Seasonal Suds: Local brewers offer tasty winter flavours to help you get into the spirit this year

Beer and religion have always shared a close bond. The first commercial beer breweries were monasteries and, to this day, beers brewed by Trappist monks are considered some of the best in the world. Commercial breweries still make beers for lent (doppelbock). And they make beers for Christmas.

Christmas beer is not a defined style, with strict parameters around alcohol content and ingredients, but is a flavour ethos. What these beers lack in rules and brewing guidelines they make up for it with panache and flair. This is what makes them special.

Christmas beers tend to be higher in alcohol, darker in colour or made with extra flavourings, such as festive fruits and spices. If you are so inclined, these extra flavours make Christmas beers great for pairing with Christmas dinner.

In Calgary, Wild Rose Brewery started the trend with their (almost) annual Cherry Porter. But they are no longer the only ones brewing liquid cheer. Here is a round up of some of Calgary’s holiday brews.

Wild Rose Cherry Porter – The return of this perennial favourite unofficially marks the beginning of the holiday season for Calgary beer lovers. Cherry Porter is made with two types of cherries. Sour cherries are added during fermentation and sweet cherries are added during maturation. These provide ruby highlights to the dark brown beer, which is capped with a beautiful tan head. The aroma of cherries is instantly noticeable and serves as a wonderful accompaniment to the malty flavours of the base porter.

Dandy Dead Moon Night Imperial Stout – Another annual release comes from Calgary’s most culinary brewery. Dandy Brewing’s Dead Moon Night features a huge body, lots of dark chocolate flavour and notes of espresso. One of the beautiful things about this beer is that it will change over time, so you can buy a few cans of them, keeping them in your cellar to compare against future vintages. Kicking up to 10% ABV, this is a Dandy beer in more ways than one.

O.T. Penny Board Cherry and Cranberry Dark Sour – In case you have not been paying attention to Calgary’s beer scene, sour beers are super popular. These beers are often made by a process called kettle souring. The result of kettle souring is a clean, lactic acid tartness which, tartness aside, is a blank canvas upon which fruits are often added to paint additional aroma and flavour complexity. In the case of O.T. Brewing’s Penny Board, festive cherries and cranberries are added during fermentation to create an auburn-coloured sour ale with subtle fruit flavours. 5.8% ABV, but 100% festive.

Fitzsimmons Done and Dusted Chocolate Hazelnut Porter – Did you know they celebrate the holidays in Airdrie, too? Of course they do. Airdrie’s Fitzsimmons Brewing’s Done and Dusted started as an experiment to make a porter that tasted like a Christmas treat. Success! A well-balanced blend of chocolate, hazelnut, coffee, cinnamon, vanilla and lactose results in a truly joyful treat. This beer is well worth a trip to Calgary North.

This year, more than ever, we need some extra joy. These festive beers are perfect, single servings of joy, so stuff your stockings!

Don Tse has sampled over 23,000 different beers.  He is the Official Beer Taster for Craft Beer Importers Canada Inc. and Far Out Exporters Inc. which work with many of Alberta’s breweries.  It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.