Barley Mowat 

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Dark Macro Showdown

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It’s that time of year again. You know, when you get to hang out with your co-workers en mass at some shitty restaurant, eat okay food, drink okay booze and make awkward small talk with their spouses, all the while waiting to see which of the interns gets inappropriately drunk and hits on the boss first.

(Aside: Except my office–my office’s Christmas party was epic, perhaps because my work is better than yours. And no, this comment has nothing to do with an increase in readers coming from my work IP.)

Usually these functions trot out some variant of “red or white?” for liquor offerings, but sometimes they go the extra mile and cram a bunch of beer in a bucket full of ice. Often these beers are things with words like “Christmas” or “Winter” in them, but not the good stuff since it’s both too expensive, and comes in confusingly large bottles. (Another aside: When confronted by a 650ml bottle of beer, the masses will often open it and drink it like they do a regular beer bottle. I have seen this first hand.)

Nope, we’re talking the likes of OK Spring’s Mild Winter Ale and Granville Island’s Lions Winter Ale here*. So what do you do? Do you pull a Chuck and move on to wine and/or hard liquor? Well, I’m a hard core beer geek, and I can’t expect y’all to have such a snobbish demenour in less-than-ideal situations, so I’ve done everyone a favour: I’ve done a side-by-side comparison of these two popular winter beers to see which one wins.


Despite what you might initially think, picking a clear winner is not as easy as it sounds. Also, there are waaaaaaay more pictures of hilariously ugly dogs on the Internet then I would have guessed.

First, let’s get one thing straight: neither is a good beer. Comparing them to an actual winter ale is like getting a five-year old to draw elephant. You’ll get some of the coarser aspects, and you certainly will recognise it as a cruel caricature of such, but you won’t, for one second, expect it to stand up and start pouring water over itself with its trunk.

Now on to the notes:

Brewery Granville Island OK Spring
Name Lions Winter Ale Mild Winter Ale
Visual Clear amber, good (too good?) carbonation Clear, slightly darker. Decent carb
Nose Vanilla. Barest hint of hops. No malt. Roasted Malt and spice, slight hint caramel
Mouthfeel Fairly creamy. Lots of sugar in this puppy. Like a cream ale. Decent, but not too viscous.
Taste VANILLA and sugar. Fairly astringent. Mild roasted malt, fairly empty, but has that… OK Spring finish (macro-esque, maybe their hops blend?)

Detailed notes on GIB: Gah. I mean, I like vanilla extract and all, but must you guys cram my beer full of it? Did more subtle levels of “sugary vanilla” just flop out in market testing? You know that the kind of people that will agree to taste beer for free at 2pm on a work day aren’t exactly beer connoisseurs, right?

Detailed notes on OK Spring: I’m confused by the name. Is this a milder take on winter ales or an ale for a mild winter? Regardless, I wouldn’t consider this a great execution of either of those things. This is a boring, boring beer, to be brutally honest, and it says great things about OK Spring’s current line-up that this is probably the best thing they’re brewing right now.

Picking a Best Beer between the two is like stapling wings to a dog and a cat and throwing them off your roof to see which one flies farthest. You’re judging two contestants based on criteria that neither possesses. These beers aren’t meant to be savoured by craft beer geeks; they’re meant to be consumed en masse by people wearing backwards baseball caps and who likely bump chests as a means of celebration.

If pressed to make a call, I guess the cat flew a bit further before splattering, because it wasn’t ladden down with a sickly dose of vanilla. Despite being a boring, boring beer, the OK Spring Mild Winter Ale was the least offensive of these two, and that’s a victory of sorts… I guess.

* Yeah, yeah, neither is technically a macro, I know, but that title is awesome. What do you want? “Regional Breweries with Annual Production Exceeding 100,000hl but not 300,000hl Dark Beer Kumatai?”

Written by chuck

December 8th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Beers

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