5 seasonal sampler packs for beer geeks

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      God bless beer, for no other reason than it’s a great way to get through the holidays safely.

      As everyone who has ever spent time with family knows, getting a glow on is essential to surviving the various stresses of the season. And the great thing about beer is that it makes it easy to walk that line between pleasantly buzzed and inelegantly wasted on four rum-and-eggnogs poured by Sailor Jerry.

      Make someone’s December 25 a little brighter with one of the following samplers.


      Seasons Greetings

      The only problem with the most wonderful time of year is that you have to wait until the morning of December 25 to open your presents. Give that someone special in your life a good reason to get out of bed the first 24 days of the month with the Seasons Greetings Advent calendar from Parallel 49 and Central City Brewers.

      Designed to look like a lovingly wrapped present, the collaboration features a mix of special-edition craft beers, as well as seasonal heavies like porters, winter ales, and stouts. In classic Advent-calendar style, you’re supposed to open one per day, rather than rip through a week in a single sitting, which explains the numbers 1 through 24 stamped on the top of the box.

      So no peeking—as much as he appreciates folks getting excited about Christmas, Santa doesn’t want anyone dumping the entire contents of a present on the floor on December 1 any more than he wants you raiding every chocolate in your Advent calendar three weeks before the big day.


      Winter Sampler

      As West Coasters, we don’t have much in common with the rest of Canada when it comes to winter. No one living in the Greater Vancouver area owns a snow blower, and all-season radials usually get the job done as long you avoid the Coquihalla.

      The rest of Canada sure knows winter, though, which makes Mill St. Brewery’s Winter Sampler pack a great way to get a taste of a land where people chill their beer in the snow and tuques aren’t a fashion statement but a necessity. 

      In days of yore, you had to go east to get your hands on the Ontario-based Mill St. Brewery’s winter release, which this year includes four year-round offerings (Organic Lager, Tankhouse Ale, West Coast IPA, and 100th Meridian Lager) and two seasonals (the German-style rye ale Schleimhammer Roggenbier and Betelgeus wheat beer).

      Lucky for you, Mill St.’s Winter Sampler is now available across Canada. If you’ve always been curious about how the rest of your countrymen survive Old Man Winter’s yearly visit, now’s your chance to find out.


      Carton of Coal

      Don’t let the name mislead you—as much as a carton of coal is what Donald Trump’s probably getting for Christmas this year, Howe Sound Brewing’s sampler is for those firmly ensconced on the nice list.

      Instead of a box of Victorian England’s favourite fossil fuel, you get a selection of the Squamish-based craft brewery’s dark-end-of-the-scale offerings. So skip supper and instead crack open a bottle of oak-aged Wee Beastie Scotch Ale, or hold on to the furniture and try your luck with the ominously named Megadestroyer Imperial Licorice Stout.

      You can also relive memories of what the Sea-to-Sky Highway was like before its fancy 2010 Olympics overhaul with the Pothole Filler Stout.

      Just in case it’s not clear, this is for the beer drinker on your list who is black at heart—but hopefully not as dark-hearted as that guy Jon Stewart once called “the first openly asshole president” of the United States.


      Season pass

      The artwork on Tree Brewing Co.’s Season Pass is enough to get you right into the spirit of Xmas, with the Puck Drop Pilsner illustration depicting old-timey hockey players playing shinny on an outdoor pond, and Yard Sale Pale Ale showing a skier on his postcrash rump in a snowbank.

      Bringing back memories of lost weekends at Big White, the Bluebird Lager features an illustration of a snowboarder on a sunlit run that looks gloriously deserted, while snowshoers step up to star in the art for Backcountry Nut Brown Ale.

      Each sampler comes with 12 cans. For the skis, snowshoes, hockey skates, and snowboards required to bring each panel on Tree Brewing’s Season Pass to life, you will unfortunately have to make the trek to Sport Chek.


      Winterlude pack

      Bowen Island Brewing could arguably be a little more festive in both the packaging and the contents of its Winterlude sampler. There’s nary a snow-dusted tree or frozen pond to be found on the box; look closely, though, and you’ll see ski goggles and part of a purple tuque.

      Contentswise, look for reliable favourites like Artisan IPA, Snug Cove ESB, Deep 6 Lager, and Twisted Trail Extra Pale Ale. None of them particularly scream “Christmas”, but that’s perfectly okay.

      After 24 straight days of drinking heavier-than-bricks brews like Portside Brewery’s Yule Shoot Your Rye Out and Butcher and the Brewer’s Spice, Spice Baby, sometimes you just want to sit by the fire with something that’s a little less outside-the-box, no matter how beautifully wrapped that box happened to be.