Great Lakes Winter Ale | Great Lakes Brewery

64 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Great Lakes Winter AleGreat Lakes Winter Ale

Brewed by:
Great Lakes Brewery
Ontario, Canada

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.20%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by pootz on 12-10-2006

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 64 | Ratings: 116
Photo of Pisstank52
4.7/5  rDev +32.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bought a bottle at the LCBO in Ancaster , Ont. Love trying these winter ales available at the Liquor store eh! Found it to be spicy and a great winter ale eh! It's the first time I've tried the Winter Ale from Great Lakes Brewery and I can honestly tell you it won't be my last. Great taste and package , and and real crowd pleaser eh!

 335 characters

Photo of Voonder
4.22/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours nut-brown colour with white foamy head which dissapeared pretty quickly. Smell - spices hit nose right away, ginger, citrus, coriander, then malts become noticeable. Very comlex smell. Nice! Taste - spices again - cinnamon, ginger bread, some toffe perhaps. It is the winter warmer as it should be - complex, spicy, boozy. Carbonation is just right. Drinkability - good.
Very nice brew. Thanks to both bobsy and Viggo for this, one wouldn't be enough anyway;)

 465 characters

Photo of tpd975
4.17/5  rDev +17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Andrew who brought this one over for the Super Bowl.

A: Pours a nice nutty brown hue with a creamy tan head. Okay retention exhibited, but no lace resulted.

S: Light sweet malt up front with notes of caramel, cinnamon, and ginger.

T: Wonderful flavors abound. Great sweet malt gives this beer a wonderful backbone. Nice holiday spices come out with perfect amounts of cinnamon and ginger. Nothing too overpowering though. Light lemon hops in the finish make this a very tasty treat.

M: Medium in body smooth with nice carbonation.

D: Damn drinkable. My problem with most spiced beers is they go overthetop. Great Lakes did not do this the balance of malt, and spice was wonderful and actually complemented one another. A touch of hops help to pull it off in the finish.

A real tasty winter treat.

 812 characters

Photo of mrnobody
4/5  rDev +13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle poured into a Duvel tulip.

A: Pours a clear reddish-brown with 3 fingers of off-white head which leaves ample sticky lacing.

S: Smells of orange, cinnamon, like a fruitcake!

T: As per the aroma, tastes of malt, fruit and spice. A late contribution from hops also but definitely not the focus here.

M: The mouthfeel is medium and a little sticky with good carbonation.

D: Very drinkable.

This is exactly what I expect from a winter warmer in the aroma and flavour departments: fruit and spice. Not the English approach of just making a malty ale with slightly higher ABV.

 593 characters

Photo of jaz58
4/5  rDev +13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle. 6.2% alc./vol.

The nose was a nice combination of lemon and sweet malt.

When poured in a glass a thick blonde coloured head formed which dissipated slowly. The ale was a clear reddish brown colour with a decent amount of effervescence.

Wonderful hints of nutmeg, ginger and coriander and in the distance a little orange. Very smooth mouthfeel and a nice dry finish.

A nice ale to sip on a wintery night by the fireplace. A good beer for the holiday season.

 475 characters

Photo of leaddog
4/5  rDev +13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - Pours a deep copper with two fingers of foamy beige head.

Smell - Cinnamon, ginger, honey, orange peel, malts, slight leafy hops.

Taste - Warm winter spices (cinnamon, ginger, clove) with a touch of honey sweetness. Good malt and hop balance.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied with moderate carbonation.

Overall - A cohesive blend of classic winter spices and flavours. Well balanced and a tasty treat.

 412 characters

Photo of Kremlock
4/5  rDev +13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Deep copper and hues of amber in colour. Pours a nice thick (1/2 inch) head that is off white. sort of Irish cream diluted with some milk. There is a bit of a haze and the beer lacing continues through the end.

S: Spicy notes of cinnamon, cloves, ginger right off with loads of bread and caramel. Smells like creme brule and has a bit of alcohol in the background.

