T'was the night before the night before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a drop of liquor was stirring,
Not even Fame'd Grouse.

(Just kidding, lots of liquor was stirring.)

As a shopper I ventured to the liquor store with great care,
Knowing a Great Lakes specialty beer was sure to be there.

I bought it and tasted it, and orange with spice it lead,
With much dryness and some bitterness smacking me in the head.

...okay, not unlike my Pumpkin Ale post, you're nuts if you think I'm doing this whole post in verse and poetry!

But welcome once again dear reader to ye olde Matt's Beer We Go!, this time featuring yet another beer from our friends at Great Lake Brewery, who present to you and I at this festive season, their Winter Ale. And no, I can assure you, it does not taste of misery and road salt, but is rather lively and jovial much like said festive season.

Coming in a very generous sized bottle with very generous booze (6.2% alchy, and 750 mL, size of a standard wine bottle!), this colourful ale comes with muchas bright bottle art, featuring a charming chree, erm, tree, with festive snow flakes falling about (don't worry, you don't have to shovel it).

Upon removing the white wrapping paper around the bottle neck and pouring it into your vessel of choice (usually a glass), a rich deep orangy red hue, bronze if you will, fills the glass not unlike flames in a fireplace. It certainly looks rich and deep, and flavourful.

And by George! it certainly is rich and deep and flavourful, especially in its scent. One instantly gets a strong punch of spices (I picked out cloves, the smart ass bottle says cinnamon and ginger...yeah, I guess they're right), and of course, oranges, the latter of which is a subtler scent. Winter Ale is very fragrant and fresh, and reminded me of a Christmas candle or potpourri (disclaimer: I do not own potpourri).

The taste goes on to verily much reflect the smells present, which is not always the case though: scent does not always translate into flavour. The taster gets a full but lightish spicy taste ride, with the spices reminding me of my old friend, Pumpkin Ale (or simply pumpkin pie). Medium bodied and dryish, it is a fairly smoothish, distinct ale, whose alcohol content does not trump the taste, and whose orange appeal is in the very background, with the bitterness of the peel certainly making an appearance.

Its aftertaste still speaks to the spices present, which is in fact a pleasant experience not unlike waking up Christmas morning to find one's stocking stuffed with $100 bills.

Great Lake's Winter Ale is of course a unique beer, made only at this time of year, so it's not something you'll be able to go out and grab say, in July, so if you're a fan of spicy, jumpy ales, go grab a handful now while you can. I originally graded this beer slightly lower, but after its second serving (I wasn't about to chug the whole 750 mL at one sitting), it grew on me slightly more.

A full, robust beer, it's sure to take the edge off the misery of driving in crappy weather or dealing with the morons at the mall, and put you back in the spirit of things (even if only for a brief time).

In short:

Jingle bells, this beer smells, but it's actually kinda swell.

**3/4 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$6.95 (US$6.63).


LCBO #90845
Beer, Ale, Craft Brewery
6.2% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 3
Made in: Ontario, Canada
By: Great Lakes Brewing Co. Inc.

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