Why Winter Warmer when local craft beers offer tastier way to make long, cold nights in Alberta a little cozier?

My oft-stated preference is for beer-flavoured beer. I’m pretty A-OK with hops and malt alone throwing off whatever lovely flavours hops and malt may throw.

Come fall and winter, brewers feel a need to add various additional flavours to their beers — coffee, spices, fruits — generally, darker in flavour, as if to remind us that precious little daylight exists. Sigh.

Currently, many craft beers borrow the term “Winter Warmer” as their style designation. But, what is a Winter Warmer? Beer Advocate identifies Winter Warmer as a unique style. The BJCP guidelines do not, although “British Strong Ale” and “Old Ale” are similar, perhaps mixed with “Spiced Beer” or “Fruit Beer.” American Craft Beer seems to have nailed it most accurately by stating, “… the term Winter Warmer is a generic label used to describe many winter seasonals.”

If I’m in the mood for a boozy, dark beer on a cold, winter night, I’d rather reach for a local or international beer like an Imperial Stout or a Baltic Porter or a Doppelbock. If the term “chocolate milkshake beer” is appealing, so should you!

Here are a couple of Alberta-brewed choices to get you started on the path to a warm belly and happy tastebuds with a richer beer-based tipple.

• Wild Rose Cherry Porter: Yeah, I know, contradiction, but this delectable delight is only available once a year and makes for a luxurious sipping experience. Get it while you can!

• Blindman Ichorous Imperial Stout: This is an 11% monster, so you may wish to obtain it somewhere like The Beer Vault in northeast Calgary that sells singles. Enjoy this decadent treat in moderation or risk a hazy morning after.

(Photo from the Blindman Brewing Facebook page.)

Jay Nelson is a beer geek, not snob, who has written for a small number of mostly forgotten publications, in a wildly erratic manner, since being named the Editorial Editor of his High School newspaper. He is a non-award winning home brewer and a non-BJCP certified judge, although he aspires to both.