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Lions Winter Ale - Granville Island Brewery

Not Rated.
Lions Winter AleLions Winter Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

61 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 61
Hads: 204
Avg: 3.67
pDev: 28.34%
Wants: 12
Gots: 39 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Granville Island Brewery visit their website
British Columbia, Canada

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  5.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: IronDjinn on 10-11-2004

Our Lions Winter Ale combines premium malt with aromatic specialty hops. The vanilla-like finish of this robust ale is a great excuse to get out of the cold and enjoy BC’s favourite winter beer made from the finest natural ingredients.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 61 | Hads: 204
Photo of Kremlock
3.78/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Lets start by saying that I agree with JohnnyBarman on the can advertising. I totally walked by this can a few times until I saw the small letters saying Winter Ale which is what got me interested. Such a boring can that I thought it was just an other "whatever" beer.

A: Amber colour, pours a nice 1/2 inch head then settles to a think white film with medium lacing. Beer is clear.

S: Caramel, vanilla (lots of it), some milk chocolate. Sort of smells like a hot chocolate gone cold.

T: Heavy on vanilla, has a good bitterness balance to the malt. Taste a bit like pancakes with loads of vanilla in it.

M: Thin and a bit watery, good carbonation, great bitterness to malt, finishes with a bit of sweetness

O: This is something great for the holidays. I wish it had more body and perhaps a bit more bread/biscuit flavours to it. Or even batter, some smokiness to it. But those are only my opinions. This is going well with fruit cake.

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Photo of peensteen
3.65/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Amber/copper colour, one finger of dense white head, good amount of lace here as well too. Smell is a nice mix of vanilla and spices, caramel, toffee, a subtle roast malt profile as well as some chocolate present. Taste is spicy and lightly sweet, vanilla with bits of toffee, chocolate and roast were more pleasant on the nose than on the palate, bit of bready flavours with a light bitterness. Medium carbonation, light to medium body. Not a bad beer and something I apreciate compared to some other spice bomb winter ales, a bit lackluster however but still a good drink.

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Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.73/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Can from the LCBO. I remember having this beer about four years ago, and thinking that it was an extremely vanilla-tasting brew. Looking forward to revisiting this. Can label is pretty uninspired, I have to say, compared to the nice bottle, but what can you do.

Poured into a nonic glass. Dark amber-brown, bit of ruby around the edges. Nice creamy head of foam, good retention. Lots of icicle lacing as well. Kept up well in the can.

Nose is certainly vanilla-heavy, so that much has remained the same. Caramel, bit of chocolate, a few odd christmas seasonings, but vanilla sweetness rules the day.

Again, vanilla is this brew's strong suit, but it has a few other cards in hand to play. There is some hop bitterness in there, as well as a decent malt backing with some cracker and biscuit. Actually, quite surprised with this. A bit watery in flavour, but quite easy to drink. Nice break from all the clove/coriander/molasses heavy winter brews I've had recently.

Watery feel, slightly creamy, moderate carbonation.

I have to say I did like this brew, which is a surprise for me with Granville. I happen to like vanilla a great deal, so that helped, but in general it was more balanced than I thought it would be.

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Photo of jrenihan
3.59/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark amber in colour, a bit of a caramel hue. A very small off-white head disappears almost instantly.

The nose is filled with vanilla, almost overwhelming. Behaind that, caramel malt, cocoa, hazelnut. Smells very sweet, candy like. The vanilla smells like it is probably extract or artificial- does not seem like actual vanilla bean.

The vanilla is also prominent in the taste, which is no surprise. Coupled with caramel and hazelnut, as well as some spices. Quite sweet. Finish is a bit metallic, artificial.

Beer is quite thin, strongly carbonated. Rather insubstantial, particularly for the flavours.

Overall, decent, but not something I would want often. I am a big vanilla fan, which probably helped, but I don't think it is done particularly well in this beer.

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Photo of liamt07
3.66/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottle shared by Steve, 341ml into a tulip.

