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The Beer Diaries

Winter Guide

The holidays are over for another year, yet the air outside is still rather frightful. No matter what a fat rodent says, we'll be needing some strong, sturdy brews to help keep us warm for a little while yet, so here are our hopefully helpful suggestions.


What's Inside

Here are the beers in this guide. Click a link below to read the full beer review.

  • Grizzly Paw Winter Cranberry Ale

    Reviewed by on February 28, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Grizzly Paw Winter Cranberry Ale-landscape2

    Another cool result from having Grizzly Paw’s newish production brewery in Canmore pumping things out for the whole province. Made with, well, cranberries and ale. Sexy frozen bog imagery on the label too.  Now what was it that Denis Leary said about cranberries and beer? This 650ml bottle pours a pretty solid black, with subtle, […]

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  • Dilewyns Vicaris Winter 2012

    Reviewed by on February 27, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Dilewyns Vicaris Winter 2012-landscape

    The Vicaris Winter Ale recently arrived in Alberta, having been aged for a whole year for us beforehand. What a deal, eh? I suppose it remains to be seen what effect that may have had on it. This beer pours a very dark reddish-brown colour, with a teeming tower of puffy, silkenly foamy beige head, […]

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  • Beer Here Vinter Ale

    Reviewed by on February 26, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Beer Here Vinter Ale-landscape

    Beer Here is a gypsy (contract) brewer from Denmark, who make their beers at sites around Europe.  Vinter Ale is, of course, a winter ale, made with coffee and milk sugars, as well as a hefty dose of typically American hops.  And look at poor ol’ Frosty on the label – he just can’t seem […]

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  • Tree Spiced Reserve Ale

    Reviewed by on February 25, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Tree Spiced Reserve Ale-landscape

    The Reserve Ale is one of Tree Brewing’s winter seasonals.  No indication of what spices were actually employed here, other than ‘a special blend from the brewer’.  Guess it’s up to us to find out! This 650ml bottle pours a clear, rather dark orange brick amber colour, with one chubby finger of weakly puffy, and […]

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  • Grizzly Paw Moose Knuckle Winter Stout

    Reviewed by on February 24, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Grizzly Paw Moose Knuckle Winter Stout-landscape

    Grizzly Paw has begun producing and distributing more and more of their seasonal offerings, what with their still relatively new brewery on the outskirts of Canmore.  This apparently is brewed as an Irish-style oatmeal stout, and has a cheeky name and a mountain park tourist shop-worthy PG cartoon label. This 341ml bottle pours a solid […]

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  • Lighthouse Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on February 21, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Lighthouse Winter Ale-landscape

    Lighthouse is an eco-conscious brewery from Victoria, British Columbia, who have a stable of year-round offerings, as well as numerous seasonals, including this winter ale, initially made available only in the 2013 Craft Beer Advent calendar, at least in Alberta. This portly 355ml bottle pours a clear, very dark russet brown colour, with pervasive red […]

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  • Edelweiss Weissbier Snowfresh

    Reviewed by on February 20, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Edelweiss Weissbier Snowfresh-landscape

    Edelweiss Snowfresh is a wheat beer flavoured with alpine herbs, plucked from the sort of fields depicted in the Sound of Music, I gather.  There is indeed a nicely raised mountain range around the circumference of the low-slung label, which seems appropriate at a time of year when the major thoroughfares in the city are […]

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  • Samuel Adams Cold Snap

    Reviewed by on February 19, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Samuel Adams Cold Snap-landscape

    Cold Snap is Samuel Adams’ (the Boston Beer Company) winter 2014 seasonal offering, a witbier at that.  Given that it’s not just been we up here in the Great White North who’ve had to deal with the eponymous weather conditions these past few months, this is a gentle reminder of hopefully bygone days, at least […]

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  • d’Achouffe N’Ice Chouffe

    Reviewed by on February 18, 2014 in Winter Guide
    N-Ice Chouffe-landscape

    d’Achouffe is a small brewery in the Ardennes forest of southeastern Belgium, started in 1982, and now owned by the Duvel Moortgat group.  They make a range of Belgian-style beers, including this, their self-styled ‘dark winterbeer’, which has thyme and curaçao added to a strong dark ale recipe.  The label depicts their famous gnomes building […]

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  • Pyramid Snow Cap

    Reviewed by on February 12, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Pyramid Snow Cap-landscape

