Local Craft Beer Scene Collaborates on Christmas Brews

It may only be early November, but don’t tell the local craft beer scene it’s not Christmas!

The spirit of the season has led to some collaboration between breweries, and a new advent calendar-style offering that has been selling very briskly.

“We’re calling it the Mystery Gift Holiday Countdown because ‘advent’ is a registered name,” laughs Gary Lohin, brewmaster at Surrey’s Central City Brewers and Distillers. “But everyone knows it as that name, so it’s kind of like the 24 days of ‘Beermas!’”

Lohin worked alongside Graham With, brewmaster at Parallel 49 Brewing in Vancouver, creating a mixed pack with a different beer for each day of December up to Christmas Eve. But what sets this advent calendar apart is the collaboration brews.

“There are two collaborations between our breweries,” Lohin tells News1130. “One was done at our brewery and one at theirs.” And both brewmasters put a Yuletidey twist on some traditional ales.

“I’ve always had this idea to make a black forest cake-esque beer,” says With. “You might not want that in a six-pack, but one bottle would be kind of delicious. I approached Gary and he thought it was a great idea. He contributed some of his experiences with the malt recipe and we went ahead and added a ton of cherries and cocoa nibs to add a chocolate flavour.”

The result? Dessert in a bottle!

“I gave it to a friend without telling him what it was and he said it tasted just like black forest cake, so mission accomplished. It’s a little sweeter and a little stronger, around nine per cent.”

Parallel 49′s Schwarzwald Chocolate Cherry Porter was recently honoured at the BC Beer Awards, winning second place in the fruit/sour category. Across the Fraser, Central City took a different approach.

“We worked together on a Belgian dubbel here, using the world-famous Chimay yeast,” says Lohin. “A dubbel is a stronger brown ale, around seven per cent, and we put rum-soaked raisins in it.”

He describes Central City’s Dubbel Trubbel as a drinkable Christmas pudding.

“This darker sort of a brown ale marries very well in that type of a recipe. We used roasted and dark malts so it’s very chocolately and nutty, and very ‘estery’ — there are some aromatic components that come from the specific yeast we use. It is a Belgian strain so it has those Belgian esters you might find in an abbey beer that the monks make,” Lohin explains.

Filling out the “calendar” are 22 other brews — some are current offerings from Central City and Parallel 49 and others are previous holiday offerings that have been revived.

Lohin and With believe they are the first brewmasters in North America to put out a collaborative beer advent calendar — maybe you could call it the spirit of Christmas.

“It is, for sure,” Lohin laughs.

The “Mystery Gift Holiday Countdown” was released at the end of October. Make room in your Christmas budget, it retails for $74.95 and has been selling out in some stores.