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'Tis the season for...winter beer

Staff writers
November 14, 2012 — Do you enjoy the sights and sounds of winter? What about the taste? A local brewery in British Columbia says the winter months are a great time to brew seasonal beer.

Seasonal beers are a tradition from hundreds of years ago.
Seasonal beers are a tradition from hundreds of years ago.

Falling leaves and cooler temperatures could only mean one thing. Winter is on the way.  

And while some Canadians may dread the arrival of wintery weather, breweries say it's the perfect time to brew different seasonal beers.

"Seasonal beers are really quite traditional," says Vern Lambourne, Brewmaster at Granville Island Brewing in Vancouver. "I think, really, when you look back, it stems from the fact that in the summer months, especially in continental Europe, you couldn't brew because there was no refrigeration."

He adds that prior to refrigeration and weather technology, brewers would start making stronger, heavier beers between March and May that would keep over the summer months.

According to Lambourne, the changes involved during harvest time however, can offer plenty of opportunities for crafting quality, winter beer.

"There's all this new grain and new hops and whatnot to play with, so it gives us another twist on some seasonality."

A winter ale is typically darker and richer in flavour
A winter ale is typically darker and richer in flavour

The characteristics of winter beers and the flavour profile created, have a lot to do with the changing temperatures and conditions of a winter season. 

“Our original Lions Winter Ale is a local favourite and we look forward to brewing it every year for winter," Lambourne says. "It's great when it's cold and damp...In August for example, when it's 30 degrees and you've finished mowing the lawn, I don't think that's the beer you want to go with."

Lambourne says their Winter Ale is a richer, darker beer, which is offered in caramel, chocolate and vanilla flavours. It's been around for seven or eight years and continues to get more popular each winter season.

"It has been our go-to winter beer for all of these years...People that love beer, love it and people that aren't really into beer love it. So, it's a great, universal winter beer for us."

Beer and liquor stores generally start the transition to winter beer in late October, early November as people begin getting ready for the holiday season and winter months ahead.

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