By:   Stephen Beaumont

Great Lakes Brewery, Toronto, Ontario

Grandpa’s Ol’ White Eggnog Stout 5%ABV 10 IBU

Not being much of a fan of so-called ‘pastry’ beers, nor a proponent of likewise so-called ‘white stouts,’ I was honestly fearing this beer. But leaving aside the “stout” billing, which relates in no way to this ale, it really does deliver what it promises.

Start with the aroma, which is truly eggnog-y, filled as it is with nutmeg and cinnamon notes plus a bracing but not overdone sweetness. Then on to the flavour, which I must admit is about as convincing a mix of beer and eggnog characters as you could desire, with vanilla notes up front, a creamy mid-palate loaded with sweet and savoury spice notes and a drying, though still sweetish, aftertaste. Finish off with the charity aspect of Grandpa’s – $1 from the sale of each can goes directly to the Daily Bread Food Bank – and you have a beer that is both equal to its billing and yet far better than what its name suggests.

Unibroue Brewing, Chambly, Quebec

Unibroue Grand Réserve 17 10% ABV 35 IBU

Tasked with reviewing a Québécoise holiday beer, I took first to Facebook to ask brewers from that province to let me know if they had such a beer available in Toronto, or were willing to send me a bottle for review. Crickets. I then visited my local LCBO to see if anything along those lines was in stock. Nada. So I settled on this festive-ish, once-a-year offering from Unibroue.

In truth, it’s been a while since I last tried this dark amber, oak-aged, abbey-style ale, but one whiff brings memories flooding back. The nose is spicy, as are the aromas of almost all of Unibroue’s beers, with nutmeg and a hint of clove supported by dense notes of oak and slightly burnt caramel. The body is lively and less sweet than you might expect of a beer of this strength, with cooked brown sugar up front, a spicy palate loaded with notes of cocoa and dried fruit (prune, dark raisins), and a gentle, oaky, warming finish. Definitely a substantial beer for after-dinner sharing.