Top 10 Holiday Classics that Return Year After Year


Rob Symes

The weather outside is frightful and Bing Crosby is on the radio singing a Winter Wonderland. Momma’s kissing Santa Claus, and Rudolph is dashing through the snow. Musical trends come and go, but the classics define the holidays, and we return to them again and again because of their timeless appeal and the nostalgic notes they evoke. 

For many people, beer is also one of the great seasonal traditions, and to highlight that we’d like to raise a toast to some of the timeless classics that have become holiday favourites from coast to coast. In no particular order, here’s the top ten holiday classics that come back year after year:

1) Father John’s Winter Ale (Howe Sound) uses ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and molasses to create a rich and malty brew. At 5.5% and 18IBUS its a perfect mid-week tipple and a classic example of the winter warmer style.

2) Hermanator (Vancouver Island) began as a winter gift back in 1987, and now celebrating its’s 30th anniversary, the gift keeps giving. This robust eisbock clocks in at 9.5%, with alcohol, plum and bitter chocolate notes.

3) Old Deuteronomy (Alley Kat) has seemingly been around forever, and its on of the great Canadian classics the crops up as the nights grow longer and thoughts turn to trimming the tree. Dark fruit, toffee and brown sugar abound, and stashing a bottle away for the following year will reap massive dividends. 

4) Missiletow Ale (Bushwakker) is a malt-forward barleywine in the English style. Clocking in at 8%, its strong, but not so much that you’re forced to share a bomber with someone else.

5) Gin Lane Barleywine (Granite) is a vinous, traditional English barleywine with roots in Ontario and the East Coast. Very subtle carbonation allows flavours of raisin and brown sugar to speak for themselves.

6) Winter Ale (Great Lakes) dates back to the brewery’s first steps towards being a craft beer powerhouse. This winter warmer brings cinnamon, honey, ginger and orange peel to a rich malty body.

7) Solstice d’Hiver (Dieu du Ciel!) – Quebec is a province that straddles two traditions, and this brew leans towards the English one to once again produce a big seasonal barleywine. Solstice d’Hiver is sweet and warming when fresh, but ages beautifully.

8) Grande Reserve 17 (Unibroue) is a beer that rounds out beautifully in the cellar, but also rewards immediate drinking with vibrant brown sugar, figgy and spicy notes. Its a warming, rich brew and the perfect antidote to icy cold weather.

9) Santa’s Chocolate Porter (Big Tide) – porters provide an excellent base for holiday flavours, as they bring a rich depth of flavour that can be subtle enough to let other elements shine through. This example delivers a smooth chocolate hit, with a richness that defies its relatively low alcohol content.

10) Spruce Beer (Garrison) goes the Christmas tree in a glass route and nails it by bringing blackstrap molasses to the party. Not only does it taste like tradition, echoing early colonial times, but its flavours are also closely aligned to the holiday season.