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.
Detour from Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge, Ontario is a light, orange-tinted golden colour and pours with a soapy white head that has good retention, hanging around as a tight collar and film throughout your glass while leaving an ample amount of lace behind. This American pale ale has strong tropical fruit aromas of mango, pineapple and passion fruit over a fairly light base of caramel and toasted grain with subtle notes of lemon, pine and gypsum.
The taste of Detour is most definitely hop forward. Bitter citrus bites at the first sip, but is backed up by a surprisingly hearty and earthy grain flavour that remains throughout the finish. Along the way I found notes of caramel, red cherry, peach and green grape before a pithy aftertaste took over the back of my tongue. The ale is medium bodied and suitably carbonated, leading to a lively feeling on the tongue before its mild oiliness eases the beer down.
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.
2012 was a pretty good year in terms of both the quality and quantity of regularly-brewed Ontario craft beers hitting the shelves at one’s local LCBO or The Beer Store. I selected 12 of them to quantify as favourites, with a few caveats. First, the beers had to be listed at at least 25 retail outlets.
The beers had to be ones that I’ve published a review for, not just tried at a show or festival. Seasonal and one-off beers were not considered, I’ll try to make a list of those next. Re-branded or re-packaged beers were also not counted, however those that were previously available at a brewery’s retail store or at a licensee were. All that said, here are my selections in alphabetical order.
Twice as Mad Tom IPA from Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge, Ontario is a slightly hazy and bright amber colour with a frothy off-white head that settles as a thin collar and leaves cascading lace at every stage of the glass. This American double IPA wallops your nose with pineapple, grapefruit and mango notes along with accents of pepper and pine set against a thick toffee-caramel backing.
The taste of Twice as Mad Tom IPA has a layered effect about it. Waves of citrus flavours like pineapple and tangerine, grapefruit rind wash over toasted grains, caramel malts and mango tones. Every sip seems to taste a bit different, though a solid bitterness permeates the whole glass. The mouthfeel is fairly thick and grainy, but it also has a warm creaminess, semi-viscose oiliness and mild carbonation. The finish is sharp while pine, rind and pepper notes mingle in the aftertaste.