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Great Lakes Winter Ale | Great Lakes Brewery

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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

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Reviews: 64 | Ratings: 113
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.

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Photo of shamus
3.62/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

You can do better than this. Go and apprentice with some masters. Come back and make a great beer instead of a "yep that's not bad" one. Thin head. Smells very promising like a road trip with the three wise men along the spice road. Taste is not all that. Not horrid but a bit like someone decided to dip some incense sticks into the wort and see what happens.
Another dud from GLB.

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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 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 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.

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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 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.

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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.

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Photo of seand
3.68/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a tulip.

A: Pours a cloudy brown with a foamy bubbly tan head. A film stays around on the surface, leaving some lacing.

S: Subtle sweet malt, with brown sugar.

T: Starts sweet, followed by a very quick touch of bitterness, followed by... pretty much nothing. It kind of empties out, not too much aftertaste at all.

M: Medium carbonation, medium body.

D: The light aftertaste makes it drinks pretty easily.

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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.

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Photo of canucklehead
3.55/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This beer starts as a whole lot of spice and orange in your nose and your palate but slowly the beer warms up and the malt/ hop backbone anchor the beer. It is a citrus based spiced Xmas ale and is decent for that specific style. The drinkability is reasonable is you liked spiced beer

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Photo of bobsy
3.6/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2008 - Bottle from the brewery. Deep red/brown pour, with a thin film of a head. Aroma of mulled wine and grated ginger. Initial taste of subtle citric sharpness gives way to traditional mulling spices. A tingle of ginger on the tongue pleasantly finishes off the sip. Strong malt backbone, and very little bitterness. I would recommend starting this one chilled and drinking slowly, as different sides to the beer develop as it warms. Another solid brew from Great Lakes.

2009 - Cask at Volo. A little middle of the road and lacklustre compared to other times I've had it. It feels like there's less ginger and cinnamon in the brew, though that may just be the cask messing with me. It would be neat if it bulked up with some bready malts, and went for the gingerbread / spice cake angle. They body seems a bit lighter too. I've downgraded the taste, mouthfeel and drinkability to reflect this.

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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.

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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!

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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 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 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.

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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

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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.

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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;)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

A - Clear ruby red. Very solid off-white, creamy head.

S - Nose is spicy - mostly cinnamon and some ginger - with a heavy malt and a touch of sharp, honeyed malt.

T - Lots of cinnamon. Not getting a lot of honey or orange peel though. Quite malty and minimal hops for balance. Some anise-like qualities. Alcohol is well hidden. A little bit of toastedness.

M - Not too heavy - medium body with a lowish carbonation,

D - Not quite my cup of tea, but good if you like spiced brews I think.

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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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Great Lakes Winter Ale from Great Lakes Brewery
3.54 out of 5 based on 113 ratings.
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