    Pyramid is an American west coast brewing company, active in Seattle, Portland, and Berkeley.  Owned by a large foreign beverage group, they enjoy relatively broad distribution, through most of the United States.  Snow Cap is their seasonal warmer, brewed in the English winter ale tradition. This 22oz bottle pours a clear, medium-dark bronzed amber colour, […]

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  • Fernie Snowblind

    Reviewed by on February 10, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Fernie Snowblind-landscape

    Brewed in the small eponymous mountain town in southeastern British Columbia, the Fernie Brewing Company recently celebrated its 10th year of operations, and is still a local family-run enterprise.  In addition to their main line of canned products, they have been releasing a number of large-format bottles as of late, such as this one, a […]

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  • Hopworks Abominable Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on February 5, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Hopworks Abominable Winter Ale-landscape

    The Hopworks brewery’s annual winter offering – they don’t add anything beyond a classic west coast upping of the hops and malt – besides, it doesn’t snow in Portland, does it? Cheers to the Dr. Suess-esque cartoon beast of the woods adorning this rather kitschy label. This 22oz bottle pours a clear, medium bronzed amber […]

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  • Central City Red Racer Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on February 4, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Red Racer Winter Ale-landscape

    Suburban Vancouver’s Central City Brewing has quickly built a reputation as the IPA-kings of Canada, and have made likewise inroads into the United States, all while packaging their wares in attractive throw-back aluminum cans, adorned with a cartoonish brunette riding the titular red bicyclette.  Here, we have their winter ale, and there’s our girl, in […]

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  • Mikkeller K:rlek Efterår/Vinter 2012

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Mikkeller K-rlek Winter 2012-landscape

    A season or two after their summer 2012 offering of a similar name, the “Efterår/Vinter” here translates to ‘fall/winter’, which indicates this as a late-season warmer for fans of Mikkeller’s brand of hopping the hell out of their typical wares. This 330ml bottle pours a cloudy, dull apricot amber hue, with three fat fingers of […]

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  • Fernie Black Mammoth Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Fernie Black Mammoth Winter Ale-landscape

    Christmas is over and done for another year, yet we are presented with another winter ale flavoured with orange and chocolate. Even though I’ve had enough of that particular combination to last until the end of 2013, as per usual, keep these winter beers a ‘comin, I say. This 650ml bottle pours a very dark […]

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  • Yukon Spiced Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Yukon Spiced Winter Ale-landscape

    Here we have batch number 2 in Yukon’s winter A.D.D. series, where their brewers try to branch out and try different things. Again, they’ve kept with the humorous and informative cardboard tube presentation. This 341ml bottle pours a clear, dark bronzed amber colour, with two puffy fingers of dense frothy beige head, which sinks away […]

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  • Whistler Winter Dunkel Brewery

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Whistler Winter Dunkel.-landscape

    A welcome arrival here in Alberta; if the stereotypical orange/chocolate combo is maybe a tad late, the generic winter association sure isn’t. And yes, yes I have ‘tried a Dunkelweizen’, as per the label’s admonitions. This 650ml bottle pours a clear, dark, yet bright red brick amber hue, with three fingers of puffy, thinly foamy […]

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  • Paddock Wood Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Paddock Wood Winter Ale.-landscapejpg

    Paddock Wood’s Belgian-style winter ale persists into a third year, now, with a particularly greater availability than in previous years. This 355ml bottle pours a clear, medium red-brick amber hue, with one finger of thinly foamy, runny beige head, which leaves a low island headland profile of lace around the glass as it hastily recedes.  […]

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  • Harviestoun Mr. Sno’balls

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Harviestoun Mr. Sno Balls-landscape

    A not entirely welcome reminder of the set in change of seasons ’round here in the Great White North. It also sounds a little too much like something a little girl would name her cat. This 330ml bottle pours a clear, dark rusty brown hue, with one skinny finger of thin, bubbly, foamy beige head, […]

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  • Fyne Ales Avalanche

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Fyne Avalanche-landscape

    A Scottish ale, produced with an excess of American style hops, and thus put forth in a wintery ‘avalanche’ theme. This 500ml bottle pours a hazy, very pale straw colour, with two fingers of thin foamy, rocky white head, which leaves a nice well spread, fuzzy web of lace around the glass as everything duly […]

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  • Leavenworth Navigator Doppelbock

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Leavenworth Navigator Doppelbock-landscape