T: Ginger and cinnamon come threw very well with some ginger in the back. Hints of oranges mingle with the bready and toffee flavours.

M: Med-low body, has good carbonation, dry finish with a lasting bitterness.

O: I love this Winter Warmer. It has the spiciness you'd expect, the bread/caramel/toffee flavours to balance it and it has loads of hops for a nice bitter end. This is perfect for our weather.

 777 characters

Photo of nighthawk
3.94/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 mL bottle with no production/best before date.

Pours a clear brown with deep gold-amber hues. Lots of carbonation produces a fizzy head, but it quickly sinks to a small island of haze on the surface of the beer.

Ginger and nutmeg prominent on the nose, with a bit of clove. Background sweetness to it, like molasses or caramel maybe.

Smoothness of initial taste is countered by spicy ginger. Some sweetness to it; a muted honey butterscotch. Long ginger finish, but it isn't heavy handed, providing a nice spicy finish without overpowering. There's a faint bitter citrus in there - I'm guessing from the orange peel.

Smooth, medium-light body with a counteracting zing from light carbonation and the spiciness of the ginger. It's probably a touch too light for my tastes.

Somewhere in between a quaffer and a sipper; the smoothness and light sweetness makes you want to down it, but the ginger reels you in.

The ginger is a pleasant surprise in this one, giving it a nice spice without utterly overpowering the other flavours.

 1,036 characters

Photo of CrazyMike
3.93/5  rDev +11%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Amber brown appearance with decent head. Smells heavily of malt, picked up some orange and spices.

Taste is very malty and lots of cinnamon. Slight orange taste to it. Bitter and spicy. Dark bodied with moderate carbonation. Aftertaste is malty and sweet.

Overall, very unique dark beer. Definatly something you would drink in the winter. Curious to try other beers from Great Lakes now.

 389 characters

Photo of CanuckRover
3.9/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Finally got around to popping this baby open. Attractive Christmas tree etching. Pours a dark orange red, clear. Not surprisingly, not much head, lacings are spotty.

Sweet, malty nose. Caramel, maple and a hint of cinnamon. Nice, but not that strong really.

Not at all what I was expecting. With all the ingredients listed I was expecting something much more flavourful with a bit of an edge. Instead i get a pretty quaffable, malty, smooth ale with a hint of spice. Nice ginger on first contact. Orange peel gives a sort of juiciness to the beer. Cinnimon is quite subdued. Star of the show is some really tasty, chewy malt, yummmm. What little bitterness there is has a fight on its hands with the mix of spices, hard to tell what comes out.

Very drinkable for the alcohol, no harshness at all. I really enjoy the malt character of these Great Lakes brews. I really enjoyed this one.

 890 characters

Photo of marty21
3.88/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a clear amber with 3 fingers worth of off white head. Settles to a nice cap and thick lacing covers the entire glass.

S: Orange peel, cinnamon, caramel and some spices for the aroma.

T: Caramel malt with some spices and floral hops. Finishes with some bread.

M: Medium carbonation with a medium body.

D: I enjoyed this one. The spices and aren't too overpowering but they aren't weak which is perfect. A 750ml bottle is no problem with this beer. The taste doesn't get tiring at all.

 499 characters

Photo of Long813
3.85/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

G: Duvel Tulip

A: Dark copper body with two fingers of off white head that has good retention. Leaving faint lacing.

S: Mix of spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Biscuity aromas in the back along with notes of sweet malts.

T: Same as smell. The spices are very dominant here which is not what I was expecting. Biscuit and hint of sweet malts come together for something very pleasant.

M: Medium bodied and medium-low carbonation. Leaves a nice sweet and spicy feeling and goes down smooth.

D: Different take on a winter water than I am use to, but it is good none the less. It's also at an amazing price. Great beer for ontario.

