It’s that time of year again. Days are getting shorter and chillier, nights are getting darker, and Seasonal Affective Disorder is settling into our bones like Irish damp. Fortunately our ancestors were prepared for this time of year and made festivals of light, love and sharing – Christmas and advent among them. Which means it’s also time for something I get excited for every year – my annual beer advent calendar!
Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and while for some that might mean getting wasted on dubious green beer, for me it’s an opportunity to pay homage to one of the many cultures that make up my heritage. I mean, I’ll still wear green, but I won’t wear one of those head bands with the little clovers on springs. Moderation, people.
Here are some beverages on my weekend sample menu. If you’re feeling particularly celebratory or, like me, have some Irish blood in there somewhere, I encourage you to give these a go.
It’s mid-February and winter weather has finally arrived in my corner of the world. This means we’re all most likely feeling the drag of another cold winter. Since my birthday is during the cold months I feel a personal imperative to love the season but I have to say that even I need some encouragement to make it all the way to spring.
Whether you’re hibernating like whoa, taking outdoor winter activities by storm or, like me, hygge-ing it up huge, here are some beverage recommendations (wine and beer!) that should help see you through to the other side of winter.
I thought about it. I hemmed and hawed and wondered if it was worth going there again. And in the end I realized that, yes, I did want to go through it again. For all its ups and downs, it was a good time.
And so, I present to you –
Beer Advent Calendar 2016
That’s right, folks, we’re doing it again! Advent Calendar part two: electric boogaloo. Also known as ‘an excuse to enjoy new beers while also getting into the holiday spirit’.
This time around I put a bit more thought into building the list of beers to include. I’m a little IPA-ed out so I focused more on stouts and porters this year – more malt and less hops was the driving factor for this year’s group. As with last year (and my regular beer consumption) I focused mostly on Ontario craft beers, with some special guest stars from countries whose beers I quite enjoy (England, Belgium) and some beers I picked up on some recent travels to New York State.
So, without further ado, here is this year’s list.
The starred beers are ones I’ve never tried before.
The Mayan Chocolate Chipotle is another international inclusion (from England) but I didn’t realize that until after I’d taken photos, so it gets lumped in with the other stouts and porters.
Royal City Brewery is one of my favourite craft breweries, and is run by a guy I went to university with. If you see their stuff in the LCBO or find yourself in the Guelph area I highly recommend checking them out.
I anchored some specific beers on the more special days (Christmas Eve and Day, December 21st, weekend days) and then filled in the gaps, making sure not to have two similar beers on back to back days. The idea is to keep comparison low so I enjoy everything as much as possible.
Despite putting it together myself I don’t remember which beer is on which day, with a couple of notable exceptions.
Sadly, while writing this post I had a beer casualty. I was woken up by a loud bang one night to discover that the top of the can holding the Resurgence Sponge Candy Stout has blown clear off, leaving beer oozing over my floor. Sad, just judging by how it smelled as I cleaned it up (BAD) I think I dodged a bullet there.
January 24th was the first anniversary of the first post here on Palate Practice. That feels like a big accomplishment! I decided to celebrate it in a truly fitting way (parade, day of honour – the usual), but as I got out my bunting materials and bucket of ticker tape I thought, “you know, this doesn’t feel right”.
So instead of having yet another public festival celebrating my accomplishments, I started thinking of all the things I learned and experienced over the course of this first year of blogging.
A short-list of lessons learned
I don’t know nearly as much about wine and beer as I thought I did
I’m ok with that
I’m excited to learn more
I have so many more ideas than I thought I would
I can do it! I can keep this up for an entire year!
And that last lessons brings me to the second part of this post – help me learn more about you! Below is a link to a short survey (shouldn’t take you longer than 5 minutes) where I hope you’ll share with me your thoughts on the blog, what you like or (gasp!) don’t like, and what you want to read about in the future. Because one thing is certain: I’m not leaving this blog any time soon.
And, in case I forget to say it later, THANK YOU. Thank you (yes, you) for your support, for your comments, and for reading anything I’ve written here! I can’t wait to keep writing, and I hope you’ll keep reading.
Living in Toronto, I have the pleasure of experiencing all four seasons and, being January, we’re properly into winter now.
Lots of people complain about winter and I wonder if they’re just looking at it wrong. Yes, it’s cold and slushy and sometimes gross outside. Some days the wind is so cold and biting I can barely take a breath! But wearing layer upon layer and braving the cold just makes coming in to a warm home all the sweeter. Sure, winter makes you work for it, but it’s worth it in the end.
And there are lots of great things about braving the season too. The cold, grey days and even colder nights offer a great opportunity to cozy up on the couch with a soft throw and a hearty beer. Unlike summer, when crisp lagers and wheat beers hit the spot, in winter I look forward to heavier fare – browns, darks, stouts and porters.
Here are some beers I look forward to having this winter. Why don’t we try them together?
This beer is technically available year-round, but despite being a Scotch Ale (a beer not necessarily associated with colder weather) the talk of toastiness and caramel in the description make me think winter is it’s ideally-paired season. Interestingly, reviews of it on Untappd vary wildly, so I think I’ll reserve final judgement until after I have the chance to taste it. I’m still looking forward to giving it a go though.
