September 1, 2014
Jan 3, 2013
10:22 AM

First Draught: a flavourful winter ale from Granville Island Brewing

Lions Winter Ale (Image: David Ort)

What distinguishes a craft beer from a large-scale beer? As the market share slides toward newer, smaller brewers, and the older, behemoth competitors find new ways to keep customers, that question becomes more relevant. Big beer companies are resorting to a number of tactics to stay in the game, including starting their own microbreweries or buying existing ones.

Vancouver’s Granville Island Brewing has been owned by Molson Coors since 2009. Once under a macrobrewery’s branded umbrella, it can be difficult to objectively separate noteworthy flavour from crafty marketing, but Granville Island’s Lions Winter Ale — which has a well-deserved, devoted following — stands out as a remarkable, flavourful exception.

Out of the can and into a pint glass, the colour is clear ruby and brown. The aroma leans on sweet, dark fruit with hints of Christmas spices like cloves and cinnamon. On first sip, flavours that remind me of milk chocolate and licorice allsorts continue the Christmas candy theme. Compared to the taste and aroma, the carbonation, body, and head of the Lions Winter Ale are just average.

A wide distribution network is one of a macrobrewery’s greatest advantages. In this case, Molson Coors devoted the resources to the LCBO’s product approval process to get the Lions Winter Ale listed here. That means Ontarians no longer need to depend on six packs smuggled back from B.C. by friends visiting family for the holidays.

Granville Island Lions Winter Ale, $2.85 for a 473 mL can, LCBO #321877

In addition to covering beer, new restaurants and food trucks for Post City, David writes about food and drink for several Toronto publications including Spotlight Toronto and his own site, Food With Legs. For more of his thoughts on food, beer and life in general, follow him on Twitter.

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