Regular readers know that I’ve consummated multiple beer trades with a shadowy north-of-the-border gentleman known pseudonymously by the name of “Peet”. The way it works is pretty simple – he grabs something off the shelf in Ontario, Canada, I grab something off the shelf in San Francisco, California – and we meet up at a predetermined location in the US for the handoff, usually the site of a major wireless industry gathering so as to blend in, stay cool and not blow our cover. This last exchange involved me bringing a rare TELEGRAPH BREWING beer; “Peet” responded in kind with GREAT LAKES 2008 WINTER ALE. “Great Lakes”, you’re thinking, “…aren’t they those fellas from Cleveland?”. Aha, you’re right and yet very wrong there, my friend. There are two GREAT LAKES BREWINGs. Those highly-regarded Cleveland brewers, and an equally highly-regarded Toronto brewer who’ve been around since the 1980s.
GREAT LAKES WINTER ALE is what was slipped into my satchel, and it’s what we’re here to discuss today. As “Peet” mentioned to me, I had not tasted my final beer of the 2008 winter beer tasting season, contrary to previous writings. GREAT LAKES WINTER ALE pours a deep, dark red – exceptionally beautiful in the glass. They say that we should have been expecting predominant flavors of cinnamon, orange peel and ginger, but all me & my drinking/rating sidekick could get out of it was the cinnamon. It is a liquidy, malty beer, more thin-bodied than I would like and definitely downplayed when it comes to the alcohol – a “big beer” this is not, appearances to the contrary. (Which is no problem and not a complaint by any means). Here’s the thing – while this beer smells great with a terrific fruity & spicy aroma, not enough of that actually makes it through to the back of your throat – which is where it counts, right? It’s when the men are separated from the boys. I liked Great Lakes Winter Ale just fine – it was a good complement to the dinner it was enjoyed with, and went down easy – yet I’d have liked it more if they’d packed a little more of their wintery je ne sais quoi into the taste of the beer itself. 6/10.