I love seasonal beers. They pop up on the shelves of our local beer or liquor stores, arouse our curiosity, make us want to take them home. We do, and we either fall in love with them or we don't. If we don't, no problem: they won't be cluttering valuable shelf space for long.
But if we find a real treat, something we love, we only have a short time in which we can enjoy them. And so we make the most of them. Cherish them, because they won't be around for long.
So far this season, I haven't met a beer I didn't like. Lucky me!
My latest find, which I love, is one of those beers that I will cherish until I can no longer find it.
Winter BeardBracebridge, ONLCBO: $10.95, 750 ml; 8% alc/vol
What first drew my attention to this beer was the size of the bottle. You've gotta love a beer that comes in a vessel the size of a wine bottle. At 750 ml and eight-percent alcohol, you know that one bottle should do you. For now. Moderation, folks: please drink responsibly.
The bottle has a pop stopper (I think that's the technical term), so you can pour yourself an ample glass, replace the top, and preserve the fizz. And trust me: you're going to want to have this in a glass so that you can marvel at the rich, deep brown and red colours. Pouring this beer into a glass, you can sense the richness.
The folks at Muskoka Brewery are clever. On their Web site, they recommend that you serve this beer at 9°C. Having made the mistake in the past of drinking my beer when it was too cold, I took the bottle out of the refrigerator and let it sit for almost an hour before I opened it: still cool, but not chilled. At this temperature, I was able to appreciate the bouquet and smell the rich, dark chocolate. Made with roasted dark chocolate malts and 70% dark chocolate, this beer truly lives up to its name.
The chocolate carries through boldly on the palate, where you also feel the roasted malt. There is a faint burnt oak flavour that warms the mouth, most likely the higher alcohol. But the alcohol is tempered with the added cranberries, and so the alcohol on its own is not distinct; it blends well, leaving a nice, long finish with a hint of tart fruit.
This is a stout to enjoy with a hearty stew or a mild chili. This is also a winter beer to savour in front of a warm fire on a cold winter's night.
I'll be sure to do that, if I ever see one of those. Winter hasn't yet taken hold in Ottawa.