Underwood 315 and Winter Ale by Great Lakes Brewery

The holidays are coming, and Christmastime is a time of year that I love.  Part of my own holiday tradition for years has been the sampling of the Winter Ale by Great Lakes Brewery (GLB), only available during this season. And what better gift could I receive than a brand new typewriter? I must have been nice, because it seems Santa has been very nice, indeed!


(Tobias, the Christmas Cat, is sadly not very amused… bah, humbug!)

Olivetti’s Underwood 315

Getting this typewriter was a really cool experience. As my typecast below mentions, it was in brand-new condition when I got it, with the plastic wrap on it, and the bits and pieces used to immobilize the platen and type basket during shipping. Wow!  Really mint condition – a unique experience, so far, in my experience.

The Underwood company goes back as far as the 1870’s, but were mostly famous for their typewriters which I understand they started to produce in the 1890’s. The Model 5 was produced as early as 1901, and is the second-most common model logged on the Typewriter Database.  In 1959 Olivetti bought a controlling interest, and I believe that by the early 1960s essentially all products bearing the Underwood name were essentially Olivetti machines.


I’ve had some difficulty in finding the serial number on this machine, and because it is so new and perfect I have resisted the urge to dismantle it to look further. Other Underwood 315s were made in the 1970s, most of them in Spain and some of them in Mexico. This is the first Yugoslavian-made model I have heard of.

There are differing views on what mechanism is lurking inside this typewriter; I’ve read Lettera 31, Lettera 32 and Dora. I would love to try out those models to compare, and will keep my eyes open for them.

In his excellent book, Typewriters for Writers, Scott Schad includes a story about finding a typewriter that has been stored on the shelf, unopened, for decades – much older than the typewriter I have found here (and I would have been very tickled to find it in its original cardboard box from the store!). It must be a terribly rare occurrence, but I still hold out hope that I will find that 1950’s Smith-Corona Silent Super tucked away, unused, waiting for the first ring of its bell… Until then, this is likely as close as I will get to have a “new” typewriter.

Great Lakes Brewery’s Winter Ale


Before the “craft beer explosion” really happened, GLB produced a number of seasonal beers, and this was one of my favorites. I remember, back in the days when any specialty beer was a treat, I would search stores to buy a cache of bottles of this when the season was coming to an end!

GLB is a craft beer legend in Toronto, starting in 1987. They have a standard stable of beer that is distributed widely around the province, but they also produce some really bold, new and exciting styles, and host events in and around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), where they are based. There is a nifty documentary made for their 30th anniversary, too.

Since the explosion of craft beer has occurred the Winter Ale might seem a little pedestrian, but I still love this recipe. From the initial pour, it has a dark, warm colour that seems a perfect fit for the season. The scent of cinnamon and butterscotch greets you next. The malty taste is heavily decorated with spices, giving this a unique character. It’s a reasonably big, slightly powerful beer, adding to it’s “winter warmer” claim. The flavour is fairly intense, but not overpowering, and I think, quite well balanced.


I used to think this was a heavy, big-bodied beer. But now, in the days where Russian Imperial Stouts abound, along with Douple-IPAs and barrel-aged everything, this Winter Ale seems a little thinner of body to me.  Still, that’s not a bad thing, and I am very happy that GLB continues to bring it back each year, and I continue to enjoy it.

I hope all of you reading this have a wonderful holiday season, and wish for you that the new year will bring you the typewriter (or the beer) of your dreams!

Have fun, and be sure to type-and-taste responsibly.


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