Golden brown in colour, offwhite head - only a ring of retention persists, no lacing. Nose is full of vanilla, perhaps slightly artificial in tone. Some cocoa, brown sugar and nuts as well. Taste is lightly nutty, more breadiness, caramel, cocoa and vanilla. Carbonation is a bit higher than I'd like, but a few swirls of the glass took it down to a manageable level. Fairly thin however, and perhaps a little too sweet in the finish. Nose is quite nice, but palate doesn't live up to it. I thought this could've been a lot better with some more body and mouthfeel.

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Photo of Converge
3.82/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

341ml bottle poured into a 16oz pint glass. It was a year ago yesterday that I did my first review here on BA, so to commemorate that I've decided to re-review my first beer on here.

A - Pours with a decent sized head of light-tan bubbles atop a deep amber brew. The head reduces to a thin skiff of foam that leaves some small patches of lacing.

S - Not at all what I remember. Tons of sweet malty goodness upfront, with strong vanilla, maple, toffee, and nut notes. Quite woody, maybe oak, with some smokey tones as well. I just can't get over how sweet and rich this smells. Almost reminds me of Rogues Hazelnut Brown Nectar, but with some of the nutty aromas replaced with vanilla and toffee.

T - A malt bomb for sure. Piles of caramel malt, vanilla sweetness and toffee notes dominate upfront. The woody character is subdued but still detectable, coming through along with the nuttiness and smokey/light roastiness. Finishes with a touch of holiday spices and more lingering vanilla extract sweetness. Very well put together if you don't mind sweet, malty beer.

M - Feels a touch on the lighter side, but the fine carbonation that thoroughly fills the body gives it a nice feel overall.

D - Pretty good stuff, and certainly a better brew than my memory had me believe. Really easy to drink, with a sweet and malty profile making it perfect for the chilly holiday season.

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Photo of tbeckett
3.97/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pint at Cat's Social House on Granville Island. From notes.

A - Amber pour with a one finger white head. Bright. Light carbonation, spotty lace and a film of retention.

S - Sweet spice, lot's of caramel and toffee.

T - Nice toffee and caramel, hops, sweet spice.

M - Nice carbonation, medium body, some hops and spice in the finish.

O/D - Very nice spice which was subtle but mixed well with other elements. Rich malt and nice hops in a winter beer. Good stuff.

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Photo of leaddog
4/5  rDev +9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - Clear, copper hue with thin white head. Lots of bubbles are present.

Smell - Vanilla, caramel and hazelnut aromas are the most predominant. Very sweet smelling like candy.

Taste - Very nice vanilla flavour. Light caramel flavour. Not overly sweet despite the sweet aromas that are first encountered. Slightly bitter aftertaste at the end.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied with nice tingly bubbles. Goes down smooth.

Overall - A pleasant winter warmer from GIB. The vanilla flavour was very nicely showcased and was well-balanced. This ale would be even better if some spices were thrown in - perhaps clove or nutmeg. Would definitely buy again.

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Photo of timtwoface
4.37/5  rDev +19.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Ahh, a Christmas classic in the Vancouver area. This was my first winter warmer and still among my favourites. When I was first of age, as far as beer is concerned, this beer defined what Christmas was supposed to taste like. The really striking aspect of this beer is the vanilla flavours that go all the way through, from the initial smell to the lingering aftertaste. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that appreciates beer with that sweet vanilla taste; it's so very drinkable.

Another similar one to this in BC is Tree Brewing's Vertical Winter Ale; I think it's even better, though GI's Lions Winter Ale is still excellent. Try 'em both and support your BC breweries this Christmas!


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Photo of beerayrton
3.05/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I`ve had this beer multiple times, and thought it would be a good beer for my first review.

Appearance - Pleasant, not much head at all, less than a finger. Minimal to no lacing.

Smell - Vanilla with a hint of nuttiness. Not too bad, but for some reason I`ve had better pours.

Taste - Maple notes up front, desolving into vanilla notes the deeper you get into it. There`s a bitter note there as well.

Mouthfeel - Medium amounts of carbonation, and a crisp and clear, slightly bitter feel.

