Review: Muskoka Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout (2019 Edition)

Before I ever worked in retail, Christmas season used to be one of my favourite times of the year - get to spend time with family, watch the World Juniors and the Winter Classic, and sampling beers given to me for Christmas. Now that I've been working retail for over seven years now, I've missed out on all of that, and missed out on one tradition that I absolutely loved doing back in the day - savouring a bottle of Muskoka Brewing's Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout. I reviewed the beer back in 2010 and 2011 with great fanfare, so I feel it's time to check out the beer after a several year hiatus.

The 2019 edition of Winter Beard is 8% ABV and from the label: What could be more reminiscent of a frigid Northern winter than an insulating beard and a warming Muskoka seasonal brew? Our Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout is rich and sturdy with roasted dark chocolate malts, real cocoa, dark chocolate and locally harvested cranberries. Winter Beard was brewed with a slightly higher alcohol content to allow for aging and cellaring. The result is a very special winter brew full of character, wisdom and experience." 

May contain tree nuts, peanuts and soy. Ingredients: Water, malted barley, barley and oat flakes, hops, sugar, cocoa powder, dark chocolate chips, cranberry juice and yeast.

Appearance: Looks just like I'd expect - black as the night stout with a moderate thickness of yellowish beige head on top that diminishes gradually to leave behind a web of lacing on the side of the glass and a scattering of bubbles on the top of the beer.

Aroma: Very rich and roasted, I get notes of roasted coffee that has a bit of a burnt scent to it. There's notes of dark chocolate, a bit of milk chocolate for sweetness, sugar, and a very faint aroma of cranberries at the end.

Taste: The cranberries are the first thing I taste in my first sip, it's sweet, a bit tart but not overly fruity or overpowering at all. Following the cranberries, I get notes of dark chocolate and roasted malt, to give it a bit of a dark chocolate mocha sort of vibe to it, the malt is a bit burnt while the dark chocolate is bitter and well.. dark chocolate. I get a bit of a milk chocolate sweetness once in a while but it's not showing up as much as I'd expect compared to the dark chocolate. Sweet, cranberryish and a tad tart.

Overall Thoughts: Still an awesome beer but the beer has definitely changed since I last reviewed it eight years back. The cranberries pop out a lot more now than they used to, so I'm getting a lot more of a tart and fruity cranberry flavour to it. I'm not someone who likes fruit and chocolate but this is still incredibly enjoyable. If I can find another bottle of this, I may age it for five or more years as I had a batch from 2013 this time last year and it aged incredibly well. Imagine if they did a barrel aged version of this? Yummmmmm...

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