Winter Warmer IV
Winter Warmer is an extravagant event and not a beer party for the weak. You won't find a Molson booth here. In fact, you won't find a craft beer below 8% alc./vol. Winter Warmer will do what the name implies and you'll leave with flush, rosy cheeks.
Winter Warmer IV was held at Ma Brasserie, a future co-op brewing location, on Dec. 6th and 7th. There were four bars along one side with a self-serve station near the back terrace. Multiple tables for sitting, a lot of room on the floor to mingle and a long table in the center which reminded me of a trough when the patrons scrambled for the food services. I cannot blame them. the food was a deliciously indulgent mix of succulent meats. 3000 duck wings, 3000 dry rub ribs, 2400 sausages, 3000 half quail , 8 goose, 16 pheasants, 16 guinea fowl, 4 roasted pigs and lamb. Topped off with a selection of cheese, terrine and pâté and cold cuts, no one left hungry (or sober).
But we were there for the beer. There was an abundance of high-alcohol warmers for tasting. From Double IPAs to Barley Wine and every experimentation in between. Tasting each one was challenge that my liver and I were ready for.
I spent a lot of time at Bar 2 where the hoppy beers flowed. Kruhnen Draconian Transylvanian Pale Ale was the highlight here. It's a dry and citrusy double IPA that I would highly recommend from a microbrewery in Blainville. Though it left me wanting more hops, luckily, La Succursale, Brasseurs du Monde and Pit Caribou all had DIPAs on tap right next to it.
There were a few other notable beers at Bar 2. La Voie Maltée had a Saison in Zinfandel barrels which had a crisp, fruity wine flavour. Microbrasserie du Lac Saint-Jean also had a Tripel in Chardonnay barrels and À La Fût La Tripe à 3 Brett, a tripel fermented in oak barrels with Brettanomyces.
Bar 4 had a great selection of barley wines. My favourite of the group was Belzébuth Érable in bourbon barrels from Le Saint-Bock. Like the finest sweet port with an amazing blend of maple and bourbon notes. This is a beer that needs to be bottled. The sweet maple flavour was in perfect balance with the body of the beer. Another great offering was L'Orpailleuse, a grape must barley wine from Le Naufrageur which was filtered through a Randall. Another notable mention here is Le Castor's Rum Barrel Barley Wine which can be picked up over the winter in their special reserve 4-pack.
I wish I could have had more but the list of barley wines here could have easily floored even the biggest drinker. Next up was the self serve station with cask ales and hot ice cider. Honestly, there was only one beer here that I kept pouring from. Dunham Imperial Galaxy, a double IPA with Galaxy hops. I had glass after glass of the single hop ale. Dunham is a great microbrewery with a good selection of bottled beers that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for well priced craft beer.
At this point my notes become a little foggy as the alcohol makes its way through my body. I picked up a great session beer from Jukebox microbrewery, an American Amber Ale fermented with Bourbon Oak chips, and made my way to the food. (By the way, Jukebox has been making great beers and this is one of them. Check out their Distortion IPA in stores for a great American-style IPA). When you're drunk, large slices of roasted pig and crispy goose legs really hit the spot.
Winter Warmer is an expensive night out but well worth the cost. If you love beer this is the festival to be at. The atmosphere is jovial and the beer is plenty. Unlike other festivals, you don't wait in line to try beers or fuss about with counting coupons. Unlike other festivals, this is a true craft beer event. Thankfully, you won't find a Molson tent with scantily-clad girls or a booth with frat boys slamming Carlsberg. Don't let that dissuade you because there is a beer type for everyone and they are all passionately made and high-quality drinks. Winter Warmer has the best beer Quebec breweries have to offer. You might just fall in love with a new style of beer!