I’ve focused end-of-year columns on beer recommendations for holiday entertaining. It’s safe to say the COVID-19 pandemic has laid waste to that theme, at least this year. The only thing I’d recommend to someone planning a large gathering these days is that you kindly remove your head from your ass.
New Year’s parties, at least in the traditional sense, are likely out, too. But that doesn’t mean the occasion should go unmarked, even if it’s more about telling 2020 to GTFO than ringing in 2021.
Here, then, are some recommendations for drinking away the final moments of a year many of us would like to forget, courtesy of some folks in Edmonton’s craft beer community.
Erica Francis, editor, Alberta Craft Beer Guide: “It’s certainly been a year of change, so with that in mind I’ll be sipping something strong, complex and that you’d probably have to dive into the history of to understand. Bière de Garde is not the most common style these days, but one I always enjoy. A strong, dark cousin of the saison and farmhouse styles, it’s perfectly suited to quiet, cozy nights at home. I’ll pull a can of Analog Brewing’s International out of the cellar and contemplate the year that was 2020.”
Bryan Launier, co-owner, Analog Brewing: “From my own portfolio, Analog Dry: it was a beer I felt most proud of for what it was — a dry brut lager. From outside my portfolio, Schneider Weisse — Cuvée Barrique 2018. I’ve been sitting on this bottle for a while but I’m super-pumped to open it. And, also from Alberta, Eighty-Eight Brewing’s Skeleton Crew: Ain’t no party like a barley wine party — and those dudes are amazingly cool!”
Scott Messenger, author, Tapping the West: “On April 18, as summer was about to be effectively cancelled by government decree, Sturgeon Brewing opened in the town of Morinville. A line of socially distanced supporters wound through the parking lot waiting for a taste, and the little brewery’s tanks ran dry seven hours later. That Sturgeon is still around suggests that the novel coronavirus, bad as it is, can’t crush all dreams. People will persist, and communities will back them. This is a hopeful thing for 2021. I’ll happily toast that with a pint of Sturgeon’s Dark Mild — or two, at just 3.4 per cent — an earthy, roasty but effervescent style unknown to me prior to the brewery’s heartening arrival.”
Matt Phillips, co-owner, Northern Chicken: “I’m going to say a big fuck you to 2020 with a bottle of Trial & Ale’s Separated To A Degree. I think this bottle represents a few things, from the name reminding us of the isolation — but also bonds that were formed through the first few months, as we all Zoom’d and talked on the phone together. I also think it represents a renewed focus for me on local guys making incredible beer.”
Chelsea Tessier, president, Edmonton Homebrewers Guild: “I could think of no other beer to say goodbye to 2020 with than 2017 Old Deuteronomy by Alley Kat. This bold, complex barley wine is just the beer to allow momentary amnesia of this year’s hardships and toasting to a new year. Old Deut also skipped over 2020, as most of us hope to.”
Which beer will I choose? I’m going to open a bottle of Trappist Westvleteren 12. It’s a complex, dark ale that lends itself to contemplation and quiet enjoyment, as op-posed to raucous celebration. For me, that feels like a good way to end an unsettling year and approach the next one. Here’s to a better 2021. And see you in hell, 2020.
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This article appears in the December 2020 issue of Edify