Finally! It’s time to put those crisp lagers away and reach for deep, warming and supremely boozy brews to get you through the holidays. Family time is SO stressful. Here are my 18 reasons to drink these six beers all winter long:

Disclaimer: Every year I get accosted by readers who are pissed off that some of my picks are not available to buy in the LCBO until February… I feel your pain. The LCBO staggers release dates for their seasonals picks (I know, blah, blah, blah) anyways, I’ve been as specific as I can, but as usual fingers crossed they actually appear on the dates I was given.

Rodenbach Vintage 2014

  • For the last two years, when Rodenbach’s Vintage Flanders Red comes to the LCBO I’ve stocked up—buying some 60 bottles of each release. Simply put: I love this beer style, and no one does it better than Rodenbach. The Vintage is selected each year from a single barrel that exhibits just the right blend of racy acidity, dark fruit, sweeter caramel whispers, and edgy notes from the 26-and-counting wild bacterias and yeasts in the brewery’s house culture.
  • The 2014 has more fruit than last year’s vintage: jammy red fruit, raisins and sour cherry mix with a lactic zing and an almost varnish-like edge (in the very best way). It’s a vinous beauty.
  • This one won’t develop much with age because it’s pasturized — but still, I like to have lots on hand to drink, gift, and compare to the other vintages.

Coming to LCBO “hopefully” (according to the LCBO) around December 12; $12.95 / 750 ml bottle. 

Orval

  • I can’t not recommend this beer. I also tend to hoard this Belgian classic which gets more complex with age thanks to its Brettanomyces yeast strains.
  • At the LCBO tasting, we had a 14-month-old bottle and it exhibited a lot more funk than I remember in other years — barnyard, earth and dusty pear with a touch of spice on the nose, more funk on the sip with raisins and a firm, lengthy bitter finale. Yum. Will the 14-month-old version be the one that appears on LCBO shelves? Who knows? Ha! That LCBO is so crazy sometimes.
  • It’s only $3.55 for one of the world’s best beers. Holy shit!

NOTE: This is an apres-holiday reccomendation. Coming to the LCBO on January 9th

Event Horizon, Halo Brewery, Toronto

  • This 6% ABV stout gives me a beergasm.  It’s chocolatey and creamy with a spicy, vanilla kick thanks to a perfumey nose of sarsaparilla.
  • It’s lush yet roasty, sweet yet not cloying. Perfectly balanced.
  • #mybestlife equals: Making yourself a beer float with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream, sip while binge-watching The Crown.

You gotta’ pick this one up at the bottle shop. $6 / bottle.

Bourbon Barrel Quad, Boulevard Brewing   

  • It’s the holidays so a Belgian quadruple is required drinking. You get bonus points for choosing one that’s aged in bourbon barrels, like this one!
  • All the way from Kansas, this abbey-style quad is blended from bourbon barrels that have been aged up to three years, cherries are sprinkled in at the end.
  • It’s delicious. A nose of dark molasses, vanilla, toasted oak and red fruit, leading to a sip that’s like butterscotch pudding, creamy and sweet with a hint of cherry at the finish. Delish as an after-dinner sipper, with Stilton, or rich desserts.

Get it at the LCBO starting December 19th

Kichesippie Wuchak Black

  • This Black IPA drinks like an 80’s hockey haircut, in the very best way — the hops party is in the front (all up in your nose) while the smooth, coffee roast and astringency make up the back.
  • I like it when my hops come in a roasty package for the holiday season.
  • This made-in-Ottawa brew strikes the perfect balance between roasted coffee and citrusy grapefruit.

Get it at the LCBO starting December 5th $2.85 / 473 ml can.

Henderson’s Best      

  • Last week I visited Henderson where co-founder Steve Himel gave us one of the best brewery tours I’ve ever been on. He is big-time in love with beer and, as a former brewer, the way he organized the  information was fun and innovative. He doesn’t quite have the eerily magnetic charisma of a Sam Calagione (I’d join his cult any day), but the man can’t hide his passion for the suds.
  • Henderson’s Best is a great everyday holiday sipper when you need a break from the OTT imperial stouts, quads, tripels and spiced Christmas ales.
  • This brew is more food-friendly than hoppy session IPA’s and the like — its Digestive biscuit and caramel notes mingle with an English hop bitterness all resting on a light, creamy body. It’ll stand up to, but not clash with, most cheese plates and deliciously trashy party packs of frozen hors’d’oeuvres.

Get it at the LCBO now, $5.95 / 650 ml bottle