Cold, and Dark: Malty Darker Beers, for Winter

Written by George Macke

Goodbye light lagers. Adios radlers and beers that taste like ice cream. So long, fruit beers. As the thermometer drops and the sun goes down earlier, it’s time to restock the beer fridge with malty, darker beers to suit the season.

Here are 12 stellar selections from Southwestern Ontario brewers. Most will require a personal visit to purchase at the brewery’s in-house beer store. More and more, craft breweries are also launching online stores offering beer delivered to your door.

No Marzen for Eror by Innocente Brewing Company in Waterloo
Misspelling “error” is no mistake and neither is this Oktoberfest lager. The marzen style of beer originated in Bavaria and is traditionally associated with the change of seasons. Innocente’s version is copper in colour, not as dark as one might expect, and has a hint of citrus hop flavour.


Nighthawk Weizenbock by Toboggan Brewing, London
More inspiration from the beers of Bavaria, this time from the fermenters at London’s popular Richmond Row craft brewery. Weizenbocks, dubbed by some as winter wheat beers, have been brewed since the early 1900s and that the style isn’t more widely known (and brewed) is mysterious. The Toboggan take is a deep red with aromas of banana and clove. Nighthawk is a wonderful fall beer choice best enjoyed with patience, from a tulip glass. It’s a low 14 IBU but a strong 8 per cent alcohol.

Black Coal by Railway City Brewing, St. Thomas
A seriously good stout from the 10-year-old St. Thomas brewery best known for Dead Elephant IPA, Black Coal almost lives up to its name in terms of colour — I’d call it dark brown. Rich in coffee and dark chocolate aromas. And is that a hint of rye bread? Named for St. Thomas’ railway heritage, Black Coal is a cold-weather reward for a day’s work well done.


Ghost Cow by Wellington Brewery, Guelph
Spicy and dark, anyone? Ghost Cow is a milk stout brewed with ghost, habanero, and Scotch bonnet peppers as well as cocoa. It clocks in at a pleasant 7.1 per cent alcohol.


McNall’s Mission by Cowbell Brewing, Blyth
One of a series of beers named for the colourful characters of Blyth, this is a honey brown named in honour of George McNall, who served in both the First and Second World Wars. One hundred years ago McNall received the Military Medal for his devotion to duty as a scout. Now available at the LCBO, McNall’s Mission incorporates sweet, savoury brown malts with local honey. Cowbell has been brewing it since 2017 and selling it on site and at craft-friendly pubs. It’s entry onto LCBO shelves is certain to accelerate its popularity while honouring a local veteran.

Hans and Franz by Forked River, London
A German pilsner, Hans and Franz strikes a nice balance that works well with fare such as bratwurst. It’s not at the LCBO, Beer Store, or grocery stores so you’ll have to show your love by visiting the brewery store, or flaunt your tech abilities by ordering online.


Spice Up Your Life by Storm Stayed Brewing, London
Spice Up Your Life is a pumpkin spice latte milk stout. Sure, that flavour combination will cause beer purists to cringe, but for those who always wanted to combine their favourite cold and hot drink flavours, this could be it. Besides, what good is a beer fridge in the fall without at least one pumpkin beer?

Autumn by Anderson Craft Ales, London
The artists of Anderson make it easy to guide us through the beer seasons with releases named for each. Autumn is a marzen, available in 355 mL cans at the brewery’s bottle shop. Sure, we like Summer better, but do you blame us?

The Heavy Horse by Shakespeare Brewing 
A farmhouse ale, Heavy Horse gets its flavour from yeast cultivated from an apple orchard and honey from Nith Valley Apiaries in New Hamburg. It’s 7 per cent alcohol and 25 IBU. A fine reward for a hard day’s work on the farm — or at the office.

Bronzeback Ale by Bayside Brewing, Erieau
There are lots of great reasons to daytrip to this Lake Erie resort town south of Chatham. High on the list is a visit to Bayside Brewing, where the beer of choice on a chilly day is Bronzeback Ale. Named as a tribute to local fishing — bronzeback is also known as smallmouth bass — this beer is copper in colour with flavours of burnt caramel and toffee. It’s been a Bayside mainstay since 2013.

Natterjack Toad by Natterjack Brewing, West Lorne
Natterjack opened in September as a tribute to young brewer Matt Soos. His family is featuring the Belgian blonde recipe Matt developed as a student at Niagara College. The taste twist is that it includes pistachios. It’s available only at the brewery store.


Waterloo Dark by Waterloo Brewing, Waterloo
If you’re a duck, deer or moose hunter, or are lucky enough to know someone who is, this is the dark lager to bring to the fall table. One of Waterloo’s four core brands and widely available, Waterloo Dark pairs nicely with wild game. Brewed with Canadian malted barley and imported hops, Waterloo Dark tastes lighter than you’d expect from the colour.

About the author

George Macke

George Macke is a Southwestern Ontario craft beer explorer who spends too much time at the LCBO.