    A nice outdoorsy, winter themed presentation, even if the base beer isn’t specifically tailored to the snowy grip currently held on we northern Albertans. This 650ml bottle pours a dark, clear, shiny redbrick hue, with two fingers of tight, dense foamy tan head, which leaves some bleeding arch lace around the glass as it evenly […]

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  • Nanoq Polaris Julebryg

    Reviewed by on February 3, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Nanoq Polaris Julebryg-landscape

    The first Greenlandic offering to grace the shelves of, well, I’m not hesitating to say, anywhere outside of Denmark and that frozen Danish colony itself. Beyond discerning that this is brewed with water extracted from Greenlandic ice, I’ve got nothing as far as cultural references go, so onto the drinking, eh? This 500ml bottle pours […]

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  • Trois Dames Fraîcheur Du Soir

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Trois Dames Fraicheur du Soir-landscape

    The 2011 edition, apparently a ‘blanche double malt’, which I take to mean something like an Imperial White Ale. The attendant winterscape ski imagery, for a wheat beer, is indeed odd, but hardly out of season, right now at least. This 750ml bottle pours a very cloudy golden white hue, with three fingers of thin […]

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  • Brooklyn Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Brooklyn Winter Ale-landscape

    The brewery claims this to be a Scottish-style ale, purportedly to account for the lack of spice additions during the brewing process. This 12oz bottle pours a clear, dark copperish amber hue, with two fingers of fizzy, tightly foamy beige head, which leaves but a few random specks and arches of wasting lace around the […]

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  • Fantôme – Hiver

    Reviewed by on January 31, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Fantome Hiver-landscape

    Brasserie Fantôme is noted for producing the saison style year-round, and as ‘hiver’ equals ‘winter’, of course, this is their holiday, end of year offering.  Beyond the name (and renown), the only other indicator of seasonal affiliation is the general listing of ‘spices’ in the specified ingredient list. This 750ml bottle pours a slight cloudy, […]

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  • Lost Coast Winterbraun

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Lost Coast Winterbraun-landscape

    Lost Coast has taken their regular brown ale, and amped it up with more caramel and chocolate malts, as well as a curious employment of imported Saaz hops. The label shows a Picasso-esque looking boarder displaying at least one option for getting outside and letting off some steam. This 22oz bottle pours a clear, deep, […]

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  • La Moneuse Special Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    La Moneuse Special Winter Ale-landscape

    Brasserie de Blaugies claims to be Belgium’s smallest family-owned brewery, one run out of their garage, at that.  The winter ale is based on their regular saison, made ‘extra rich’ for the holiday season – that is all they deemed necessary in terms of off the shelf marketing. This 750ml bottle pours a hazy, dark […]

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  • Dead Frog Winter Beeracle

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Dead Frog Winter Beeracle-landscape

    Last year, Dead Frog offered up their Christmas Beeracle release for the holiday season.  Now, they’ve got a new name, new recipe, and new ABV, so it seems fair enough to assume that this is somewhat of a new beer for the waning days of 2012. This 650ml bottle pours a clear, dark bronzed amber […]

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  • Rhinelander Bad Hare Winter Bock

    Reviewed by on January 30, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Rhinelander Bad Hare Winter Bock-landscape

    Rhinelander appears to be a marketing company who are promoting their beers as traditional rustic Germanic offerings (in this case a winter bock) from the deep, dark woods of northern Wisconsin, when in reality, they are brewed by every craft beer fan’s greatest monster, the Minhas Craft Brewery. I’ll let you insert the quotes where […]

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  • Okanagan Spring Mild Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Okanagan Spring Mild Winter Ale-landscape

    A microbrewery that was bought out by the Sleeman/Sapporo in 1996, and continues to produce German-styled favourites in the northern stem of the wine-soaked Okanagan Valley. This 341ml bottle pours a clear, dark bronzed amber hue, with two fingers of puffy, tightly foamy beige head, which leaves some decent tree branch lace around the glass […]

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  • Granville Island Lions Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Granville Island Lions Winter Ale-landscape

    Granville Island Brewing started out as a microbrewery in the bustling tourist area of Vancouver that bears its name. They have since expanded production into a facility farther east, and became part of the Molson/Coors conglomerate in 2009, which gave them a huge shot in the arm, distribution-wise. Now about this beer – its name […]

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  • Samuel Adams Winter Lager

    Reviewed by on January 21, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Samuel Adams Winter Lager-landscape

