10 winter craft beer releases to brighten your holidays

craft beers in front of a christmas tree
Some of the biggest and best beers in B.C. hit liquor store shelves this month. Rob Mangelsdorf photo

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, I’m not talking about the holidays, or the ski season, or the end of another year spent watching society crumble before our very eyes. It’s time for year-end limited edition craft beer releases! Hooray!

Many B.C. craft breweries release special small batch beers at the end of the year as a special Christmas treat, and we’ve rounded up some of our favourites.

Some of these beers have been aging all year (or even longer, in some cases), and represent the pinnacle of brewing for their respective breweries. But get them while you can, because they only come around once a year, and they won’t last long. Personally, when it comes to year-end releases, I like to buy two bottles: one for now and one to cellar for a few years. If you’re curious about cellaring beer, you can read all about it here!

Any of these beers would make a great gift for the thirsty beer nerd in your life. And thanks to the high ABV, they’re perfect for numbing your crippling anxiety and helping you forget about that whole pesky collapse of society thing.

Merry Christmas!


Abyssus Kriek 2021 by Driftwood Brewing

This Belgian-style barrel-aged sour is the real deal. Aged for more than a year on French oak and sour cherries, the result is tart and fruity, with complex notes of cherry, plum, vanilla, tannin, hay and balsamic vinegar. It’s also a jaw-dropping 11.5% ABV, so maybe don’t beer bong this one, K?


Hermannator 2021 by Vancouver Island Brewing

B.C.’s original winter seasonal is back after a one-year hiatus and is arguably better than ever. We’re talking rich dark chocolate, coffee, dried fruit, caramel, roasted barley, and a creamy smoothness from this eisbock that completely hides its 9.5% ABV.


Dreg Dealers 2021 by Île Sauvage Brewing

So, here’s a crazy thing that happened: The absolute mad men at Île Sauvage collected yeast samples from the dregs of all the greatest Belgian beers ever made, then mixed them together, then fermented their own beer with it, then barrel-aged it for two years (!!!). The result is an absolutely bonkers, super complex mixed fermentation tart saison clocking in at 6.5% ABV with notes of tropical fruit, orchard fruit, funk, grass, oak, a touch of diacetyl, some tannin, and some slightly smoky phenolics. It’s crazy, but it works.


Evoluta V by Luppolo Brewing

This Italian-inspired East Vancouver brewery celebrated five years of stubborn, continued existence in November with the release of this decidedly un-Italian bourbon barrel-aged Belgian-style dubbel. Whatever, it’s molto delizioso. Notes of plum, bourbon, dark fruit, vanilla, toffee, molasses, bread pudding and oak.


Santa’s Sac 2021 by Bridge Brewing

Despite what the tongue-in-cheek packaging might suggest, “sac” in this case refers to the saccharomyces beer yeast that imparts much of the flavour to this Belgian golden strong ale. Earthy notes of banana, bubblegum, pepper, clove, and biscuit with slight alcoholic warmth. Pretty damn smooth for 10.0%.


Bourbon Vanilla Quantum 2021 by Category 12 Brewing

Of all the beers on the list, this is the one I immediately went out and bought more of. The rich chocolatey goodness, with notes of vanilla, oak, coffee, bourbon and cherry will only get better with time, while the slightly tannic finish ensures its velvety smooth sweetness doesn’t overstay its welcome. This barrel-aged Russian imperial stout packs a whopping 10.5% ABV, but you’d never know it.


Anno 2021 by Dageraad Brewing

Confession time: Since I live overseas (on Vancouver Island), I have not yet been able to find any Anno 2021 anywhere over here. I’ve been repeatedly reassured it’s coming, but as of writing this, I have not yet been able to try this year’s edition. However, if previous years are anything to go by, I have no doubt that this year’s Anno will once again be one of my favourite beers of the year. Firstly, it’s Dageraad, so it’s a no-brainer that it’s going to be god-tier. Secondly, listen to this description: “Anno 2021 is a strong golden ale brewed with Okanagan pears and Indian coriander. The beer is bottle conditioned with brettanomyces claussenii, a strain of wild yeast that adds funky, fruity flavours and slowly develops over time in the bottle, preserving freshness and adding layers of complexity as the beer agers.” Sign me the funk up.


Toques of Hazard by Parallel 49 Brewing

Here’s another beer that will ruin your night if you’re not careful. Toques of Hazard is a white IPA with gobs of tropical fruit, pineapple, resinous pine, with a surprisingly clean, smooth finish. Sounds innocent enough, right? WRONG. We’re talking 9.2% ABV with no alcoholic burn and 76 motherflipping IBUs to dry that sucker out you just want to have another, and another, and another, until you wake up in a snow-covered ditch wearing someone else’s shoes with Sharpie dicks drawn all over your face. Yeah. So, consider yourself warned.


Gratitude 2021 by Hoyne Brewing

Hoyne’s annual holiday release is this delightful winter warmer with boozy notes of dried fruit, spice, vanilla, and caramel. Basically, it’s a liquid fruit cake. Bonus: the packaging includes a lovely poem from brewer Sean Hoyne printed on the bottle’s neck tag, which can be used as a bookmark.


Brut IPA by Tofino Brewing

Tofino Brewing turned 10 this year and like any good anniversary, celebrated with a bottle of bubbly. The bubbly in question, however, isn’t brut champagne, but a brut IPA—one of the better versions of this hard-to-nail style I’ve tasted from a B.C. craft brewery. Unsurprisingly bone-dry and highly effervescent, with notes of grapefruit, pine, stone fruit and a touch of biscuity malt character.

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