12 Bottles of Christmas – Part 4

By: Stephen Beaumont

Bottle #10: Steam Whistle Pilsner

A bunch of brewing trends have come and gone over the last couple of years, but the most encouraging I’ve noted of late is a renewed respect for a good golden lager, whether of the pilsner or helles or Dortmunder or other persuasion. Not that these beers are about to supplant IPAs as the Next Big Thing, mind you, but it has been nice to see the best of them receiving their due from more thoughtful beer people on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

Since my three current Canadian favourites are all at present quite regional beers – Kichesippi Heller Highwater, Tooth & Nail Vim & Vigor and Hoyne Helios – I decided that this pause-for-refreshment Bottle of Christmas should be the habitually underestimated and more widely available Steam Whistle.

To my mind, more a helles than a pilsner, or perhaps more a southern German pilsner than a Czech one, when fresh this bright golden lager boasts a fragrant and floral aroma and softly sweet graininess on the palate, tempered by a moderately bitter and drying hoppiness. It’s an equation of aroma and flavour that adds up quite nicely to quenching satisfaction.

A lot of Toronto area drinkers seem to have a hate on for Steam Whistle merely because of the beer’s relative ubiquity, or because it’s neither sour nor hugely hopped, but beyond the green bottle and slick marketing resides a perfectly enjoyable beer.

Bottle #11: Glengoyne 15 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

In my view, the holiday season just isn’t fully holiday-ish without some single malt, and for great value at the high end you’d be hard-pressed to improve on this stylish beauty from just outside Glasgow.

Licenced to distill since 1833, Glengoyne has produced unpeated whisky since its earliest years – or at least that’s the history the distillery provides – and remains committed to it today. Coupled with the extensive use of sherry casks for aging, the practice yields malts of expressiveness and dignity, occasionally straying into elegance.

Unpeated and aged in both bourbon and sherry casks, this 15-year-old is both elegant and expressive. It offers aromas of spicy oak with baked apple, preserved lemon and vanilla on the nose and a rich mix of vanilla and toffee, hints of lemon and candied walnuts in the body, all finishing slightly oaky and dry, with a suggestion of allspice or perhaps cinnamon.

The company website suggests that this is a whisky well-suited to ‘the end of the day,’ and I find it hard to argue the point. Except perhaps to add that this would be an ideal reward for when you have finally completed all your holiday shopping and are ready for a spot of pure relaxation.

Bottle #12: Dageraad Blonde

Of all the many, many beers I sampled in 2017, from Cerveza Fauna’s wonderful Barley Wine in Mexico to the Barbera grape-accented BeerBera from Italy’s Loverbeer, one of a handful that remained stuck in my mind days after sampling it was this stellar Belgian-inspired blonde ale from Burnaby, British Columbia.

The beer that Dageraad owner Ben Coli says he opened his brewery to brew, this spicy, sophisticated light golden ale is 7.5% alcohol with citrus notes that aren’t too citrusy, a spiciness that complements rather than overwhelms the malt and a drying hoppiness that is as out-of-fashion with today’s tropical fruitiness or high bitterness as it is sublime in its drying, appetizing appeal.

It was largely on the back of this beer I chose Dageraad as one of only six Canadian ‘Breweries to Watch’ in my recent, co-authored book, Best Beers. It is not a beer that screams for attention, but rather one that whispers seductively from the corner of the room until you can’t help but notice it, and then are very happy you did.

Perhaps best of all, however, is that this is a beer that will serve any number of holiday occasions, from mid-afternoon refresher to evening aperitif, companion to the Christmas day turkey to late night digestif. So best err on the side of caution and get a few bottles for the season, maybe even a case.