Special Holiday Ale - Stone Brewing Co.
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Ratings: 314 | Reviews: 290 | Display Reviews Only:
4.88/5 rDev +24.2%
Never tasted a beer quite like this before, that's for sure. Aroma is almost like tea - spice and fruit. Taste is similar earthy is the perfect word for it. The hoppy character of Stone is unmistakeable. Alcohol is strong and very warm, lots of tea-like qualities. Incredibly smooth and warm tasting and feeling. I'd like to get my hands on a bunch more of this - I really dig it.
01-29-2009 02:52:51 | More by prsguitarsr4me
4.78/5 rDev +21.6%
Drank this with my good friend William Pang (Queens, NY).
This one pours a deep burgundy, with a one finger head and good lacing throughout.
The smell is absolutely fantastic. Smells very sweet, like fresh berries, and with a bit of citrus hops at the very back end, but that part is very faint and quite overpowered (in a great way) by the berry scent.
The taste reminds of blueberries, but not quite as bitter. Very sweet and fresh, with definite hints of herbs in the aftertaste. A bit of malt sweetness toward the end.
Feels great in the mouth. Extremely creamy and smooth, which blends in an amazing way with the berry taste to create quite the sensation in your mouth.
One bottle is extremely drinkable. Great feel as it goes down, not too heavy, despite the creamy texture, and a great taste.
01-30-2009 02:39:53 | More by tittymcj
4.78/5 rDev +21.6%
Updated: consumed bottle on 10/28/09
Felt like something warming tonight as the Los Angeles area is being hit by strong, cooling winds. I just paired this with a wonderful burger loaded with Thai basil, spinach, tomatoes, mild Swedish mustard, Thai chili paste and mayonnaise. And the Special Holiday Ale held its own...big time.
At nearly a year since bottling, the aroma is even better than I remember. More forest and garden wonders! And the taste now matches the stellar mouthfeel. Each sip, as many have noted, brings out something new.
This beer is among the best and most unique I have ever had the pleasure of consuming. It belongs in the regular line-up and would be a perfect vintage beer to contrast with Anchor Brewing's equally unique and supremely different, Our Special Christmas Ale.
12/04/2008 (Original scores, if different, in parentheses)
A: A dark chestnut tint to this brew. Simply a very pleasing color to my eye.
S (4): I pick up more of the white sage, chestnut and a bit of juniper, and less of the rye and caraway. A pleasant and unique aroma.
T (4): Speaking of unique: this holiday ale is most special indeed! The sweetness on the tip of my tongue cometh from chestnuts, and the spicy finish from caraway and juniper. In between, there is a tart (Jolly?), titantic tussle for balance...With each sip I sense a different brew. Like no other basically. No trace of alcohol.
M: The best part. Creamy, luscious and full-bodied. It goes down real smooth and the finish is clean n' dry as bones.
D: I'm sure I could polish off a couple of these stylish 12oz bottle. The Special Holiday Ale works as an aperitif, paired with food (we ate oven cooked then broiled ribs in a Maui Coconut Porter-base spice sauce with baked potatoes) or to finish an evening off.
Last year I had two of Nøgne Ø's holiday beers. One was not to my liking and the other was delicious. The inspiration behind the latter made it into this brew. As did the craft of Jolly and Stone (especially along the lines of their use of Oaxacan chocolate in this year's 12th Anniversary). Seek this out and ye shall not be disappointed...
12-04-2008 05:05:20 | More by johnnieoz
4.75/5 rDev +20.9%
This is my first review, I just couldn't resist on this one.
I had no idea what to expect with this style of beer but my past experience with collaborative beers have been impressive.
Stone has yet again not let me down. The head on this beer was a creamy white with bubbles a bit larger than a Belgian style ale. It dissipated a little quicker too.
The first thing I noticed with the aroma was the variety of spices. It wasn't overwhelming but very well balanced. Then came the hop aroma, a perfect stone contribution.
Taste was very well balanced with hops, spices and malt flavor.
The mouthfeel was unlike anything I have ever had before. Super thick and syrupy. I couldn't stop thinking about it through the whole time enjoying the beer. It had the thickness of a soda, but I was loving it.
I loved this beer and would highly recommend it. I'm curious to try some stuff from the other two breweries and see exactly how they contributed to the flavor of this beer.
02-10-2009 06:51:43 | More by RichieMac3
4.72/5 rDev +20.1%
This brew pours up a nice reddish dark brown color with a decent tan head. nice lacing. the nose is spices, mint, spruce, mint chocolate. the taste is minty, minty, minty, spices, chestnuts, juniper berries, rye malts, nutty malts, bitter finish with a super creamy full body! medium carbo. An amazing beer!
