Great beers for the Holidays… Muskoka’s Winter Beard and GLB Winter Ale


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Winter is here again, oh no (the only Journey song worth quoting)… Well, Christmas is here and although I’ve posted 2 fantastic (I almost wrote awesome –Damn!) beers for Christmas, today’s beers might as well be Christmas beers given their branding, their flavors and timing. In fact, despite yesterday’s Christmas beer review, Muskoka’s Winter Beard will actually be my Christmas beer of choice this year.

I’m afraid my deception in LCBO’s Christmas beer selection has extended to winter beers as well. I was waiting to get my hands on Rogue’s Yellow Snow and the only Rogue beer I found was their Pumpkin Patch beer. So instead of waiting and losing more time, I will review these two fine winter beers.

Actually, this goes beyond a review. Folks, this is not a Muskoka vs. GLB winter beer challenge, because both beers are very different, it’s a recommendation of two fine products that you may enjoy, depending on your taste.

Great Lakes Brewery’s Winter Ale

GLB’s Inspiration comes from “the long, cold and seemingly endless Canadian winter” and mission accomplished. I first tried this beer in the winter of 2011 and was happy to revisit it this year for the blog. Here goes… If you want a ale beer with good winter warming attributes and not too flavor oriented, this is a great choice.

Look:  Its look is that of murky dark amber. Good suds-like head that lasted a while and left behind some good lacing.

Smell:  GLB captured their intention really well. The smell of spices like cinnamon and ginger come out really nicely and the orange peel is also present. It’s a great mix of hops, spices, flavors and malts.

Taste:  At first sip, the spices manifest themselves and eventually tone down giving light to citrus (I like to think tangerines more than oranges). It a great tasting beer that makes one feel warm, cozy and calm; the way you would when eating your child’s gingerbread house… Oops, I didn’t know it was a school project!

Finish:  The finish is a little spicier with a slight alcohol kick.

Context:  Good job. Spot on.

Pairing: Bakes and poultry pork. Citrusy cakes.

Score: 76%

Price: $6.95 (750ml)

Beer type: Winter warmer

Alcohol/Vol.: 6.2%

Brewery: Great Lakes Brewery

Country / Region: Toronto, Ontario

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Muskoka’s Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout.

Those looking for a more flavorful oriented type of beer should consider this one. I remember when I set up this blog last winter and this beer was on top of my reviews, only tempus fugit and it was spring already. So this year, I’ve got lots to say about it…

First, last Christmas, I brought one bottle of this beer to my sister Michelle’s. Sharing it with my nephews and brothers-in-law made me feel like a kid in a kindergarten school yard; “mommy, everyone is taking my M&Ms”, so sad. This year, Christmas will be celebrated at my sister Guyane’s and I’m prepared. I bought 5 bottles of Winter Beard and a 12 pack of Innis & Gunn’s original. No beer like these two can be found in Quebec and it’ll be a real treat to the Lacoste’s boys club!

Second, just yesterday, I got another bottle just so I could use it in one of my notorious cheesecakes. That’s right, a baked a Muskoka Winter Beard Chocolate Cranberry Stout Cheesecake on a graham / chocolate coated pretzel base. Sad news is I don’t get to eat it. No, this one goes to Anthony at Castro’s Lounge. Why? Why not!

Winter beard cheesecake on a chocolate pretzel base  and topped with burned mushmallows
Winter beard cheesecake on a chocolate pretzel base and topped with burned marshmallows

Look:  Winter beard is a dark rich chocolaty black liquid gold with very light red hues. Maybe it’s the power of suggestion given the cranberries and all. The head is a cappuccino like froth that lasted a good amount of time and left lacing behind. That alone got it 5/5.

Smell:  I suppose its nose could have had a little more fruits (the cranberries) and been a little stronger. Lots of chocolate and some roasted malts.

Taste:  The first sip was instant orgasm, no foreplay, no penetration. The chocolate (70% dark) hits the palate right away then the tartiness of cranberries kicks in. The roasted malts and the creamy feel are perfect. As you drink the beer, chocolate dominates and somehow the cranberries get pushed aside a little but that’s okay, they are listed second. Roasted malts and hints of liquorice also come through. There is no doubt that the chocolate is the star.

Finish:  Cranberries come out towards the end as the beer thins up a little. The 8% abv would come out strong in many other beers but not with Winter Beard. Finishing this beer doesn’t feel like you’re scrapping the bottom of the barrel.

Body: Creamy and thiner than expected but not in a bad way.

Context:  It’s a little difficult to categorize it as a winter warmer because of its 2 featured ingredients, cranberries and chocolate, so I didn’t consider a context for it. Had it been dubbed Christmas beer, it would have been right on target. I can understand why Muskoka wouldn’t want to limit its marketability to Christmas. We need a Christmas beer in late January like we need a left over Christmas cheer TV advertisement.

Pairing: Soft creamy cheeses and grill. Wash it down with an Innis & Gunn…

Score: 88%

Price: $9.95 (750ml)

Beer type: Imperial Stout

Alcohol/Vol.: 8%

Brewery: Muskoka Brewery

Country / Region: Muskoka, Ontario

So that’s it folks, remember to be good on Christmas and don’t drink and drive… Cheers and all the best!

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