What to drink this week: Muskoka Winter Beard
One of the big advantages of being a
rampant alcoholic foodie is that I can occasionally bust out with intolerable comments like, “Oh, this is a nice digestive, but it just doesn’t compare to the Get 31 that we had when we were in France,” or maybe, “I’m really more into sipping rums these days.” I say these things with sincerity, as though they should not earn me outright contempt or, indeed, sudden and massive physical harm; I say them because, thanks to the opportunities that come with marrying Tina and writing this website, I’ve developed feelings about topics like these. I care about umame, for instance, which shocks me as much as anyone because I can’t tell you what it is.
(Something where there are mushrooms? But not the taste of them, just sort of the un-flavor they have, or… Christ, whatever — I just know it’s very important.)
Anyway, the point is that I am now in the dangerous proto-pretentious zone: I know I constantly say horribly snobbish things, but I’m still dimly aware that it’s wrong. And I’m never more acutely conscious of how short a trip I have to Snooty Town as when I make statements like this:
Muskoka Brewery’s Winter Beard, out of all the chocolate beers I’ve had, is my absolute favorite.
I mean, let’s just run that through the JERK-O-TRON SUBTEXTUAL ANALYTICAL ENGINE for a second, and see what it gives us…
Damning. Just damning, and yet I have no other way of saying it: I have had more than my share of beers brewed with chocolate, and this one really does blow them all away. I mean, just look at it.
Theoretically, it was always possible there’d be a beer out there darker than Guinness, but I never expected to see it outside of my dreams, a few different versions of Heaven, or possibly Great Britain. Yet here it is, a stout that is impenetrably black, and pours out with a thin but firm head… one that I swear has a slightly pinkish hue to it. That might just be the power of suggestion, though, since Winter Beard’s big selling point is not simply that it is a double chocolate (not the first we’ve talked about) stout, but a double-chocolate cranberry beer.
This is an extraordinarily good idea in my opinion, and not just because it’s so seasonally appropriate. Winter Beard is brewed with a number of different cocoa flavors, which are delicious but can be decidedly overwhelming — imagine drinking an entire pot of coffee while eating half a chocolate cake, and you’ll understand what I mean. It’s something we’ve all
done and regretted considered, but it’s more than a palette can bear. Thus the cranberry flavor is there to add a nice little shot of sweetness, a hint of color (DON’T DOUBT ME) and therefore cuts through all that inky-black bitterness.
The result is a pleasantly balanced, visually pleasing stout that isn’t too heavy, but carries a pretty hefty payload. And at 8% ABV, the pleasant strength gives you yet one more reason to go slow and just enjoy this beer. Best of all, it really does live up to its name: this is a brew that not only carries that hit of cocoa I mentioned, but the noteworthy taste of a bittersweet chocolate bar. The first time Tina drank this, she actually purred, a reaction that I thought was reserved only for terrifying cheeses and peaty scotch. The first impression is so happy, filling and striking that it’s really difficult not to immediately take another sip, just to be sure it actually was that good.
Winter Beard is a genuine pleasure, and is available for sale until early February — don’t miss your chance to dip your snout into this one, because it’s definitely worth the try.