 649 characters

Photo of korguy123
3.85/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2011 Release in a 750ml bottle.

A- Muddy brown with deep ruby highlights. Three finger soapy off white head. Thin cap is all that's left after several minutes. Lacing is excellent webbing all over the glass.

S- Huge ginger, honey and very dry cinnamon. Slight orange, very subdued under the ginger.

T- Like drinking ginger snaps covered in cinnamon. Definitely getting the sweetness from the honey but not getting the orange peel. This is an excellent winter beer (if you don't have a problem with ginger and cinnamon)

M- Medium bodied, dry lingering aftertaste.

O- I can really see where they were heading with this one. The spices don't offend me, they are a tad over powering but you quickly get used to it.

 715 characters

Photo of MrHall
3.85/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

G: Duvel tulip

A: Pours a clear dark reddish brown with a big tan head that has decent retention and some lacing.

S: orange, honey, toffee

T: malty orange, at the front followed by a kick of alcohol and hops. (I start to wonder: Is this just a "brown ale" hybrid of their pumpkin and orange ales?)

M: Pretty even - not too thin, and nice carbonation.

D: pretty easy to drink.

This was my first introduction to Winter Ales - 2 years ago, and perhaps my palate has changed. I can't decide if I like this better than, say, St. Peter's.

I don't think I do.

 560 characters

Photo of DenisKolkin
3.8/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle served cold into a standard pint glass. Purchased for approximately $6 CDN from the local LCBO. It's snowing outside so this seems appropriate today.

Appearance - the beer pours a semi transparent brown beer with Amber hues. A small half finger of head is poured, which disspates quickly leaving behind only a small wisp of foam. Visible carbonation is hard to tell due to the murkiness.

Smell - butterscotch, toffee and a few other Christmas like spices, maybe a pinch of cinnamon. Some dark fruit like plums in the undertones. Nothing overwhelming but certainly a nice bouquet that I expect will be a malt bomb. Slightly reminiscent of a malty english pale ale with some spices.

Taste - starts mild with a bit of butterscotch but sweetness is really reigned in. Then comes a sort of dry spice, again sort of all spice and cinnamon mixture that tastes dry.

Mouthfeel - well carbonated, moderately thin body for the style and a dry finish. The spicy mixture with the dryness leaves a zippy feeling on the tongue.

Overall - pretty good stuff, and one of the most drinkable winter warmers I've had. I find this style doesn't lend itself to drinking any more than a bottle, but this one from Great Lakes, if it came in a smaller package, I could see myself drinking a couple in a sitting.

 1,306 characters

Photo of pootz
3.8/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at the Brewery and bottled in 750 ML stenciled corked bottles for cellaring:

You get a rich copper colored ale in your glass with a substantial puffy cap which lasts...Aromas of the honey, spices and malts give an impression of an Xmas pudding with oranage sauce.

Decent malt spine, smooth palate, spicey-bready character.

Up front the cookie dough malts are there to chew on then the balance comes from the spices which seem to blend nicely with the hops chosen for this brew. Mid palate you get the fruitiness and citrus peel tastes developing...finished clean, slightly sweet and warming with a tang from the spice and hops.

A very well done winter warmer ale.

***imbibing tip: serve this ale at about 50 deg.F and let it warm as you drink it to get all the spice and citrus flavours.

 810 characters

Photo of biboergosum
3.78/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at C'est What.

This beer appears a slightly cloudy medium reddish brown hue, with one finger of off-white soapy head, which leaves no lace. It smells of caramel malt, nutmeg, and light cloves. The taste is spicy nutmeg, ginger, and sweet bready malt. The carbonation is moderate, the body medium weight, fruity, and smooth, and it finishes soft, with some extra caramel and Christmas spice.

A decent holiday spiced ale, just as the cold air has returned.