Overall - Very drinkable. The vanilla is really the key here, it is what makes it as palatable as it is. I most likely will order again next time I am at the pub that offers this beer, seeing as it`s the best one on tap. I will order it soon, especially if I am having a dessert.

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Photo of dougfredell
4.29/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I love this beer. As far as I'm concerned it is the best tasting local beer in Vancouver. It reminds me of Unibroue beers from Quebec, which is high praise. Awesome beer!

I guess it was slightly foggy - but I don't care about that at all - so long as there's no actual chunks in it.

Presumably it tastes better because it's more fresh. It's only available in the fall, so theoretically it's been brewed more recently.

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Photo of ChrisCage
4.17/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 2 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

A- I poured this fairly aggressively and was greeted with a modest looking white head that settled very quickly into nothingness. The color of the brew is a clear looking, maybe slightly chill hazed brown flat out, not super dark, not real light....just brown. There appears to be an average amount of carbonation, and there isn't really any lacing to speak of....kind of disappointing to look at to be honest!

S- Lots going on here, and most of it is sweet aromas! I'm picking up vanilla, macintosh toffee, milk chocolate and pancake syrup all rolled into one. It really smells like dessert or fresh baking....delicious aromas for sure!

T- Whoa, the flavors are just as variant as the smells! Overall, it mimics the aromas closely, just with more earthiness and some nut qualities mixed in as well. The finsih is dry and slightly spiced. Overall, it's really tasty, just not as prominent as the previous category!

M- I was kind of disappointed again in this category....I find the body to be thin like a cream soda pop, which is what I really can liken this to! The carbonation is actually quite smooth allowing this to not make me feel bloated on the other hand, so I'm torn but wanted this to be a full bodied brew....oh well!

O- A very tasty beer, that while considered a winter warmer, I'm finding quite enjoyable on a summer evening! The alcohol isn't super strong to begin with, but it is very well hidden behind all the sweetness. I'd have no problem having several of these in an evening/afternoon! I do recommend this one and will pick this up again when in season! I'm in the same boat as the previous review....had this one maturing for some time...my wife picked it up for me....I thought I knew what I'd be getting but I'm quite happy with the surprise I ended up with!

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Photo of JayAre46
3.52/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - poured firmly into a tulip produced 1 1/2 fingers of white head that reduce to a sheet that covers the top, auburn mahogany pretty deep and close to opaque. minimal lacing

A - get some pale malts and vanilla extract that smells absolutely great while not over powering maybe some earthy tones along with slight nutty aroma

T - Holy shit, up front the pale roasted malts, then the vanilla extract dominance this beer tastes very similar to the soda A&W makes, cream soda? very different beer, absolute vanilla bomb, the nose definitely suggests this flavor but not this much. Im not sure what to think exactly whether im enjoying it or not, perhaps on the slopes this might hit the spot...no hop presence or alcohol the cream soda is absolutely dominant.

M - light to medium bodied, medium carbonation, lost all focus from this cream soda....jesus christ maybe this is what a cream ale should be. slightly soothing on the palate, im going to say that this does not have a high drinkability when temps are over 50F and i live in texas....and its may

O - Thank you rutager for this brew,quite the experience. i have put this brew off for sometime now because i always looked at it and thought to myself, i already know what that tastes like...never have i ever been so wrong, the aroma got me thinking real quick im in for it. The character of this beer stands out a lot to me and while im not loving it, i am liking it and also can see how could this may be on the side of a mountain.

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Photo of Rutager
3.92/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance. Pours a nice amber-brown. Half a finger of off-white head.

Smell. Vanilla, roasty malts. Pretty nice.

Taste. Artificial vanilla and light, roasty malt. Just a hint of sweetness with a beter vanilla aftertaste than the initial hit.

Mouthfeel. Medium carbonation. Quite thin.

Drinkability. A pretty good drinker. Goes down easy due to it being a bit watery and not too sweet.

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Photo of wreckless
4.09/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Vanilla, Vanilla, and more Vanilla.

Appearance: a clear, dark amber, light off white head, slight lace and retention.

