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Great Lakes Winter Ale - Great Lakes Brewery

Not Rated.
Great Lakes Winter AleGreat Lakes Winter Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

62 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 62
Hads: 104
Avg: 3.54
pDev: 18.08%
Wants: 0
Gots: 11 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Great Lakes Brewery visit their website
Ontario, Canada

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  6.20% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: pootz on 12-10-2006

Inspired by the long, cold and seemingly endless Canadian winter, our 6.2% alcohol Winter Ale is a true winter warmer. Handcrafted with specialty hops and malts, combined with generous amounts of cinnamon, honey, ginger and orange peel, this unique beer is brimming with flavour.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 62 | Hads: 104
Photo of CAMRAhardliner
2.46/5  rDev -30.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Pours a deep red color with a tiny ring of foam on top. Webs of lace circumvent the glass. The aroma is of gingerbread cookies, cloves and toffee. Not much else but spices and sweetness in the nose. The first sip reminded me of ginger ale, lots of ginger flavor in this. Malt sweetness, cloves, nutmeg and a slightly soapy flavor show up after a bit of warmth. Hops provide only a stabilizing bitterness, but nothing else. The mouthfeel is cloying and slick. The finish is a sickly mish mash of spices and sweetness.

This beer was overspiced and lacked in beer flavors. It's insipid and hard to finish too sweet, and like eating powdered nutmeg. Pass.

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Photo of ThatWineGuy
2.55/5  rDev -28%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

The large corked, bottle came in a gift pack at the LCBO with two tasting glasses included. The look was an effervescent, spritzy dark cherry hue, it reminded me of prune juice, then maybe a cherry cola gone flat. No head, murky appearance, it smelled feintly like a pink grapefruit, the taste is a bit of sour and bitter, not very appealing. Gassy mouthfeel. The taste has this kind of "clunk" to it that I eventually traced to the large ginger presence, that's a taste in food and drink that I can take only in small doses. It's my personal bias but I found the ginger over bearing and a bit too pronounced. Not being a ginger fan, the beer was less palateable to me personally. For the style of beer, it's not out of the ordinary and the orange peel and the cinammon ensure it's true to it's winter warmer roots, but my bias here doesn't allow me to mark it much higher, with apologies to a brewery that produces some fine stuff of late.

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Photo of Cramshawbar
2.75/5  rDev -22.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

Great Lakes (who produces some great beer) decided that Winter is about ginger and cinnamon. Sure, there are claims for other added surprises but those two kill them all.
Many here voiced their opinion on Winter Warmers and I tend to agree. Haven't had a great one yet.

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Photo of Foddz
2.76/5  rDev -22%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A: Pours a slightly earthier tone than reddish-copper, with two fingers worth of mixed-size beige bubbles capping it nicely. Head persists for a little while before forming a soapy film on top, leaving some lacing around the glass. More carbonation can be seen rising to the top from within.

S: Sweet ginger, honey, caramel. Maybe a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg as well. There's some bready malt present as well. I want to say there's a faint hint of orange peel in the mix as well. It comes across as a bit of a jumble.

T: The taste is a bit more on target. Biscuity malts are a little more forward, with the ginger and cinnamon spice taking a back seat as compared to the nose. Caramel rounds out the middle. A little more balanced with the citrus/orange zest a bit more at play towards the back end. Overall quite sweet and not much hops to balance things out. Aftertaste is a lingering ginger/nutmeg/orange peel combination. Still a bit of a jumble but better than the nose.

M: A little thin with a sharp prickling of carbonation. A little bit of stickiness from the sweetness. Not terrible but doesn't seem well suited to the rest of the beer.

O: I want to like this beer. It has a lot of interesting elements that just don't come together in a really cohesive fashion. Some entropy is at play as the whole doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts, at least in my mind.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
2.78/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

A - Dark brown with one finger of cream coloured head.

S - Heavily spiced. A lot of cinnamon and nutmeg. Not much else comes through as the spices really overpower the nose.

