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.
To say the taste of Winter Beard is smooth would almost be a disservice. After mingling for over a year, chocolate and cranberry flavours create the feeling of a black forest cake. Once the cranberry dissipates the rich dark chocolate flavour really takes hold and remains prevalent throughout the finish and aftertaste. Along the way notes of coffee and lemon zest can also be detected. The beer is very thick and grainy with a fairly low amount of carbonation and largely feels dry on the tongue and palate.
Winter Beard comes in a champagne style bottle that’s sealed with a cork and crown. This cellar aged edition is placed in a black box that features the image of a bushy bearded man printed in white and silver accented with shiny red cranberries. The box has a thorough description of the beer and a guide to cellar aging beer yourself with a suggestion that this beer will keep for another two years. There is also a complete list of ingredients, suggested serving temperature and a rather large RateBeer logo touting the beer’s score.
Winter Beard definitely gets better with age and though it’s good on its own on a cold day, it also plays nicely a variety of creamy and goat cheeses, clementines, graham crackers and crusts, fresh cherries and cranberries. It could be used in roast beef or pot roast dishes.
Please Note: Muskoka Brewery provided me with two bottles of this beer for evaluation. I plan to buy two more to try out in the winters of 2014 and 2015 respectively and it will likely be a staple at any holiday parties I attend.
Type: American Imperial Stout
Region: Ontario, Bracebridge
Brewery: Muskoka Brewery
Format Purchased: 750 mL
Alcohol Content: 8.0%