Best BC Winter Beers

BC's growing crop of talented craft brewers love to brew specialty seasonal beers, and this winter features some of their best yet

Darker days mean darker beers, and BC microbreweries have many flavourful options on offer. Battle the cold with one of these cold ones

Cold weather generally means darker brews for beer lovers. And these darker, maltier ales and porters are often flavoured with chocolate, Christmas spices, or baking ingredients like vanilla, brown sugar and molasses. Here are 8 of BC’s best winter beers to enjoy this season.

Bière d’Hiver (7.5% ABV ) — Townsite Brewing, Powell River

Powell River’s Townsite Brewing opened less than a year ago but it has already established a great reputation thanks to Belgian brewer Cédric Dauchot’s consistently excellent brews. His Bière d’Hiver, a rich, dark brown ale in limited release, will warm you down to your toes. Although no chocolate or spice was added (just fairy dust according to the label), it has a chocolaty nose and a slightly spicy finish.

Blitzen Winter Ale (9% ABV) — Steamworks, Vancouver

Vancouver brewpub Steamworks recently began bottling its beers, which is great news for BC beer lovers who can now enjoy its delicious lineup all around the province. Blitzen is a delicious and potent Belgian Golden Ale that doesn’t resemble a winter beer—it’s pale golden in colour—but it packs a punch, both in terms of alcohol and flavour thanks to the spicy Belgian yeast. The champagne-like finish cleanses the palate nicely, leaving you wanting another sip right away.

Gratitude — Hoyne Brewing (9% ABV), Victoria

It took Sean Hoyne more than 20 years to open his own shop after starting his brewing career at Swans brewpub in 1989. After opening Hoyne Brewing late in 2011, he spent his first year in business working flat out to keep the beer flowing to his very thirsty customer base (check out the lineup for his growler taps on a Saturday for proof of his popularity). So, when it came time to brew a winter beer, Hoyne chose to say thanks. Wrapped in Christmas-themed paper, Gratitude has the most creative packaging of any BC beer this year, and what’s inside the bottle lives up to that promise. It’s delicious, smooth and malty.

Winter Beeracle (7.5% ABV) — Dead Frog Brewery, Aldergrove

This is the only vanilla-infused winter beer on this list, even though there are several on the market right now. Winter Beeracle is creamy and malty, the vanilla is subtle, and the orange peel gives it a nice bitter edge that is different from typical hop bitterness. Dead Frog is undergoing a bit of an identity shift, trying to improve its image within the craft beer scene, and this revised beer (which used to be called the Christmas Beeracle) is part of that shift.

Black Christmas CDA (6.5% ABV) — Parallel 49 Brewing, East Vancouver

Another new brewery that has been getting lots of attention, and justifiably so, Parallel 49 opened in East Vancouver last spring. Brewer Graham With is a nonconformist—many of his brews offer a unique twist on established styles. This winter seasonal is no exception; if anything, as a Cascadian Dark Ale or a Black IPA, it’s a bit of an anti-Christmas beer, being much more hop-forward than any other beer on this list. But if you are a hophead, then this will keep you from going into hop withdrawal this winter.

Hermannator Ice Bock (9.5% ABV) — Vancouver Island Brewery, Victoria

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this winter, Hermannator was first brewed in 1987 as a Christmas present for friends of the brewery. Since then, it has become an annual tradition that beer lovers look forward to with great anticipation. An unusual German style called an “Eisbock,” it is frozen at the end of the brewing process, which removes some of the water content of the beer and elevates the alcohol content. The result is a rich, dark lager that will warm you from the inside out.

Blackberry Porter (6.5% ABV) — Cannery Brewing, Penticton

Penticton’s Cannery Brewing makes a wide range of great beers, including a few that involve fruit, which makes good sense considering its Okanagan location. This rich, creamy, dark beer has all the great roasted malt character of a strong porter along with a big blackberry nose and just a hint of berry sweetness in the background of the beer. Perfect for sipping in front of a fire on a cold winter’s night.

Black Mammoth Winter Ale (8% ABV) — Fernie Brewing, Fernie

This beer hasn’t been released yet, but it's worth mentioning here because it's expected to be delicious. Celebrating Fernie Brewing’s 10th anniversary, this is a dark ale brewed with added organic cocoa and curacao orange peel, aged on oak to add smoothness and complexity. Après ski anyone?