Winter Beers: the top 10 craft beers hitting LCBO shelves this season
Winter beers are generally bigger, bolder and sweeter than their warm-weather counterparts. The LCBO’s seasonal release, which will be trickling out in stores over the next few months, is one of the most impressive we’ve seen in years. (There are tons of amazing Belgian bottles, several of which are listed below.) Here, the top 10 brews of the season.
Brasserie Dupont avec Les Bons Voeux
$25.00 | 1500 mL | 9.5% ABV
Magnums of Les Bons Voeux (full, translated name: “With the Best Wishes of the Brewery Dupont”) were introduced in 1970, when they were sold exclusively to the Belgian brewery’s most loyal customers. The bottle-conditioned saison, which packs flavours of yeast, clove, honey, citrus and black pepper, is now available commercially in limited supplies. It’s well worth sampling.
Brouwerij Het Anker Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw
$7.80 | 750 mL | 11% ABV
This intensely complex Belgian dark ale is a big beer with big flavours. It’s got aromas of roasted malt, raisin, cherry and caramel, and a syrupy, almost port-like flavour profile. Bottles are drinkable now, but would also benefit from a year in the cellar to allow the flavours to soften and integrate.
De Koningshoeven La Trappe Quadrupel
$7.75 | 750 mL | 10% ABV
Forego the Christmas pudding and opt for this Dutch quadruple instead. Banana dominates, with dates, baking spices, brown sugar, dark chocolate, almond and caramel all balanced against a warming 10 per cent ABV.
New Holland Dragon’s Milk
$7.75 | 650 mL | 10% ABV
Aged for 120 days in barrels previously used to age bourbon, this imperial stout displays notes of wood and whiskey, along with hints of vanilla, butterscotch and chocolate.
Brasserie Rochefort Trappistes 10
$3.85 | 330 mL | 11.3% ABV
This Belgian quadruple may be the best value you’ll find at the LCBO this season. It’s full of plum, raisin and black currant flavours, and has a complex vinous quality.
Brouwerji Rodenbach Vintage
$9.95 | 750 mL | 7% ABV
Rodenbach blends young and old Flanders red ales in a 1:2 ratio to make its Grand Cru, which is one of the finest sour beers in the world. The Vintage release, which is far more limited, comes from a single barrel that’s been aged for two years. Complex, intense and refreshing, the wine-like beer balances notes of tart green apples and cherries with sweet caramel, oak and a touch of vanilla. (Take note: beer geeks will be buying this one by the case.)
Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Classic
$4.75 | 330 mL | 14% ABV
This rich, full-bodied German-style lager is one of the better examples of the Dopplebock style. It’s got a warming 14 per cent ABV and sweet notes of caramel and raisin, making it a good option for sipping along with (or instead of) dessert. It’s only brewed once a year, and each batch is aged for ten months before bottling. (We recommend letting it age for another year or so before drinking.)
St Bernardus Mixed Pack
$18.95 | 6 x 330 mL
Among the LCBO’s many holiday gift packs, this introduction to abbey ales is a clear standout. It includes a bottle each of St Bernardus’s Wit, Watou Tripel, Tripel, Pater 6, Prior 8 and Abt 12 beers. The same pack regularly sells for over $30 in the U.S.
Smuttynose Imperial Stout
$8.95 | 650 mL | 8.7% ABV
This big imperial stout packs flavours of vanilla, dark chocolate, coffee, licorice and dried fruit, while the blend of Cascade, Centennial and Columbus hops delivers a dry and bracing finish. Enjoy these bottles straight away, or give the hops six months to soften and mellow.
Brouwerji der Trappisten van Westmalle Dubbel
$3.45 | 330 mL | 6.9% ABV
This classic example of the Belgian dubbel style has sweet flavours of banana, date, raisin and syrupy molasses, plus a touch of peppery spice.