T - Follows the nose. Lots of cinnamon and nutmeg - they completely dominate the palate. Nothing else comes thorough at all. Very one dimensional.

M - Medium body, lightly carbonated.

D - Way too spiced. Difficult to drink.

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Photo of decimator
3/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

750ml bottle poured into a pint glass.

A - Poured a clear copper-brown colour with a 1" head. The head was gone in a few minutes and not much lacing.

S - Some sweetness and some spiciness but it's a bit mild overall.

T - Mostly caramel & honey sweetness upfront. I can pick up the spices in the background. A bit of a bitter fruit in the finish but it's a bit overshadowed by the alcohol bite.

M - Good carbonation with some stickiness.

D - It's OK. This one was a slow sipper. I found the aftertaste was just a bit off putting.

Overall this isn't a bad beer but it didn't stand out for me either.

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Photo of kwjd
3.01/5  rDev -15%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

On tap at C'est What. I wasn't a huge fan of this last year because I thought the spices overpowered the beer, but I've since had several winter warmers that I've enjoyed so I thought maybe my palate has changed. Poured a reddish-brown colour with thin off-white head. Head sticks around, leaving little lacing. Smell is of cinnamon and nutmeg and I can't smell anything else since the spices overpower anything else in the beer. Flavour is a bit sweet, but I keep smelling the spices. I don't know if I would notice much of a difference between this and taking a bland lager and adding a ton of cinnamon to it.

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Photo of trevorwideman
3.06/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

750ml bottle poured into a snifter.

Opens with barely a sound...where's the carbonation? Pours a deep red-orange colour....ahh, there's the carbonation. About a finger of head off of a gentle pour, then lots of nice lacing. Intense cinnamon/nutmeg aroma overpowers pretty much everything else going on here, but there's a hint of apple blossom/honey sweetness in the background...but whoa, the spice is intense! A bit one dimensional.

The taste is really nothing much to write home about. The cinnamon and nutmeg is in evidence, and lends a spicy dryness to the whole thing, a light burn on the way down. There's a light honey, malty sweetness, but no bitterness to speak of. Wow, it tastes almost exactly how it smells. If it weren't for the spices, there would be nothing here. Mouthfeel is watery and thin, so obviously it slides down very easily. Chuggable I guess, just rather bland.

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Photo of Viggo
3.11/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Corked, capped and foiled 750 ml bottle, from the gift pack. Had on tap a few times last year but never reviewed.

Pours a clear red/brown, decently thick off white head, some lace spots, okay retention. Smell is sweet, some caramel, gingerbread, oranges, some spice, bit sickly sweet, pine tree, okay. Taste is similar, sweet caramel maltiness, pine tree, oranges, weird citrus and spicy bitterness, dirty finish, a bit tart, kind of weak flavour but what sticks out isn't all pleasant. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with low to medium carbonation. These guys always seem to have some potential but never follow through.

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Photo of grub
3.13/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

750ml bottle, corked and caged with a white champagne wrapper on top. purchased in november 2007 as part of a gift pack with two glasses.

pours a nice red colour with just a wisp of dense white head. no lace.

aroma is nice. lots of christmas spice - cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, maybe a hint of clove. slightly floral and a bit perfume-like - one of the traits that i'm not especially fond of in pumpkin/christmas brews. hint of alcohol. multi-grain bread.

taste is ok. medium-low bitterness. lots of spice. floral. slightly soapy and perfumey. bit of alcohol. bit of multi-grain bread hidden behind the wash of spices. not quite my thing.

mouthfeel is ok. medium carbonation level. medium body. lingering and slightly clingy mouthfeel from the spice that isn't entirely pleasant.

drinkability is ok. this one has far to much spice for me, but seems ok otherwise. if you like these sorts of strongly spicy christmas and/or pumpkin type brews, feel free to ignore my rating.

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Photo of MeisterBurger
3.16/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

Pours a nice, reddish golden amber topped by a billowy, moussey head. Retains and laces well enough.