 463 characters

Photo of peensteen
3.78/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear copper/red colour, ring of tan head, good retention and lacing left behind. Smell is full of cinnamon and malt, bready with citrus notes, most notably orange, faint nutty scents come off of this as well. Taste is fairly malty, bready with cinnamon, lots of spice, light herbal flavours, fairly hoppy, moderate bitterness throughout. Medium carbonation, medium body, good feel. This is a pretty good brew however putting this in a 750ml bottle is completley unnecessary, a smaller serving would be more than adequate.

 530 characters

Photo of cratez
3.77/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured out of a 750ml bottle into a Westmalle glass.

Appearance: very dark red. A white, bubbly head subsides promptly and lightly laces the glass while drinking.

Smell: cinnamon, ginger, apple cider, and nutmeg. I want to quaff this beer immediately.

Taste: not what I expected. Some malty tartness, cinnamon, cardamom, and a mildly bitter hop aftertaste. The malt dominates a little too much and the flavour is not as well balanced as it could be. But this is interesting and tasty enough.

Mouthfeel: crisp upfront with a smooth, creamy body and carbonated bite in the finish. The alcohol is well hidden.

Drinkability: I like winter warmers, and while this isn't as good as Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale, it's a damn fine beer. I will be buying more of this over the season.

 786 characters

Photo of GodOfBeer
3.76/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Comes in a nice looking 750ml bottle. Pours a beautiful deep reddish/orange/brown with a nice dedicated thick off-white head that sticks around to the last drop.

The only thing I get from the aroma is cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and some malty sweetness.

The taste is similar, very cinnamony and gingery with other spices, the alcohol comes up as it warms up and more flavours come out, dried fruit, caramel.

Not a bad beer, but it needs more body and more malt, it's missing something

 487 characters

Photo of nokes
3.73/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Drank this out of wine glasses, as a few of us were sharing this one. Interesting colour...almost a red-orange when held up to the light. Very clear, and with a head that stuck around a while before eventually dying down to a swirly bubble film that never really went away.

The smell was actually a fair bit more delicate than I had anticipated. Expected heavier cidery/cinnamon after reading the bottle, but it was lighter than all that; almost floral in a way. Nice smell, but for some reason, not better than nice to my nose.

Taste was good, better than the smell for me. Slight sweetness up front, but then the other tastes came on to balance it out. The cinnamon and orange peel were quite helpful there; this brew is pretty smooth and reasonablly balanced all in all. The 6.2% ABV isn't apparent in the least. You'd never know it. No rough edges. Finish was just faintly bitter. Nice.

Mouthfeel was good; I would prefer just a touch more carbonation, but certainly can't complain. This is a nice beer, and easy to drink. I'm not sure I'll be seeking it out, but I wouldn't turn away a pint of this brew on a winter evening. Especially with some pumpkin pie or something to eat alongside...


Second review, a year or so after the first one

(4) Poured a deep amber, even a bit orangey towards pumpkin. Foamy head reducing to a thin film and leaving nice lacing on the glass. This is a very nice looking brew.

(3.5) On the nose, there's a fair bit of spice...cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg maybe? and some floweriness

(3) Taste is pretty much what you'd expect from the smell...a bit too sweet, I think, and not as well balanced as I remember this one being. Maybe the batch was a touch off this year? Cinnamon and honey, some spicy gingery tang...but not as nicely put together as I thought it would be.

(2.5) Mouthfeel is thin and watery, again, not like I remember. Could definitely use more carbonation. Not altogether pleasant.

(2.5) Drinkability...well, I guess you could go on drinking it, but I don't find myself wanting to.

...just looked back at my previous review of this, and no, it didn't fare nearly as well this time around. I guess there's maybe some variability that comes of having that many ingredients, but I don't think Great Lakes pulled it off this year like they did last year.

 2,317 characters

Photo of biegaman
3.73/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Newly burnished redwood that sits atop a bed of amber amulets. The beer has a glossy sheen that is in full display when held to the light. There is a light mist that prevents the beer from really being brilliant, but otherwise it looks rather good. An off white sheet of foam is plastered to the top and has hung a splotchy banner around the rim of my glass.

