Cold crisp days and snowy nights mean rich, warm winter brews. It’s no secret that beer and ale drinkers have their seasonal favourites, and each season seems to have its own unique flavour palate. We are in the midst of a craft brewing boom, and here in York Durham Headwaters we are loving what our craft brewers are putting their creative minds to. Winter is a time of full-bodied flavours, so cuddle up with your favourite beer stein as we explore our top winter brews in YDH.
From The Second Wedge Brewery: Spice Factory Winter Warmer
This delectable brew is an annual favourite in Uxbridge. It is a spiced winter ale with a full body, rich malt character and warming spices like ginger, nutmeg, allspice, orange peel and cinnamon. “It’s like a warm hug,” says owner Joanne Richter. “We’re really happy it’s available through the LCBO this winter.”
At The Second Wedge, a great beer tastes good whatever the weather, but some beers have a warming effect. These are the beers we tend to gravitate to as the temperatures plunge. “Higher-alcohol, heavier-bodied beers with rich flavours really hit the spot after spending time outdoors in the winter,” Joanne explains. “These beers are also well suited to settling in for a long, cozy evening at home.”
Joanne and her staff love to hear all the positive feedback they regularly receive from their customers. “The seasonals are always fun because we can play with new flavours and techniques, or try something historical like an herbal beer,” she says. The Second Wedge’s first barrel-aged beer came out this winter. The Rain Barrel Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Porter is available only at the brewery. “It turned out great,” Joanne says. “So much complexity!”
The Second Wedge Brewing Co., 14 Victoria St., Uxbridge
From Rouge River Brewing Company: Never Say Never
This bourbon barrel-aged stout is released each November. With notes of bourbon, vanilla and dark chocolate, this 11.9% abv beverage is a hearty and rich beer sure to keep you warm through the winter.
For Rouge River brewmaster, Jordan Mills, it is fulfilling to have the freedom to experiment with recipes, and to tweak them constantly. “We educate our customers on how many variables there are in the brewing process and in the ingredients so that they can understand what it is we tweak when we try to improve our recipes,” he says. “Since we have always made different beers from our beginning, our customers are always on board for the next offering.”
Jordan also notes that while darker beers with higher alcohol content are well-loved during winter, staff at Rouge River Brewing Company find that customers enjoy sour beers, hops-forward IPAs and pale ales all year round. To provide a seasonal twist on these any-time favourites, Jordan likes to get creative. He says, “We enjoy using darker berry fruits for our sour beers in the winter such as raspberry, blackberry and cherry, and more tropical fruits in the summer.”
Rouge River Brewing Co., 50 Bullock Dr., #8, Markham
From Caledon Hills Brewing Company: Deadly Dark Lager
Caledon Hills knows that good winter brews are typically darker and more full-bodied. They are not beers that would be consumed quickly to quench a thirst from hot summer days. For winter warmers, Caledon Hills offers its Deadly Dark Lager. This brew is defined by its smooth, elegant and malty flavour. Its rich, mildly vanilla, roasted aroma has a nutty, sweet palate and a rounded finish with a hint of dark chocolate. “It looks like a British dark ale or porter, but with a typically clean Bavarian style,” says sales associate Monica Riedelsheimer.
Caledon Hills is the first family-owned local craft brewer in Caledon. For staff, being able to create and experiment is an enjoyable part of the job. “Seeing our customers’ reactions and receiving great feedback is what we strive for,” Monica says. “Knowing that we are creating lasting impressions makes this type of business exciting. Plus, our brewery has allowed us to play a large part in our community. Meeting and supporting local events and charities allows us to give back.”
Caledon Hills Brewing Co., Contact through website for retail location
Writer’s Pick: Peanut Butter Godiva from 5 Paddles Brewing
I would be remiss, as the writer of this post and a fan of local craft brewing, if I did not add a hat-tip to my all-time favourite winter brew. I’m a porter girl myself—the darker the better. I love spice, I love strength, and I love when I can stand a straw up in my brew. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not far off. Though I would happily while away a snowy winter afternoon in front of a roaring fire with any of the above delicious brews, my favourite winter local craft beverage of all time is the Peanut Butter Godiva. This creation from the gentlemen at 5 Paddles Brewing in Whitby tastes exactly the way it sounds. I don’t need dessert with this decadent drink.
And, I mean, I would recommend it to anyone that loves a mouthful of heaven on a cold winter’s eve… but then there would be less for me, so I’m not going to.
5 Paddles Brewing Co., 1390 Hopkins St., #3, Whitby
What do you think?
Did we land on your top winter brew? Leave a comment for us or tweet us at @VisitYDH and let us know what your favourite winter brew is from York Durham Headwaters!
Story by Katherine Ryalen