Though I started buying Muskoka Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout in 2009, I first reviewed in in December of 2011 after they rebranded it to Winter Beard. At that time, I thought it was a “wonderful holiday season treat and, in my opinion, is the star of the Muskoka Brewery lineup”.
Though there is a 2013 version of Winter Beard available in other provinces and at the retail store in Bracebridge, the team at Muskoka Brewery opted to give the rest of their home province a cellar aged edition of the 2012 batch. Last winter they offered a limited number of aged 2011 bottles that were packaged in a wooden sleeve and I was able to compare an aged version to a fresh 2012 bottle. Without a doubt, I preferred the aged version and though the fresh bottle was still quite pleasant, I found it tasted a little “green”.
Pouring the 2012 version of Winter Beard (Cellar Aged) yields an opaque brew with a spongy beige head that has great retention; hanging around as a collar and film while leaving thick streaks of lace on your glass. The smell of this American imperial stout is very much chocolate-centric with a strong and juicy cranberry tone that opens things up and subtle hints of lemongrass, toasted malts and ground coffee.
Long, Dark Voyage to Uranus from Sawdust City Brewing Company in Gravenhurst, Ontario is completely opaque black with a creamy dark beige head that is retained as a stringy collar and leaves long swaths of lace on the glass that appear to drip like spray paint. This Russian imperial stout predominantly smells like coffee and dark chocolate with a syrupy and cordial-like fruit tone, woody hints of pine and fir and an unmistakable whiff of alcohol.
The taste of Long, Dark Voyage to Uranus is uncommonly dry, which allows rich chocolate, pepper and coffee flavours to poke through individually and then blend together. A deceptively strong bitterness is balanced by thick notes of cherry, anise and blueberry. Though the finish of this full-bodied and grainy ale a bit hot, it's not too out of line and leads to an aftertaste of lemon oil that helps to refresh the palate somewhat.
Lion’s Winter Ale from Granville Island Brewing Company in Vancouver, British Columbia is a deep, cola-like ruby colour and yields a large and frothy tan-coloured head that gets retained as a thin cap and leaves small spots of lace on your glass. This winter warmer has strong aromas of store bought chocolate syrup and vanilla extract that choke notes of roasted grain and red berries.
The predominant chocolate flavour of Lion’s Winter Ale tastes more natural than it smells and has a nice dryness to it that helps to balance a rich sweetness, but falls just short. The finish has notes of vanilla and cedar, along with a subtle hint of peppermint that comes through in the aftertaste. This ale has a thin, yet mainly syrupy body that doesn’t really stand up to the richness of the flavours presented, a low amount of carbonation and a vague graininess.
Rhyme & Reason Extra Pale Ale from Collective Arts Brewing Limited in Burlington, Ontario pours a hazy golden orange colour with a small, but creamy white head that leaves large streaks of lace and gets retained as a frothy collar and film. This American pale ale has a pungent smell with aromas of caramel, pine, mango, lemon and a floral note that reminds me of lavender.
The taste of Rhyme & Reason Extra Pale Ale has lemon rind and juice flavours that provide a nice bite against a moderately sweet caramel malt base, with a light berry note tying it all together. This ale has a solid bitterness that clocks in at 55 IBU and transitions to lemon and pepper notes in the finish. A medium body and carbonation are joined by a light oiliness to impart a smooth drinking experience while a subtle grainy aftertaste whets the palate between sips.
This milk stout from Beau's All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario is opaque black and pours with a very creamy tan coloured head that doesn't stick around long, but leaves a tidy collar behind along with a few spots of lace. The Tom Green Beer! is thick with aromas of ground coffee, dark fruits such as cherry and plum and chocolate, with outdoorsy notes of musty wood and fresh tobacco.
The taste of The Tom Green Beer! has an undeniable sharpness to it when it first hits your tongue and plays out much like the smell. Coffee, chocolate and dark fruit flavours are warmed by a woodsy accent, before a suitable sweetness takes over in the finish. This ale has a very smooth and creamy mouthfeel despite its full body and grainy undertone. A mild oiliness helps to ease the brew down, leaving subtle chocolate and cedar tones behind in the aftertaste.
This English IPA from Lake of Bays Brewing Company in Baysville, Ontario is a deep, fiery amber colour with a frothy off-white head that settles as a bubbly collar and film while leaving long streaks of lace on your glass. 10 Point India Pale Ale has aromas of caramel, fresh and toasted dark grains, dark berries, lemon zest and has a mineral note common to the ales from Lake of Bays.
The taste of 10 Point India Pale Ale is thick with caramel and roasted grain flavours. Sharp mineral and citrus tones create a nice bite on the tongue and a pithy bitterness. This ale has a full body, subdued carbonation and is fairly oily throughout. The finish is grainy and transitions to an aftertaste that reminds me of lemon oil.