I have to say that I was pretty excited when I got the invite to collaborate with this group of British Columbia craft beer bloggers. The beer culture on our western coast is something for all of us to aspire to. Just looking at all of the dedicated bloggers out there gives you an idea of how popular their local craft brewing scene is. The idea behind this collaboration is for each blogger (West Coast Beer Geek, Mike’s Craft Beer, Dennis the Foodie, me &The BeerRater ) to choose 3 winter seasonal releases that we’re excited about. Since I am an Albertan my choices will come from our microbreweries. I should warn you that at the time of writing this one of my choices has not been released yet; I’m just really excited to check it out!
An Old Favourite
Albertans have been drinking away the frigid temperatures with a glass of Wild Rose Cherry Porter since 2003. The idea for it was first conceived by Mike Tymchuk, one of the original founders. In my mind Mike was eating a slice of black forest cake when he came up with the idea to create this recipe. The taste of chocolate & slight coffee notes from the roasted malts mixed with a hint of cherries is like having a creamy version of this birthday party classic. You could even argue that the slight smokiness was inspired by a low burning birthday candle 😉
During the first few years of its release the Cherry Porter was hard to come by. The limited quantity was snatched off of the shelves pretty quickly by local beer geeks who were in the know. Wild Rose Brewery has since increased the production of this seasonal so that more of us can indulge in a pint or two throughout the long cold season. In fact this year marks the first year that it was brewed in their new ginormous brewing facility down in the foothills industrial sector. Even though there is much more cherry porter being brewed these days this has not had a negative effect on the beer’s popularity; it is still their #1 selling seasonal according to Director of Brewery Operations, Brian Smith.
An interesting fact about this beer is that it has a direct link between Alberta and BC. The blend of sweet & sour cherries used in the porter all come directly from our western neighbours. This is good to know because anyone who has spent time in the Okanagan valley during the summer knows that the best cherries come from that region. They definitely leave their mark on the beer as well, just let it warm up slightly and you will be able to appreciate the interplay of flavours.
A Winter Ale for Calgarians
“Creating Community-Focused Craft Beer” is the slogan that Bearhill Brewing Co. uses to describe their philosophy on craft beer. This is applied to all of their brewpubs, including the latest addition in Calgary, Last Best Brewing & Distilling. So when Director of Brewery Operations, Phil Brian, set out to brew a winter ale he wanted to brew one that Calgarians could call their own. This traditional winter seasonal should feel right at home in YYC where the temperature has dropped significantly and snow has already made its appearance.
The grain bill includes some crystal malt to impart a hint of burnt toffee and dark fruit (think raisins); plus it gives the beer a copper-like colour. The use of biscuit malts lend the ale a flavour of freshly baked biscuits. In addition to this, Belgian candy sugar was thrown into the mix to raise the ABV (it hovers around 8%) and add a little more sweetness.
The defining characteristic of a winter ale lies in the brewmaster’s use of spices to balance the beer. This is also where brewers get to play around to create their own take on the style. In this case cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, vanilla & nutmeg was used to cut the residual sweetness and round out the heavy malt character. Balance in beer can be bliss and when it comes to winter ales spices are the weapon of choice to achieve it.
A Stout That’s White, Can That Be Right?
A stout that’s not dark, sounds a little strange eh? Well the amiable geeks at Tool Shed Brewing Co decided to tackle this one to prove that it can be done.
A white stout is meant to be a beer that has roasted flavour and a thick, creamy head but with a white appearance. The problem with white stouts is that there is generally no roasted unmalted barley (a defining characteristic of a stout) in the grain bill because this would cause the beer to take on a dark colouration.
Well Graham & Jeff found a way to get around this road block. They discovered that it’s possible to get a distillate of coffee (they’re obsessed with this bean, remember?!) This clear liquid has all of the flavour that you would get from a nice cup of black coffee. They figured that if you can make a distillate of coffee then you could do one for roasted barley as well. This would allow them to give the beer the desired roasted & coffee flavours but not add any dark colouration to the appearance. Problem solved.
Besides being a white stout this will also be something of a milk stout since they will be using lactose to add a little more sweetness to the beer. A white milk stout, sounds pretty cool eh? But that’s not all. They will also be spicing up the stout with the mixuture of spices that you would normally find in eggnog, that thick, creamy, heavy & boozy (at least when I make it) Christmas drink. Since cream is used to make eggnog this will essentially be a white eggnog stout, how festive is that?
Graham & Jeff filled me in on the name that they will be giving it during our conversation. They will be calling it Thriller after Michael Jackson. After all it’s supposed to be black but looks white, they will not be altering the nose though so it should smell just like a good stout should 🙂
If you guys are interested in more tips about winter seasonals from the west coast check out the next article in this BC Beer bloggers series from The BeerRater.