Ringing in the festive beer


The author of Ecclesiastes made a fan out of me with the words, “I commend enjoyment,” for I, too, commend enjoyment. And just after this initial commendation comes the lasting legacy of Ecclesiastes: “there is nothing better for people under the sun than to eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves.” Or, more traditionally, “to eat, and to drink, and to be merry.” There’s no time during the year when this saying holds more weight than the Christmas holidays. And there’s arguably no brewery in Victoria that echoes this sentiment more loudly than Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub.

Spinnakers has welcomed the holidays with two new seasonal brews — Festive Saison and Honey Kolsch. The saison came out on Nov. 20, while the kolsch will hit shelves on Dec. 6. Spinnakers brewmaster Tommy Grant refers to these brews as “those special beers that are good for sitting around with family at the holidays.”

According to Grant, both have characteristics that make them attractive Christmas choices: the saison is seasoned with such Christmastime spices as coriander, cloves and nutmeg, while the kolsch — mixed with local honey for character — “is good for toasts, similar to champagne or something that’s quaffable.”

The saison, which is a Belgian-style ale, has a light body and surprisingly pale colour that does a good job masking its 5.5 per cent alcohol content. Grant says the malt with which it’s brewed causes the lightness. As far as branding goes, the red label and the cartoon image of Santa driving through the air with a Christmas tree hanging out the back of his car make it an easy pickup for beer drinkers seeking something festive.

I wasn’t able to try the German-style kolsch, as it wasn’t available when I wrote the article, but Grant says it will likely be crisp and that the honey should make it a bit drier. The kolsch will weigh in at 4.5 per cent alcohol content. “The kolsch is a really light style,” says Grant. “It’s special without being big.”

Because the brewery only did a single run of each seasonal, which consists of two 800-litre batches done back-to-back, Grant warns that they may not be around too long. Spinnakers has already sold out of the saison’s distribution quotient, though Grant figures the brewpub will have it on tap through the holidays. The kolsch will likely be available about a month longer.

With two new beers and all that holiday food, what will make for the best pairings? “Generally, my opinion on parings is eat what you want to eat and drink whatever you want,” says Grant. “That’ll usually match up pretty well.”


The Festive Saison will be available in select liquor stores until supplies run out.
The 650-ml bottle costs about $5.30.