Frigid temperatures mean it’s time to trade in those crisp lagers and citrusy wheat beers for warming brews ready for fireside sipping. Bring on the chocolate-tasting porters and stouts, the amber ales spiked with cinnamon, and the fruity, strong Belgian classics. Use our guide to learn winter beer flavour profiles, dish pairings and recommended serving temperatures (hint: not ice-cold!). Consider this the starting point on your way to becoming a winter beer connoisseur!
Porters and Stouts
These drafts will tempt your palate with their heavenly aromas of chocolate, hazelnut, toffee, fig and espresso. Their deep, dark colour makes them appear heavy, but porters and stouts are actually light and creamy. Stouts tend to taste drier than porters, with a roasted coffee bean flavour. For extra warmth, look for “imperial” porters and stouts—boozier versions with at least 7% alcohol by volume (ABV). These heavier-hitting options offer even more complex flavours such as date and licorice. Barrel-aged porters and stouts come with notes of whisky, rum and vanilla from the oak they’re stored in.
Pair Them With
Serving Tip: Pull your porter and stout out of the fridge about 10 minutes before serving (or 15 to 20 minutes for imperials). Use a glass with a large, open lip—a beer mug is perfect—and pour slowly.
Spiced Ales and Winter Warmers
Take an amber ale’s caramel, bread crust or toffee notes, add a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger, and you’ve got what’s called a “spiced ale” (or a “winter warmer”, depending on the brewery). You can also find ales brewed with spruce tips, orange peel or cranberries. Ranging from 5% to 10% ABV, these beers are meant for wintertime sipping. It’s like drinking gingerbread, fruitcake or date squares from a glass.
Pair Them With
Serving Tip: Pull your spiced ale or winter warmer out of the fridge 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Pour into large red wine glasses. It’s perfect for sharing!
Classic Belgian strong ales are effervescent and full-flavoured. Aromatic Belgian yeasts give them a spicy and fruity bouquet. For those who love nutty, toasted bread and chocolate flavours, look no further than a Belgian dubbel. The tripel and quadrupel varieties are named for the extra amounts of malt (and therefore alcohol) used. If you like drier, fruitier golden ales, reach for tripels, which evoke notes of peach, banana and pear. For a moody, complex dark ale reminiscent of a fine port, go for a quadrupel.
Pair them with
Serving Tips: Pull tripels from the fridge 10 minutes before serving. Dubbels should rest at room temperature for 15 minutes and quadrupels for 20 minutes. Quadrupels and dubbels are best sipped slowly from a brandy snifter. Showcase the frothy head and bubbles of tripels in a white wine glass.