My Kind of Beer with Chris Goddard
While I sit writing this article the first Extreme Cold Weather Alert of the 2016–17 winter season has been issued for Toronto and though it doesn’t seem too terribly cold I know this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have also consulted the most storied of publications — The Farmers’ Almanac (which regular readers will know I hold dear) — and they are predicting that things are going to get colder and snowier than we have seen in recent years. So when the times get cold — the cold brace themselves with some deliciously revitalizing brews that warm the cockles of their heart.
Surely not something that springs to most beer-lovers’ minds when they think of consuming their favourite beverage but many European countries enjoyed mulling beer during the winter months. Some in the UK thought that it actually made the beer more nutritional than drinking it cold. Most countries use a nice ale to mull but you can really use anything that would marry nicely with hints of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and a pinch of nutmeg. Some even include some hot peppers to kick things up to the next level. Try taking your favourite tall-boy and bring it to a simmer on the stove with 1 stick of cinnamon, a ½ tsp of dried ginger (or fresh) and 1 tsp of cloves.
RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT (OR JUST IMPERIAL STOUT)
Almost as big as a beer can possibly get. These beers are rich, viscous, dark and full of booze — anywhere from 8-12% ABV. They also tend to be quite hoppy as well to balance the sweetness from the generous dark malts but those hops can be hard to pick out. These beers warm you up and stick to your ribs and larger bottles are best shared. This year the LCBO has a couple of fine examples hitting their shelves — North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin which is regarded as one of the finest examples of this style and another classic; Oskar Blues Ten FIDY which is so thick and dark it drinks daylight.
BELGIAN STRONG ALES
These beers are hard to define since each brewery has their own unique interpretation of them. Some are dark in colour and some are light but they are all strong. Many have notes of raisins or other fruit and some are aged in barrels to give the beer time to develop in complexity. This year the LCBO has brought in some lovely dark Kasteel Donker for the winter season and Boulevard Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Quad.