Granite Brewery Peculiar ($12 + $4 deposit/1.9 litre growler)
Is there anything more Canadian than a growler of strong ale to get you through a long winter? Doesn't sound too peculiar - unless we're talking Granite Brewery's Peculiar, a 5.6 per cent dark ale available only from the Granite Brewpub in a keg or a "growler," a 1.9 litre glass bottle, complete with handle, that can be returned for a $4 deposit. That's about five and a half bottles of the nutty, malty beer that's kept the brewery a North Toronto institution for just over two decades. Bonus: the brewery's own beer store is open later than either the LCBO or the Beer Store.
Great Lakes Winter Ale ($6.95/750 ml)
Here's your chance to indulge in all the flavours we associate with winter beer and with winter itself: cinnamon, ginger, orange peel and a whole lot of honey. If that sounds like drinking a cookie, know that the Etobicoke brewery balances it with the bitterness of two different kinds of specialty hops, and plenty of malt. At 6.2 per cent ABV, it also carries a nice kick.
Muskoka Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout ($10.95/750 ml)
Muskoka Brewery uses winter as an excuse to introduce a variety of bold, sweet flavours that wouldn't fly during patio season. But it's worth putting on a jacket and heading to the Beer Store for this "winter beard." With 70 per cent dark chocolate and freshly harvested cranberries from a farm in Bala, Ontario, it's tart, sweet and just a littl e bitter. And at 8 per cent abv, it's not for lite beer enthusiasts.
Beau's Bog Water ($4.35/600 ml)
The Ottawa-area brewery's inspiration for Bog Water is the Alfred Bog, a 10,000-year-old peat bog east of the capital. Eschewing hops altogether, this 6.6 per cent aBv Belgian-style brew's gruit incorporates the wild-harvested herb bog myrtle, used extensively in brewing until the 1500s but rarely since. The plant lends the beer an earthy flavour that offsets its plum-like fruitiness.
Mill Street Cobblestone Stout ($2.90/440 ml)
This is the first year that Mill Street's popular Cobblestone Stout makes its way from draught lines into cans and onto LCBO shelves, but the Distillery District suds slinger already has a built-in fan-base for the rich, balanced brew. The challenge? How to maintain the pub-style character of the beer in a can rather than a pint glass. Mill Street pulls it off with a widget that releases a 70/30 mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide when cracked, which produces the same creamy head when the beer is poured.