The aroma is caramel, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger.

The taste is orangey underneath with a hint of mulling spices--cinnamon, vanilla, what have you--with some definite caramelly sweetness cutting through it all. There's almost a cola or a ginger ale aspect to this, and just a mild tinge of iron like bitterness in the dry finish.

This seems fairly light bodied, a bit watery, and despite there appearing to be a lot of carbonation, there's not a lot in the mouthfeel. It tastes a bit flat.

The marketing speak on the label calls this "a true winter warmer."

False. This is a drinkable and pleasant enough beer, but honestly it refreshes far more that it warms. This reminds me more of a pop than a beer. There's not enough malt or body or alcohol and if it warms at all it's only because it comes in a 750ml bottle. Hell, 750ml of Labatt Ice drank quickly enough might warm me up a little, but that hardly makes it a winter warmer.

Like most of Great Lakes seasonals, is a pretty mediocre effort. It's a crowd pleaser, sure. Providing the crowd doesn't want anything particularly challenging or interesting from their beer.

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Photo of TheHammer
3.17/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: A finger and a half of head that retained quite well, but lacked in lace. The body is a cloudy brown with a couple red notes and quite a lot of fine sediment.

Smell: Cinnamon and orange peel are the dominant scents with a touch of sweet malt in the background. Warming helped quite a bit, but there's just not enough bang.

Taste: Starts with a mixed cinnamon and sugary malt taste that reminds me of cinnamon snap cookies. Then it tends to lose some of the sweetness a has a little musty yeast note that is accented by some citrus and ginger and ending with a slight spice note.

Mouthfeel: It has some musty notes that don't quite sit right with me, but the cinnamon gingerbread after taste is quite nice. The carbonation also seems to handle the somewhat jumbled flavour shifting.

Drinkability: It's designed to be a single one of winter drinker, and that's exactly what it does. Medium bodied and a little dry, but could serve as a desert beer.

Final Thoughts: I've yet to encounter a Winter Warmer that has really wowed me. Certainly this is a nice seasonal one off, but there's nothing here that would make me seek it out again. Worth one shot if anything.

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Photo of crwills
3.2/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I usually like Great Lakes' specialty beers, but this one just didn't do it for me. Poured a nice reddish brown with a big bubbly head into (haha) a Labatt Blue glass. You takes what you gets.

Spicy, fruitcake-like aroma with lots of bready notes. Not bad -- I started thinking maybe this wouldn't be excessively spiced, but I was wrong. Way too much artificial-seeming nutmeg, cinnamon, and (maybe) ginger for me. The spices overwhelmed the beer, which otherwise might have been a nice brown ale. Too much carbonation as well. Aftertaste is bitter and lemony or orangey.

I'll stick with the 666.

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Photo of Swedes21
3.35/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Served in a chilled glass

Appearance - beer pours a dark brown/amber in colour. The head is fairly thick in appearance, off white. It's about one finger in height and has some good staying power. It was hard to tell the carbonation levels.

Smell - I can pick up some orange, orange zest, very good balance of spice and hops.

Taste - I found the primary taste was orange followed by spices and then a slight bitter hop finish. I would not say this was as balanced as i hope, but a very nice tasting beer.

Mouthfeel - The added level of carbonation brings more bitterness to the end. The beer has a full mouthfeel.

Drinkability - I found this to have too much contrast between the orange and spice mixture. Not a bad beer, just not something i will miss in the summer!

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Photo of Mit
3.35/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

a-deep amber with a respectable head.

s-cinnamon, orange peel and clove. Tremendous smells coming from this. Nice sweet flavour works into all that.

t-Very spicy nice and balanced. Cinnamon and Orange peel coming to the fore with the malty backbone rounding everything out.

m-maybe a little thin for a 6% beer but still within reason.

d-pretty drinkable. The cinnamon got pretty strong after a while however. I still really enjoyed this beer.

