This seasonal dunkelweizen from Muskoka Brewery Inc. in Bracebridge, Ontario is cola brown in colour, with a deep ruby tone visible when held towards light. It pours with a small and rocky tan cap that doesn’t tend to stay around very long, though a steady stream of bubbles appeared at the top of my glass. The smell of Winter Weiss is an inviting blend of chocolate, stone fruit and plantain that reminds me of warm fruitcake, with notes of clove and evergreen punctuating the beer’s wintry feeling.
Winter Weiss has a robust taste, with flavours of dark toffee and stone fruit at the fore over a biscuit-like malt base. A sharp note of herbal liqueur and mild bitterness keep things from getting too sweet and the ale finishes dry, while hints of clove and lemon peel tend to linger on my palate. Though Winter Weiss is fairly light-bodied, there is a noticeable viscosity and some earthiness to the mouthfeel.
The second retail release from Ottawa’s Big Rig Brewery is Release the Hounds Black IPA. Also referred to as a Cascadian dark ale, the beer is black and completely opaque. A large and creamy tan head leaves web-like lacing as it settles into a long-lasting and rocky cap. This hybrid ale has a rich and roasty smell, with deep coffee and dark chocolate aromas joined by bright notes of cherry juice and lemon peel, along with a pleasant air of dewy grass.
The roasted character megers with a thick sweetness in the taste of Release the Hounds Black IPA, which is balanced by dry and bitter chocolate and coffee flavours. Punchy notes of citrus and pine bring along a sturdy bitterness (I’d guess 60-70 IBU) and there’s a hint of salt in the finish. The aftertaste of this full-bodied ale has roasted grain and dark toffee flavours that tend to linger.
St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout from McAuslan Brewing Incorporated in Montreal, Quebec is opaque and jet black, with a frothy tan coloured head that settles as a thick and rocky cap and leaves large splotches of lace on your glass. The simple yet sturdy smell of this stout carries aromas of chocolate malt and syrup, black cherry juice, oatmeal and ground coffee.
The taste of St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is full-flavoured and very well-balanced. There is a very strong chocolate character that gets accented by an earthy, grainy bitterness clocking in at 45 IBU. The oatmeal brings a bit of sourness, notes of plum and raisin mingle in the slightly woody finish and the aftertaste is assertively dry. This ale has a thick and grainy body, mild to moderate carbonation and a pleasant creaminess smooths everything out.
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.
This flavoured porter from Mill Street Brewery in Toronto, Ontario is a deep, ruby-hued brown with a very frothy, nitro-charged beige head that settles as a persistent cap and leaves large swaths of lace as you drink. Mill Street Vanilla Porter has an appetizing blend of aromas including chocolate, coffee, roasted barley malt, berry and of course vanilla.
The taste of Mill Street Vanilla Porter is chocolate-forward with notes of dried dark fruits like plum, raisin and cherry and a subdued vanilla flavour. This ale is full-bodied, rich, grainy and slightly viscose, with very little carbonation aside from the head. There is a moderate bitterness on the tongue that lingers throughout the aftertaste along with a warm, woody tone.