winter beer toronto

The top 10 local beers to drink this winter in Toronto

It's that time of year, when the neighbourhood-branded toques come out and we snuggle that slightly stinky stranger on the subway just a little closer to stay warm. It's also a time when our taste in beer migrates toward the darker, boozier offerings to keep Jack Frost from nipping at our noses - among other extremities.

Here are my picks for local beers to drink this winter in Toronto.

Bellwoods Brewery's Bring Out Your Dead
Bellwoods Brewery's ridonkulous imperial stout, aged in cognac barrels for over a year, is rich, warming, and scarily smooth for its potent 12.2% alcohol content. Save this one for one of those days you drop your gloves in the slush and get splashed by the streetcar and need a magic elixir to turn things around. This is it. Available at the Bellwoods Brewery retail store in 650mL bottles.

Mill Street Brewery's 100th Meridian
Who says winter beers need to be as dark as Frosty's eyes and as strong as the smell of your hockey equipment? 100th Meridian is the newish organic lager from Mill Street and with just a slightly heartier malt profile than most lagers, is the perfect refresher for after-snowman building or post shinny. Available in 341mL six packs at the LCBO and Beer Store.

Indie Alehouse's Zombie Apocalypse
Dark, boozy, and a little scary, Zombie Apocalypse is a lot like your twice-divorced uncle on Christmas Eve. For a getaway from family this season, shut the blinds, put on sweatpants, pretend the world no longer exists and enjoy the brief silence with this roasty 10% imperial stout. Until the undead/inlaws come knocking... Available in 750mL bottles at Indie Alehouse's retail store.

Amsterdam Brewery's Double Tempest
Back for a second year, this beefed up version of Amsterdam's imperial stout is winter beer on steroids. A 14% imperial stout aged in Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels for 11 months, this beast has double the malts and double the hops of Tempest Imperial Stout, and, as logic dictates, will double your fun when drinking. Available in 650mL bottles directly from Amsterdam's retail stores at Leaside and Queen's Quay.

Beer Academy's Holiday Dubbel
A fairly classic Belgian-style Dubbel that's got all kinds of candy sweetness and spicy clove flavours, this is like flavour of Christmas in a glass. Splash some behind your ears before the staff holiday party! Available in wax-sealed 625ml bottles at The Beer Academy.

Side Launch Brewing's Colossus
A Dunkleweizen Dopplebock, Collingwood's Side Launch isn't exactly super local, but this is fruity, chocolatey, dark wheat beer available in a limited run makes a great present for the fruity, chocolatey person on your Christmas list. Available in one-litre bottles directly from Side Launch brewery in Collingwood.

Mill Street Coffee Porter
Although it was the 2012 Ontario Brewing Awards beer of the year, this coffee porter still seems shamefully underrated. Made with Balzac coffee, it's rich but accessible and, since it has coffee in the name, it's technically OK to drink it first thing in the morning. Available in 341mL six packs at Mill Street's store, the Beer Store, and the LCBO.

Spearhead Belgian Stout
Made with demerara sugar, Curaรงao orange peel, coriander, and Trappist Ale yeast, this unfiltered stout is a bit of a departure from the folks you may know for their Hawaiian Pale Ale. Lucky for beer drinkers, it works. Aloha Belgium, this is the best Spearhead Beer yet. Available in 341mL six packs at the LCBO.

Black Oak Brewery's Nutcracker Porter
With coffee, cinnamon, figs, and spice rounding out the flavour of this dark porter, this beer would be perfect to sneak into a performance of the Nutcracker. Sadly, the bottle is simply too big, so you'll have to chug one on the subway on the way to the theatre. Available in 650mL bottles at the LCBO and at Black Oak's brewery.

Great Lakes Brewery's Pompous Ass
As an Ontario craft-beer swilling nerd, I can't legally write a list of beers without including a pale ale. Thankfully, Great Lakes has recently announced that this sessionable english-style pale ale will get a permanent LCBO listing. With a coppery-brown colour and a heavier malt backbone, Pompous Ass is like the pale ale for winter weather, and thus allows me to meet my monthly quota of kissing brewer Mike Lackey's ass. Available in 473mL tall boys at the LCBO and at GLB's brewery.

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Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog. Send him season's greetings or bah humbugs @Ben_T_Johnson

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