A Cold Weather Classic: Great Lakes Brewery Winter Ale
With pumpkin beer season fading into a distant memory, it’s time for the rise of the latest seasonal brews, known collectively as “Winter Warmers.” Generally, Winter Warmers are high alcohol, low bitterness and rich with malt character. Some may even be spiced, as is the case with Great Lakes Brewery’s Winter Ale, a classic warmer which claims to be “inspired by the long, cold and seemingly endless Canadian winter.” After a glass of it, I have no doubt it would help drive out the chill.
While not as strong as other winter beers like Muskoka Brewery’s Winter Beard , Winter Ale will still manage to warm your belly at 6.2% alcohol. The recommended serving temperature on the back of the bottle suggests serving it between 8 and 10 degrees Celsius, significantly warmer than your “Mountains Turned Blue” lagers. Additionally, the Winter Ale also suggests you serve it in a snifter, although I opted for a larger glass. On the surface, everything about this beer screams “Winter Warmer.”
The Winter Ale pours a rich red-brown colour, promising big maltiness. The head is frothy and beige-white, and lingers pleasantly. On the nose, the spice characters scream through, with powerful notes of ginger and cinnamon. Quite frankly, it was a little off putting at first, as I feared the spices might overpower the ale. Thankfully, that was not the case.
While undoubtedly spiced, the Winter Ale is first and foremost just that — an ale. With robust, sweet malts and even a kick of hop character, you won’t ever confuse this beer for a cocktail. That said, the ginger is still fairly potent, although it works together well with sweetness of the honey and the cinnamon tang. The finish softens allowing the orange peel to rear its head, and it lingers on the tongue for eons. I definitely enjoyed the entire 750 ml bottle, but by the end of it my palate was pretty exhausted.
Overall, Great Lakes Brewery's Winter Ale succeeds in it's quest for a big-flavoured Winter Warmer. That said, it's one of those beers that having one a season is often enough. You certainly won't crave one of these everyday, but after an hour of shoveling your driveway, sipping slowly on a Winter Ale might just do the trick.
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