03-17-2009 17:28:25 | More by stumac
4.68/5 rDev +19.1%
Took a lot of searching and heartache to get this fella, even though I live in SoCal! haha.
A- Gigantic tan/white head that boils upon itself to keep a good finger of head at the end. Rich mahogany/cherry color, with lacing up the who hah.
S- pine, cedar, a roasted malt bath, spicy herbs, CHRISTMAS, a nice piny hop presence, and nice rum kissed nuances that roam the spectrum of this beer.
T- Huge mouthfeel, silky, overbearing with zest, spice, herbs, and a proverbial bitch slap of complexity. im going to have to pour over this beer for a while to find out what went on in this mother.
M- Chunky, deluxe, especially with tangy spices headbutting your palate the whole time.
D- WISH this was more widely available. i paid 6 bucks per bottle because i was afraid it would be the only time i could pick it up. but dang, this is so classy it could be my new favorite winter warmer if its brewed yearly.
11-30-2008 08:29:37 | More by slayer3604
4.63/5 rDev +17.8%
Managed to find a few bottles of this at the Anderson's in Maumee, OH. Pricey (4.99 for a single) but I figure, I love these breweries, I may as well spring for it.
A- Poured into a tulip, small head forms at the end of the pour and then dissipates quickly. Dark, rich amber color, almost a dark purple. Very pleasing to the eye.
S- Pleasing malt aroma, can definitely make out a defined spice bouqet - especially the caraway and a strong whiff of sage.
T- Very complex and becomes more so as the beer warms. The sage hits you right up front along with a slightly resinous hop bite. As it warms in the mouth there is definite malt sweetness, nicely complemented by the chestnuts in the background. Then the juniper berry starts to come through - coating and warming the palate. This is defining flavor as the beer goes down and on the finish.
M- Thick and viscous without being overpowering. Coats the palate nicely. Rather velvety going down.
D- Quite good for a higher ABV beer. Starts out sharp but mellows considerably over time. I found myself thinking about the taste throughout the day and wanted another one soon after I finished the first.
A true winner from three great breweries. Its really a shame it will probably be brewed only once. If you see this one, definitely pick it up.
01-04-2009 21:29:01 | More by awinckles
4.63/5 rDev +17.8%
This is quite an exciting beer. I'm generally skeptical of winter seasonals with all of their spicy additives and whatnot, but this brew is exceptional. Pours a dark mahagony with dark bits of yeast moving slowly throughout the body, with a creamy tan head that leaves a nice ring of lacing at the top of my glass. The nose evokes incongruous places: the powerful sage aromas are reminiscent of the desert, while the strong evergreen and juniper smells remind me of Christmas at the parents' house. Also has the sweet malts and resinous hops on the nose that we normally associate with barleywine, but the spices make it far more interesting. The silky smoothness of its body is astonishing. It tastes exactly how it smells, but the easy-gliding feel of this beer makes its whole greater than the sum of its parts.
03-23-2009 03:16:57 | More by droomyster
4.58/5 rDev +16.5%
12oz bottle. Brewed by Stone according to the bottle.
Appearance -A deep brown pour with some amber highlights around the edges when held to the light. It made about a inch of off-white head in my tulip and left a lacy, sticky film on the sides of the glass each time I swirled.
Smell -I initially poured this too cold and had difficulty picking up much in the nose. As it warmed, a spicy, hoppy bouquet made its presence known. I can't say I really know what sage or juniper is supposed to smell like (much less caraway seed), but this beer had an intoxicating aroma that I could not put down. I was huffing like a glue addict.
Taste -The spicy, hoppy, floral scent was evident in the taste as well, along with some chocolaty malt goodness. Also, am I crazy (or influenced by the list of ingredients) or does the rye and caraway seed make for a Jewish rye bread note? Whatever it was, I loved it.
Mouthfeel -The mouthfeel while the beer was still quite cold (too cold?) was amazingly creamy. It coated my palate the way a milk stout or a lactose bomb might. However, as it warmed, less so (perhaps I became accustomed to it).
Drinkability- This gets my highest marks. I nursed this beer for 90 minutes. It was like I was forestalling my execution by continuing to sip; I simply didn't want it to be gone!
