Aonghus Kealy/Metro Toronto


John Bowden of Great Lakes Brewery holds his "baby" — the Toronto microbrewery’s new winter ale.


These grey days, you might think we lived in England.

Not just because that ball of fire in the sky — what’s it called? — doesn’t seem to visit much any more.

But also because of the variety of seasonal ales that our local microbrewers have produced at this time of year. Take Great Lakes Brewery, for example, Hogtown’s oldest microbrewer at an ancient 19 years old.

They, among others, have created a new brew to spice up your life, to lift the December blahs and spark some interest in the brewing world.

The name is simple — Great Lakes Winter Ale. But the ingredients are challenging.

Imagine five bundles of 12-in. cinnamon sticks, thrown into the kettle to steep for an hour near the end of the brew’s boil, tied with string so they can be fished out. Ginger root, dried orange peels and a honey are also added. It’s made with spicy hops (Hallertauer and Cascade) and five malts, with 6.2 per cent alcohol per volume (APV) to give it a very full flavour; it’s more of an after-dinner sipper, maybe to be served with ginger bread or fruit cake, and Great Lakes’ John Bowden says it works as an apéritif, as well.

Refrigerate it, but leave it out to warm up for 10-15 minutes so it’s served at between 7-10 degrees Celsius, Bowden recommends.

But take care of it. Because it means a lot to John. "It’s kind of my baby," gushes the Great Lakes sales and promotions manager, and co-author of the recipe.

A Christmas baby, at that.

Bowden says the west Toronto brewers were inspired by Cleveland’s own Great Lakes brewer, who made a similar brew with 7.2 per cent APV, but no orange peels and different hops and malts.

About 1,100 bottles and over 30 kegs are available from this batch, and they’re hoping buyers force them to brew more.

You should be able to find it on tap this month in Toronto at C’est What?, Caffé Volo, Smokeless Joe’s, Beerbistro and The Rhino. In Mississauga, visit West 50 Pourhouse and Shore 71.

A 750-ml bottle costs $6.95 and is available only at the brewery’s retail store (30 Queen Elizabeth Blvd., near Queensway and Islington). If GTAers order a case of 12 ($83.40), Great Lakes will deliver it to your home. You might even get to meet the proud papa.

Visit www.greatlakesbeer.comfor more.


Tips for Spicing Up Traditional Holiday Dinners:

  • A traditional turkey dinner will require just the right beer - KLB Raspberry Wheat, St. Andre's Vienna Lager or Old Credit's Holiday Honey will cause the turkey to melt in your mouth and will accent the cranberries perfectly;

  • If you start with a soup or salad, a light, refreshing craft lager like Beau's Lug Tread, Taps' Charleston Lager or Cool Millennium Buzz will ease you into the main course;

  • For those of us that opt for one of Ontario's great hams, the match is easy - Nickel Brook's Apple Pilsner, Dennison's Weissbier or Winter Wheat from County Durham will create a memorable experience;

  • How do we finish the splendors of the holidays - easy! If trifle is your choice of dessert, complement it with Cameron's Auburn Ale. Hockley Dark is an ideal mate for your favourite fruitcake.

Holiday Craft Beers

Many of Ontario's more than 25 craft breweries have been busy brewing holiday-themed beers with ingredients ranging from cinnamon, ginger and orange peel to honey and cherries. These holiday brews make unique gifts for hostesses and beer and food lovers, and are something special to serve at festive get-togethers at home or at local pubs or restaurants.

Among the selection of holiday beers from the Ontario Craft Brewers are:

  • Amsterdam's Tilted Kilt - a sweet malt-based Scotch ale, Tilted Kilt is available at the brewery's retail store in downtown Toronto for $11.75 for a six-pack. Food matches include beef brisket, and leek and potato soup.

  • Better Bitter's Nickelbrook Bock - aged for three months, this bock is available in select pubs and restaurants, and the Burlington brewery store for $11.95 for a six-pack. Food matches include stews and cheese.

  • Glenora Springs' Yuletide Cherry Porter - available at the Picton brewery for $11.95 for a six pack, as well as at local restaurants, this light beer is made with fresh Niagara cherries and has powerful cherry accents. Food matches include chocolate desserts and fruitcake.

  • Granite Brewery's Barley Wine - available at the Toronto brewery in a unique 1.9 litre growler for $16.90 (plus deposit) as well as in the brewery pub, this traditional barley wine can be enjoyed as an after dinner drink or with a roast beef dinner.

  • Heritage Blackcurrant Rye - Blackcurrant Rye is available at the Ottawa brewery and select LCBO stores for $4.95 for a 650 ml bottle.

  • Maclean's Scotch Ale - this rich, malty amber ale is a traditional Scottish winter warmer. Currently aging, this draught beer will be available in mid December at pubs including Toronto's Bow & Arrow and C'est What, and Guelph's Woolwich Arms. Food matches include beef, game and desserts such as fruitcake.

  • Neustadt's Big Dog Beaujolais Porter - available at the Neustadt brewery store for $11.95 for a six pack as well as at select pubs and restaurants, this old fashioned English porter is sweetened up with Beaujolais wine. The brew master recommends matching this beer with sweet holiday desserts.

  • Old Credit's Holiday Honey - a silver medal winner at the 2006 Canadian Brewing Awards, Holiday Honey is available at the Mississauga brewery's store in 680 ml bottles for $3.00 per bottle including tax. Aged for three months, the beer can be enjoyed with appetizers or dessert.

  • Trafalgar's Celebration Ale - available in select LCBO stores and the brewery store in Oakville, Celebration Ale is brewed in the Belgian style, and is rich and spicy with citrus notes and complex flavours. Food matches include desserts and fine chocolate.

For the locations, phone numbers and hours for all Ontario Craft Brewers, visit