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Photo of ritzkiss
3.43/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

2010 750ml bottle, pours a dark brown with hints of reddish, a couple fingers of airy foam on top. Nose reveals some orange zest and a hint of ginger, some earthy peppercorn as well.

Odd take, seems quite a bit different than the cask I had last year, thus the new review. Orange zest, loads of peppercorn both black and white, hint of fresh grated ginger, hint of cinnamon, caramel, earth, touch of cocoa. Far too thin body, carbonation is a little too zippy, needs some bulk and richness. Not a traditional take but more a mulled wine with beer - very unique and tasty.

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Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.45/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Re-review for the 2010 edition.

Poured into a nonic glass. Dark amber-ruby, a thick white head, with a bit of lacing. The head sticks around for most of the sample, leaving behind a thin, but sturdy ring,.

Smell is quite strong: malt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, orange peel and caramel. Not bad, certainly more noticable than some of the winter brews I've had thus far.

With other Great Lakes brews, the flavors have been to thin, too boring, too washed out. In this case, I felt that, if anything, there was too much flavor. Man, was this spicy. Huge flavor punches of cinnamon, ginger, clove, pepper, orange peel, with bready malts only reaching the surface every so often. Flavorful, but difficult to finish. Reminds me of making mulled wine, and drinking a cup near the end of the pot, which has spent more time with the cloves and spice bag and is thus just too strong. Still good, but too strong...

Mouthfeel is decent, reasonably carbonated, slightly creamy.

This year's edition feels like an improvement upon the former, with bolder flavors and a better mouthfeel. However, I think the spices have been jacked up to a more-than-reasonable level, making this bit difficult to drink. Still, I have to give credit where it's due. This is by far Great Lakes' best wide-release brew, and worthy of a pickup on a cold winter day. Just be sure to share it; a tall bottle is a bit much.

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Photo of spinrsx
3.45/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

650ml Bottle

Appearance - The beer pours a amber colour with an average size fizzy off-white coloured head. There is an average amount of carbonation and there is some fair lacing on the sides of the glass. The head lasted for 5 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Caramel, oranges, all spice, hops

Taste & Mouth - The beer has an average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, hops, and all spice. There is also fair amount of citrus juice and zest flavour. It ends with a malty slightly sweet aftertaste with a touch of spiciness.

Overall – Another decent beer from great lakes but I'm afraid this one wasn't quite worth the 7$ price tag. It's just a little to thin and weak tasting, I was expecting something bolder.

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Photo of Kartoffeln
3.45/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2011 edition.

A: Pours a clear, dark mahogany with a big, pillowy head of dense, creamy, light tan foam. Fair retention, sinking to a thick foamy ring and leaving frothy lacing.

S: Caramel malts with a whiff of biscuitiness and butterscotch are almost overwhelmed by huge amounts of fruit and spice aromas. Cinnamon and ginger dominate amidst weaker notes of clementines, black cherries, candied and dark fruits, and orange zest. Undertones of honey and yeast throughout, and no discernible hops.

T: Cinnamon and ginger mingle with bready caramel malts, honey, nutmeg, and orange zest. Faint candied pear, cloves, yeast, and dry floral hops in the finish. Potently spicy in itself, but actually subdued and lacking complexity compared to the nose.

M: Medium mouthfeel with mild, creamy-smooth carbonation and just a touch of stickiness. The finish is actually rather dry as the floral hop bitterness easily outlasts the mild spice aftertaste, but the ale is still far from balanced on the whole.

D: It's hard not to be disappointed by the mild palate with such a robust nose, and it's hard to drink the whole bottle in one go, but it's not all that bad. Think of it a mulled ale counterpart to mulled wine; it's spicy, satisfying, and warming, but lacks any nuance or complexity.

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Photo of MMansfield
3.46/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Purchased bottle at NSLC in the Christmas giftpack selection. 750mL bottle, white foil, corked.

Appearance: Pours a really nice deep red colour, clear. Off white head is creamy and sticks around.

Aroma: Sweet and fruity, fair amount of cinnamon and candied orange.