    Samuel Adams’ annual winter lager offering is a bock, brewed with orange peel. Here in Canada, for some continuing reason, we get the Swedish and English label info. Not sure why that is, but it certainly a welcome sight to see these 6-packs at this time of year. This 355ml bottle pours a clear, medium […]

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  • Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Howe Sound Father Johns-landscape

    We in select North American markets receive a 1L resealable, homebrew-friendly bottle, with a nicely hearty, pipe-toting 19th century Santa figure adorning the label, along with plenty of descriptive text concerning the brewery’s history and methodologies. This beer pours a clear, dark golden amber colour, with three fingers of creamy, puffy off-white head, which leaves […]

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  • Nøgne Ø Sunturnbrew

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Nogne O Sunturnbrew-landscape

    A 500ml bottle, a beer brewed in Norway to mark the ‘turning of the sun’ on the winter solstice, December 21st. I do like the sage-appearing Inuit/Laplander with the old-school futuristic shades depicted on the label. This beer pours a murky, dark reddish brown colour, with one finger of dense, tight foamy beige head, which […]

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  • Tree Vertical Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on January 20, 2014 in Winter Guide
    Tree Vertical Winter Ale-landscape

    A 330ml bottle, part of the six packs now available in addition to its presence in Tree’s winter combo pack. This beer pours a clear medium copper hue, with three fingers of foamy, puffy off-white head, which leaves some high-strung cloud ceiling lace around the glass as it lazily settles. It smells of vanilla, biscuity […]

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  • Fish Winterfish

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Fish Winterfish-landscape

    An apparently well-hopped dark, roasted malt winter warmer, from the Fish Brewpub in bucolic Olympic, Washington, the state capital, nestled at the southernmost end of Puget Sound. I recommend anyone check it out should they be in the neighborhood. This beer pours a mildly hazy, medium apricot amber hue, with a few fingers of foamy, […]

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  • Solstice D’hiver

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    DDC Solstice D-hiver-landscape

    ‘The Winter Solstice”, en francais. The barren, leaf-less spindly tree on the label drives that point home in a manner akin to the climate outside right now. Dieu de Diel has national distribution, in Canada, as well as in the United States. This beer pours a dark over-steeped tea colour, with two fingers of puffy […]

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  • Nelson Faceplant Winter Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Nelson Faceplant-landscape

    This is the Nelson Brewing Company’s winter seasonal offering, which comes in six-packs of 355ml cans. The label just screams out for a wintertime dalliance on a local or 6-hour drive ski-hill. The beer itself pours a crystal clear, dark brassy amber hue, with two fingers of tight foamy beige head, which leaves a low […]

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  • Whistler Valley Trail Chestnut Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Whistler Chestnut Ale-landscape

    An offering perhaps to save for lounging around a toasty winter fireplace, even though the label marketing suggests this as a fall accompaniment. Uses for this particular eponymous roasted nut span the two seasons, and it’s available now, so that’s that. This 650ml bottle pours a deep, brick-like ruddy amber hue, with two fingers of […]

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  • Innis & Gunn Winter Treacle Porter

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Innis & Gunn Winter Treacle Porter-landscape

    Innis & Gunn, those venerable Scottish oak-aging enthusiasts are at it again with their latest offering, called ‘Winter Treacle Porter’ in shipments to Canada, where it comprises part of the usual I&G giftpack, and is now sold separately, like batteries, I suppose. A 330ml bottle, their first attempt at a porter, to which they’ve added […]

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  • Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Samuel Smiths Winter Welcome-landscape

    Based in Yorkshire, Samuel Smith was established in 1758, is still independent and creates some very delicious beers. Every Fall, one of the highlights is their Winter Welcome Ale, another Winter Warmer in our ongoing Holiday Seasonal Beer series. Winter Welcome Ale pours a clear amber ale with a big bubbly head that quickly compresses […]

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  • Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Anderson Valley Winter Solstice-landscape

    An unusual serving for this sort of affair, a 12oz can, but one may forgive such a thing when it comes from this venerable Northern California brewery, set in the picturesque Anderson valley north of the Bay Area, whose employment of the native Bootling dialect is clearly evident on the label. First off, the can […]

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  • Muskoka Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout 2012

    Reviewed by on in Winter Guide
    Muskoka Winter Beard-landscape

    While this beer technically isn’t a holiday release, it’s definitely a Winter beer that’s been released for the holiday season. And with the inclusion of Cranberry, it’s hard to keep it out of this article. It appears to be defined best as an American Double Stout; these beers tend to be big and robust, chocolatey […]

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