves nothing to be missed. It’s also not as kelpy as some may think. By no means does it transport your palate to a specific area of the sea in the way an oyster would, but it does have a unique character to it that is undoubtedly due to its unique ingredient. Tofino’s Kelp Stout only comes in bombers and can be found at your local liquor store.

As with just about anything this time of year, this beer will probably be enjoyed best in a warm and comfortable environment like a dimly lit pub or the comfort of your couch. Or of course, the beach with some kelp right by your feet.


Townsite Brewing – Biere d’Hiver

If you actually know what you’re talking about…

Andy Rice, Contributor

Clocking in at an impressive 7.5 per cent ABV with a fair amount of residual sugar, Townsite’s Biere d’Hiver packs quite a wallop. Five years ago, this beer was reserved for only the thirstiest of travellers willing to make the five-hour pilgrimage up the Sunshine Coast to get it. Back in the days when the only way to lay your hands on a bottle was to drive up to Powell River, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have actually driven back. These days, however, you can find Townsite Brewing’s formidable Biere d’Hiver at bars and liquor stores throughout the Lower Mainland.

Pouring a rich mahogany colour, this winter warmer is full of dried fruits and molasses on the nose. A medium body and crisp carbonation satisfy the palate, giving way to a balanced and unique flavour that stands out among many of the other seasonal brews on the market today.

Whereas Granville Island’s Winter Ale goes for velvety smoothness with chocolate and vanilla, and Russell’s Naughty and Spiced Porter serves up a liberal dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg, Townsite’s Biere d’Hiver sends a 400-pound Sugar Plum Fairy tobogganing onto your tastebuds.

Your standard brown ale base has been transformed with the addition of Candi sugar, a Belgian ingredient hand-made for each batch by brewmaster Cédric Dauchot himself. Dageraad tends to get all the love for its Belgian-style beers in this province, but only Townsite can boast a bonafide Belgian brewmaster in its facility.

Caramel and toffee flavours take centre stage in this Biere d’Hiver, along with toasted nuts and plenty of plummy goodness. A hint of spice lingers in the background, though very nuanced and understated behind the malt and hop profile. The finish is another surprise – slightly funky and acidic, even mildly redolent of balsamic vinegar or sour cherries. If you can, try to find this beer on tap as the bottled version tends to be a bit metallic. And be sure to play around with different serving temperatures, as new characteristics emerge whenever warmth or cold is added.

This beer will undoubtedly get even stronger the longer you leave it in your cellar, and over time its plummy flavours will darken up into something more pruney and raisiny. If you’re looking to medicate your holiday blues or attempt to be a little jollier around the in-laws, this may be the beer for you.

And speaking of in-laws, a bit of saltiness would really work well to offset the syrupy stone-fruit flavours of this beer. For a snack, this would be excellent with a wheel of brie and some soda crackers or a warm pretzel. Or, grill yourself a juicy ribeye and finish it with butter and a squeeze of lemon. A simple spinach salad topped with strawberries, almonds and fresh goat cheese would be another winning combination.

Biere d’Hiver is available in select private liquor stores for around $8 a bottle.


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