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.
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.
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.
Butler’s Bitter from Niagara College Teaching Brewery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario has a deep amber hue with honey highlights and a moderately-sized and frothy tan head that gets retained as a small collar and spotty film. A rocky, somewhat mossy mineral-heavy aroma is prevalent in this English bitter and backed up by bready, syrupy malts that evoke molasses and accented by a note of lemon juice.
The taste of Butler’s Bitter is also syrupy and rather sweet at first, here taking on a dark toffee character. Accents of cashew and coffee lead to a bitter finish with notes of lemon, black tea and mineral water and an aftertaste that carries a mild, berry-like fruitiness. This ale is full-bodied with mild carbonation and is heavy with malt and earth on the tongue.
This English IPA from Kichesippi Beer Company in Ottawa, Ontario pours a lovely golden amber colour, with a large and creamy off-white head settles as a collar and rocky film while leaving thick rings of cascading lace. Wuchak UK smells prominently of caramel sweetened grains, both fresh and toasted, with accents of red berry, lemon zest and coffee.
The taste of Wuchak UK is also anchored by grainy tones, with notes of baker’s chocolate, berry, honey, lemon and black tea. A bitterness that is spot-on in terms of amplitude takes hold in the finish of this easy-drinking, mildly carbonated and medium-bodied ale, while hints of citrus and minerals linger in the aftertaste.