Taste: Has a malty character behind the spices and orange flavour. I don't understand why brewers put so much spice in their christmas ales.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, fair amount of carbonation.

Final Statement: Definately not a bad beer but also not a great beer IMO. I personally like less spices and a higher alcohol content in a winter warmer.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a deep orangey color ale with a nice foamy head with OK retention but no lacing. Aroma of caramel malt with light spice mix is weaker then anticipated. Taste is a mix between some nice caramel malt with some notes of cloves and ginger. Body is thinner then expected with some medium carbonation. I was expecting a bit more character from this one but enjoyable nonetheless.

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Photo of chaz410
3.52/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Body of this brew is very deep amber in color but still transparent. Has a nice froathy white head that last several minutes.
Smells of caramel malts, biscuit character and hints of cinnamon.
Taste is full of biscuity caramel malts, lots of bready tastes and some hints of cinnamon and allspice. Theres heavy caramel undertone and some hints of chocolate and roasted malts.
Very thick mouthfeel that's pleasantly smooth.
You can have several of these before being sick of the taste, it's a very nice winter warmer indeed!

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Photo of jrenihan
3.53/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Beer has a dark toffee colour and a moderately sized off-white head.

Tonnes of spices in the nose. Clove foremost, followed by cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Bready malt is behind the spice.

Like the nose, the taste is full of spice. Cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg. Very pronounced. Orange peel is notable in the background, along with the bready malt flavours. It is a "warmer" all right, with all of the spices.

Moderate carbonation, medium bodied. The spice gives the beer a bit of a tingle. Pretty smooth.

Overall, not bad, but not totally my thing. The serving size is far too big. No reason to stick this in a 750ml bottle. Regular size would be more than fine. This beer is pretty good, but there is no way I will finish it.

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Photo of ecoastman
3.53/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Drinkability - A very decent local Ontario beer for a cold December night after putting up our Christmas tree. I'll have another glass to finish the big bottle but I don't think I'd have another bottle in the same night. The beer grows on me as it warms up and I work to the end of the first 500 mL. Good for a 6.2 ABV since the alcohol is not harsh.

Appearance - a clear beer that's a warm dark reddish-brown. Carbonation is medium with a big head to start and good retention. Some lacing remains as I finish the pint. The etched bottle is very nice.

Smell - Hops give good piney, orange, herbal, perfumy and spicy tones. Spices include ginger cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Not too overpowering. In the background the malt gives some sweet, roasted, nut and caramel nose.

Taste - similar to what you smell. The pine, ginger, orange and nut-brown ale tones are the most distinct...maybe some cardamom or peppermint in there too?... Mild bitterness and a dry finish. Although there are lots of different flavours in the mix, the beer doesn't have the complexity to the taste-to-nose that I anticipated.

Mouthfeel - Medium body goes down smooth with light carbonation (later in to the pint) with a slightly coarse finish.

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Photo of Digimaika2
3.53/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

(4.0) A: Attractive clear burnt amber coloured with a puffy cappuccino foam head. Good retention and very good lacing down the glass.

(3.5) S: Tangerine, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon/pumpkin, burnt caramel, grassy, and generally quite floral. A bit of a soapy aroma but not a negative, rather more reminiscent of those floral qualities.

(3.5) T: Gingerbread, cinnamon, pumpkin, caramel, nutmeg, and some citrus qualities that are more subdued than aroma indicated. The gingerbread taste is quite dominant and appealing, yet a bit overpowering in my opinion. Detecting some hefeweizen-like qualities with cloves and fresh grasses coming through. Tasty.

(3.5) M: Medium bodied with medium-low carbonation. Slick and semi-oily with a fairly clean texture.

(3.5) D: A good offering from Great Lakes but not quite my cup of tea. The gingerbread/cinnamon taste was very good at first sip but became a bit too dominant for my liking. A bit one dimensional overall.

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Great Lakes Winter Ale from Great Lakes Brewery
81 out of 100 based on 62 ratings.