With winter weather fast approaching, and the holiday season not far behind it, the LCBO is raring to fill Torontonians’ days with good cheer, courtesy of its winter craft beer release and 2012 holiday gift pack. These are the kinds of heavier, malty brews that start to get a lot more appealing as the temperature dips. Some—like the Amsterdam Tempest and the Great Lakes Black IPA—are on shelves now, while the rest will start appearing over the next few weeks (as always, check the LCBO website for availability at your local store). Below, we preview nine of our favourites:
Amsterdam TempestFortunately for those of us who missed this crowd favourite at Cask Days, bottles are now on select LCBO shelves. Dark roast coffee, dark chocolate and a hint of smoke are followed by malty sweetness and licorice with a dry, hoppy finish.
Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Bier
Along with the Ayinger Celebrator from the fall release, this is one of the better examples of the Dopplebock style: a strong German-style lager, full-bodied and rich with malty sweetness, notes of caramel and raisins and a warming 14 per cent alcohol.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate StoutOne of the best deals of the season at $2.80 a bottle, this Russian imperial stout uses three mashes and a blend of roasted malts to give it its rich dark-chocolate flavour and inky opaque colour. Pair this one with rich desserts or strong cheeses.
Brouwerij Het Anker Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw
An intensely complex Belgian dark ale, this is a big beer with big flavours. Aromas of roasted malt, raisin, cherry and caramel just hint at its syrupy, almost port-like assault on the palate.
Great Lakes Brewery 25th Anniversary Imperial Black IPA
Black IPAs are a relatively new style of beer that marries the toasty dark malts you’d expect in a porter with the high quantities of hops characteristic of American IPAs. For this third creation in its series of 25th-anniversary brews, Great Lakes added hops late in the boil and again in the fermenter (dry hopping) to layer an intense 100 IBUs over notes of chocolate, coffee and anise. This one is surprisingly refreshing given its malty profile, but still appropriate as a cool weather warmer.
Howe Sound Brewing Pothole Filler Imperial Stout
Another Russian imperial stout, this one from British Columbia’s Howe Sound Brewing is made with six malts and molasses to give it an intensely roasted flavour with notes of chocolate and licorice.
St-Ambroise Vintage Ale 2012
Brewed once a year, this barley wine blends wheat and barley malts and Goldings hops for notes of butterscotch and caramelized fruit with a refreshing but still sweet finish. The 10 per cent alcohol can taste a little hot, but will mellow over time—this is a prime candidate for long-term cellaring (think two or three years).
Les Trois Mousquetaires Grand Cuvée Weizenbock 2012
A strong version of a German wheat beer, Weizenbock has a characteristic slight clove-like spice. This one from Québec’s Les Trois Mousquetaires is on the sweeter side, with aromas of blackberry and plum and flavours of caramel, raisin and candied fruit. Between its sweetness and its 11 per cent alcohol, this is a bottle that we recommend sharing.
Unibroue La TerribleThis Abbey-style Belgian dark ale from Québec’s Unibroue is rich with notes of plum, raisin, cherry and spices, and Madeira wine on the finish.