Have you had this one before? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Keen home viewers might recognize this as the first beer from my advent calendar. December 1st was the first time I had the pleasure of enjoying this beer (a Munich-style Dunkel, to be specific), and enjoyed it so much that I’ve made a point to keep an eye out for it on tap over the last month. Surprisingly, I found I prefer it from a can as opposed to draft, which I almost always prefer. Maybe the place I where I had it on tap were pouring from an older (and flatter) keg though, so who knows? I’ll certainly give it another go on tap if and when I see it. And in the mean time I’ll enjoy it from a can at home.
Ok, seriously. The name alone! I’ve seen this guy in stores for at least a year and keep passing it by because of it’s price and volume – it’s not cheap, and apparently buying beer in large formats is the worst deal out there. But I’m still intrigued by this beer! So winter 2016 will be the time I finally pony up and try it.
Like the other beers in this post, I’m looking forward to trying this one for its described toastiness and its caramel, vanilla, spice, coffee/mocha, leather and earthy flavours. Sounds a bit like a wine, now doesn’t it? Time will tell whether I actually get all those flavours when I finally try it, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
This beer has been on my list since I saw it while buying beers for my beer advent calendar. I didn’t put it in the calendar because it’s 650mls and that felt a bit too indulgent for a daily advent beer. So instead I filed it away into that little part of my brain marked ‘beers to try later’. Well, it’s later! The rest of this week is forecasted to be quite chilly so I think I’ll pick up a bottle and see how I like it.
This beer is super dark and inky – it’s almost black, really. It’s also brewed with cinnamon, which explains why it’s name points toward the Christmas season. I’m really looking forward to trying it, and expect it to have a lovely full body along with a roasted and slightly spicy flavour. Let’s hope it delivers!
I love the winter solstice. Living in the northern hemisphere, each year on December 21st my world is plunged into darkness, giving me the chance to turn inward and reflect on the year, my accomplishments, and my goals and desires for the year ahead. I think many people use New Year’s Eve for this kind of thing, but to me the longest night of the year is the perfect time.
If you’re like me and look forward to curling up for a quiet night each December 21st, consider enjoying one of these fine beers while you take stock of your recent past and immediate future.
I know, I know, I’m becoming a broken record about this beer. But it’s just that good! The brewery says it’s the “perfect complement to comfort foods and cozy fires” which of course makes it a must-have on this list. I look forward to this winter seasonal every year – there is just something about it’s spicy-yet-subtly-sweet flavour and solid body that make it so satisfying. I promise I will stop talking about it once you’ve tried it.
Deal? Deal. Now get to your local LCBO and pick some up!
Royal City Brewing is a brewery close to my heart. Located in the town I spent my university days in (Guelph, Ontario) and started by a guy I knew while schooling myself there, Royal City is known for making great beers and naming them after iconic Guelph landmarks – one of the exceptions being their amazing Smoked Honey.
It is one part English Ale, one part German Smoked Ale, and all parts delicious. It’s smooth and balanced, with the perfect amount of smoke. I would especially recommend it if you’re wary of the smokey flavour, it’s a great way to be introduced to smoked ales. And man, does it ever go down easy.
Royal City’s Smoked Honey can be found at the brewery in Guelph and at select LCBOs in the Guelph area.
If you follow me on Untappd you know that I check in a lot of Stone City beers. I mean a lot. This fantastic brewery operates in my hometown and I make a point to visit every time I come home. I’ve even got my family in on it now! Seldom a visit goes by that someone doesn’t ask me when we’re going for a pint at Stone City. The people there are all so nice, and the beers are really great – I have yet to be disappointed by one of their brews.
I’ll be going home a few days for Christmas and can’t wait to pick up some beers, including their oatmeal stout, Ships in the Night. This beer is toasty and delicious, with flavours of chocolate and coffee. It’s an excellent dessert accompaniment (or dessert entirely!) and would definitely fit the bill as a drink to would warm you up on a cold winter’s night.
Like all their beers, Ships in the Night can only be found at the brewery. Guess you need to plan a trip to Kingston then. Sorry/not sorry.
This was the first beer in my advent calendar, and was such a welcome way to begin that adventure! It’s a Munich style dark lager that starts out sweet and then gets delightfully malty. It’s not too sweet, not too big and not too bitter, a comfy and cozy sipper. Which, of course, makes it perfect for the purposes of quiet winter contemplation. And, lucky for you, it’s widely available in the LCBO!
It’s probably no secret at this point that I love Beau’s beers. I’ve devoted entire posts to their mix packs, and I’m happy to tell you that they’ve re-released one of their stouts for another year. Matt’s Sleepy Time Stout is a Belgian-style imperial stout, which already makes me love it. It is super dark in colour (almost opaque, really) with a medium body, a nice, slightly roasted flavour and, according to the folks at Beau’s, a “lingering, warming alcohol finish”. Yum! Be careful with this guy though, he’s got 8% ABV.
And there you have it – five delicious suggestions for luxuriating in the darkness of the winter solstice. How will you be spending it?