The aroma is congenial and pleasing which is really all it needs to be for a beer this style. The soft scent of crispy toasted caramel is coated with brown spice and especially notes of ginger and cinnamon. This seemingly generous spicing imparts a strong resemblance to rooibos tea. The orange peel is playing no part in this melange of ginger bread cookies and spiced eggnog.

The brewer has chosen an interesting mix of ingredients for flavouring. I'm curious to know if anyone else has been ambitious enough to blend honey, cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel. The ingredients seem to present themselves chronologically in exactly that order, which also just so happens to loosely coincide with the strength of contribution to flavour.

The honey plays an enormous part in what I'm tasting. At the very instance of contact, the entire palate - lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat - are suffused with the sweet and sticky nectar of honey. It comes across with a lightly floral character and a taste infused with lemon. For a winter ale, this tastes an awfully lot like a nice summer glass of iced tea.

I had assumed the combination of citrus and spice would make for a well rounded flavour and it looks like I was correct. The cinnamon and ginger contribute a strong but general note of 'brown spice', I could easily confuse these with clove, nutmeg or even mace. It might become a little too potpourri for my liking if not for the saving grace of citrus on the finish. Each taste concludes with a clipping splash of citrus juice.

For something brewed in inspiration of the "long, cold, and seemingly endless Canadian winter" I had something a lot heartier in mind. I'll make no complaints with flavour, where the utmost attention must have been paid to manage that delicate balance of spice, but a little more malt (and maybe a little more alcohol too) could have been spared in my opinion.

I had had this beer a number of times (majority of which came on draught) before finally sitting down to really examine it. After some scrutiny, I think Great Lakes has surprised me a little with how well they've done in brewing a beer of this nature. Their inclusion of spices and adjuncts were nothing but complementary. I'll be looking forward to this one again next year.

 2,634 characters

Photo of TerryW
3.73/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Best beer by far I've had from Great Lakes and worth a try.

Amber red with a generous head on pouring, but really spritzy and full of snap like a can of sode pop. That was a bit worrisome, but the head settled down nice and firm and beer's carbonation was good.

Malty, fruity nose. Initial taste was interesting, but a bit metallic. Malt, citrus, spice, hops. Interesting, but thin to start. The serving tip provided earlier is critical. This beer has to work its way towards room temperature for the flavours to really come out.

Wonderful mix of malt, fruit and spice, noticeably but not overpoweringly orange. Well done.

 631 characters

Photo of ludachris
3.72/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a deep orangey brown with a cream coloured head that has minimal retention. Smell of spices and a little bit of cinnamon. Nice malty taste with hints of cinnamon and ginger. I think the orange peel adds a little bit of fruitiness to it. I was expecting a beer a little more complex in flavour after reading the label on the back, but I still really enjoyed this. Very smooth and easy to drink.

 399 characters

Photo of Ralphus
3.69/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I find myself laid up with a sore back after a week of sports, exercising and, the activity of undoing - unloading firewood. I'm stuck inside anyway so I might as well dull the pain with beer! I reach for GWLA and find that it has a higher than average alcohol content - this should do the trick!

It poured with a nice clear, dark brown color. The head was big and bready but dissipated to a ring of foam quickly. It did manage to leave a touch of lacing behind however. Spices of cinnamon greet you in the nose along with with underlying malt tones. The taste has more of the same but includes a touch of vanilla and a wallop of of fruit.. the bottle says Orange peel but I'm not sure I would have gone in that direction without the label.. regardless the combination works. It's a refreshing mix .

The mouthfeel is solid. Smooth and creamy. Carbonation, while initially high, settles out to something very reasonable quite quickly. This aids the drinkability and the beer goes down fast.

 991 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Great Lakes Winter Ale from Great Lakes Brewery
3.54 out of 5 based on 116 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.