Smell: roasty malt and caramel, nutty yeast, dense chocolate and vanilla bean.

Taste: thin bready malt initially, followed nutty chocolate and strong hints vanilla.

Mouthfeel: light carbonation with a smooth, creamy, fluid body followed by an amazing dense vanilla finish.

Drinkability: a great winter ale with an extreme vanilla personality makes this the perfect beer up on the mountain or by the fire on a cold winter night. the elegant mixture of chocolate, yeasty malt, and vanilla give a great balanced feel.

i first tasted this ale after a day of riding at Mt. Seymour. It was on tap, and was an exceptional winter ale. as i've said, this ale is all about vanilla, and although some may frown at that, i embrace it as it is a perfect compliment to the winter months. i have since drank this winter ale in bottle form and can't get enough of it.

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Photo of CrazyMike
3.75/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Amber brown appearance with bubbly head that disappears quickly. Has a sweet smell similar to maple syrup with a hint of caramel and vanilla.

Has a strong vanilla taste with malt and nuts as well. Has a nice blend of spices, has a hint of caramel and bread. Taste overall is almost similar to the smell. Medium bodied with medium carbonation. Aftertaste is bitter and leaves a lingering vanilla taste in your mouth.

Overall this is a pretty decent winter beer, the overtly vanilla and caramel taste helps it stand out over other beers. Should give it a try when it's available.

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Photo of andrenaline
3.84/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Another in-person trade acquisition.

A - Pours a crystal clear copper brown, thin layer of head with no real retention, no lacing, and decent visible carbonation on the body.

S - This one is super bready with some rye malt characteristics, buttered bread, caramel, cinnamon and vanilla.

T - Holy vanilla! Though rather discreet on the nose, the vanilla comes through quite strong on the flavour followed by sweet caramel and buttered bread. Bit of a pepsi-cola flavour to it as well, very unique and tasty.

M - This stuff goes down smooth, but it is a tad watery.

D - I like this winter warmer because the flavours are mild enough that you could enjoy several in one sitting. Definitely a tasty offering from Ganville and I will be buying more of this.

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Photo of joemcgrath27
4.04/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - clear amber, one thumb of bubbly off white head that fizzled away to a light covering
S - roasty malt and semi sweet chocolate, light ginger and nutmeg, and a resiny hop note, very complex
T - sweet caramel and light chocolate up front, very subtle nutmeg and allspice, and just slight herbal hop hint
M - nicely carbonated, light feel with the spice filling the mouth just enough, but a little thin on the finish
D - an interesting mix of aroma and flavour, the winter warmer spice is there but not over the top as so many seem to be, one could likely enough several of these in a sitting

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Photo of EskimoDave
2.88/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Lions Winter Ale is a blood red beer. Vanilla dominates the nose with a milk chocolateliness to it. This carries over to the taste of the beer. Toffee is subtly present in the background through out. The low carbonation leads to an incredible smooth beer with a solid medium body. There is a residual cloying sweetness in the finish.

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Photo of OskarL
3.44/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Clear dark amber color with a two finger head that settles fast and leaves little lacing.

Smells of a lot of toffee, cloves, caramel, vanilla and spiced christmas bread.

Tastes quite like the nose but it finishes a bit sweet with some dark fruits.

Has a light/medium body and good carbonation.

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Photo of Grunewald
3.01/5  rDev -18%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A - poured from a 341ml bottle can into a tulip glass. It pours red with a quickly vanishing white head.

S - vanilla, toffee/tootsie roll,root beer, nuts and breakfast cereal

T - spicy malt with pop (vanilla cola and root beer) undertones and a strange tangy/vanilla finish

M - medium carbonation, medium body and a sticky finish

D - the flavors seem very artificial and remind me of name brand snacks/pop. The finish has a chemical taste and mouthfeel like cola.

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Photo of wordemupg
3.79/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

341ml bottle poured into 400ml dab glass nov4 2009

A clear amber leaning towards red, very fast falling two finger head that leaves no lace

S a fair bit of milk chocolate with some spices and vanilla

T tastes as it smells and that's not a bad thing the spice is mild not over the top, pretty mellow

M thin but has good carbonation helping its cause

D pretty easy drinking but not worth looking for, not quite enough booze for a winter warmer in my eyes

good but not great, worth drinking good flavor going on but I think you can get better winter ales with little effort

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Photo of biboergosum
3.46/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

341ml bottle, procured in Vancouver a few weeks ago.

This beer pours a perfectly clear medium cola-tinted amber hue, with a satisfying amount of thinly puffy off-white head, which melts away at due pace, leaving some random specks of lace around the glass.

It smells of spiced, slightly sweet bread – ginger and nutmeg – quite light, all, with a further caramel/toffee maltiness, and a touch of smoky vanilla. The taste is replete with the aforementioned warming spices, a bit of yeastiness, a strong caramel malt backbone, some softly acidic hoppiness, and some earthy, sweetly boozy vanilla.

The carbonation is just about average, the body sporting an adequate medium weight, some sugary creaminess informing its overall smoothness. It finishes on the sweet side, as the spices drop away totally, leaving the caramel malt and vanilla all on their own.

With no appreciable warming from the tweak of extra alcohol, this is a nice, mild winter sipper, less spiced than many of its seasonal brethren, and another agreeable choice for those occasions when a six-pack is the order of the day.

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Photo of Doppelmax
4.57/5  rDev +24.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

I liked this beer so much I just had 3 pints. Usually Canadian micros leave me a bit wanting. Not so for this brew. It was served at Snowshoe Sam's at Big White ski area and drawn from a tap that was labeled "Granville Island Winter Ale"
A wonderful reddish copper color but the head faded quickly. The malt aroma was predominant really no hops were noticed. I found the flavour very surprising, the malt just jumped out and grabbed my palate. The hops were so far in the background I didn't detect them at first. All in all a very caramel taste that just seemed right for my liking. After the first pint I had a few plates of various flavoured chicken wings but the malt just kept right up with the various types of wings. A dense body best describes the mouthfeel. I could have certainly had a few more if my much better half said it was time to head back to our condo. I'll certainly try this beer again and again

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Photo of Hornet2003
3.82/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

This beer confuses me a little bit. In previous years, before I was really into craft beer, this would be my pride and joy during the winter season. The heavy spice flavors combined with the vanilla finish were unique to me at that point and seemed unfathomable in other beers.

Well my perceptions have changed slightly.

Appearance: The beer pours a beautiful colour. Dark amber with a finger's head.

Smell: Delicious. The aroma on this beer never ceases to impress me. Lots of clove and vanilla. Overall, a "sweet" aroma.

Taste: This is where the beer falls short of my memories. It seems somewhat cloying. The flavours are unrefined. They are all there but not as blended as I would prefer. Bold vanilla dominates the taste. The first bottle of the sixer tasted rather metallic and artificially chemically. I figured it was still young(The beer was just released 2 days earlier) so I left it in the fridge for a couple weeks. The next ones I tried seemed to be better so maybe I had a bad bottle.

Mouthfeel: This is a lighter beer overall, especially for a supposed winter warmer. Good carbonation level...Not too much, not too little. A little watery.

Drinkability: I can drink this like water. Alcohol is relatively low so it's not overly aggressive in aroma or taste and the vanilla flavour is different enough to make you want to keep drinking it. It's a good conversation beer as everyone around you can smell the vanilla and spice notes in the aroma. I got my cousin's boyfriend hooked on this stuff last year so it's obviously drinkable to craft beer geek and everyone else in between.

Overall: I give it a high rating because I have enjoyed it previosuly for the past 2 years before I was into craft beer. Now that I have some more experience, I'll say that it is a very average beer that serves it's purpose during the holiday season. I'll still buy it because it's so drinkable but for a treat I'll take a Granville Island Merry Monks or a Tree Spiced Mid-Winter Ale.

This beer is definately NOT retired. Seasonal for sure, but it's back in full force for 2006/07.

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Lions Winter Ale from Granville Island Brewery
83 out of 100 based on 61 ratings.