Comments- I was prepared not to like this beer. I'm a big Stone fan, but know little about the other two breweries involved, and was put off by the unfamiliar ingredients listed on the bottle. Don't judge a beer by its label. The nicest beer surprise so far this young year. I'm pissed that I only bought one!
02-12-2009 01:57:52 | More by andylipp
4.58/5 rDev +16.5%
Purchased at Monument Wines and Spirits in Concord, CA. Carried back to Australia and cracked open with laituegonflable.
Pours thicker than just about any beer I've ever seen. Seriously, it looks more akin to treacle than beer. Initially, it looks as though it has no head whatsoever, then the long struggling bubbles finally push their way through the gelatinous mass to form a light collar of yellow brown film. Colour is a thoroughly wonderful dark mahogany red - overall, a top-notch looking beer. I'm in love.
Fair bit of resiny, citrus and west coast hops on the nose. More than anything reminds me of Arrogant Bastard. As it warms, there are some spicier notes revealed, perhaps the caraway seed and the rye coming to the fore. Delicious and tantalising, an excellent nose indeed.
The palate continues this monumental trend. A thick and chewy body has a languid time imparting sweet malts, spicy citrus/juniper bitter characters and a resiny sweet back palate that seems to clear my sinuses. It stretches on and on, morphing through sweetness, medicinal bitterness, creamy fullness and pleasant herbal notes. Every sip is a new adventure - it's as though this beer continuous to mature with every sip you take. A thoroughly mystifying, enchanting and bewitching beer.
Truly excellent. This is the way to do a beer that pushes the envelope. Give us something we don't expect, but wrap it in comfort, warmth and familiarity. Exceptionally cunning and amazingly enjoyable.
09-14-2009 08:57:10 | More by lacqueredmouse
4.58/5 rDev +16.5%
Got this in a trade last year with Arbitrator. Thank you sir!
2008 bottle poured into a standard pint glass.
Appearance: Regular pour (neither gentle nor vicious) leads to a gorgeous and slow-forming tan cap. This head took about fifteen seconds to reach its full height of one half inch. Retention is mild however, and the head exists as a creamy film for the majority of the tasting. Body is murky and reddish brown, but shows shades of caramel and crimson when held to light. Pretty good visibility, but it looks like there is a lot of suspended sediment in there; not much carbonation to be seen.
Smell: Spices are very assertive in the nose: juniper, sage, and chestnut really stand out! I think I get some peppery rye in the background, but I'm not sure. Citrusy hops can still be detected even at one year of age. I'm not finding any oats though, and I might be getting caraway seed (but I wouldn't know since I've never smeled caraway seed before). A very complex smell that's a lot of fun to dig into.
Taste: Chestnut, sage, and juniper greet the palate. Piney hops and rye then take control and lead to a pleasant bitter finish. Lots of different flavors interact nicely in the taste. Finish shows signs of alcohol, but it's really well-masked for being 9% ABV. Actually, the bit of alcohol that is there induces a cool rum-like flavor. This is a perfect Thanksgiving beer! I'm so happy I saved it!
Mouthfeel: Thick, malty, prickly and spicy with just a touch of dryness in the finish. Moderate carbonation boosts the palate activity. This one really puts on a show!
Drinkability: Fantastic! I don't know if there's a better holiday beer out there. This beer totally embodies Christmas/Thanksgiving. I wish this were available in my area so I could buy it every year (ISO 2009 Special Holiday Ale). Also, the ABV gives me a nice head start before the relatives come over ;)
11-26-2009 23:56:38 | More by ThreeWiseMen
4.55/5 rDev +15.8%
Presentation: 12 oz. bottle into a nonic.
A- Dark reddish-brown/not quite opaque. Pours with 2 full fingers of creamy, tan/almost orangish head. Fades slowly into a nice, thin cap. Excellent head retention. Heavy lacing.
S- Initial burst of spicy, grapefruit smelling hopiness. As it calms a bit, some breadiness, and even a hint of molasses emerges.
T- Citrus/piny hopiness jumps to the forefront. Slight sweetness/breadiness emerges along with an array of spiced sensations, which are admittedly too complexly blended for my palate to fully discriminate and accurately describe. 9% ABV is absolutely undetectable.
M- Wonderfully thick and creamy. An absolute home-run in this department. Tops.
D- For a 9% ABV brew, drinkability is exceptionally high. That being said, given the ABV and spiciness, I probably wouldn't want to exceed 1-2 in an evening session of imbibing.
Future outlook: I was skeptical of this collaboration, but more than pleasantly surprised by the result. I will definitely have to snag a few more of these...
01-03-2009 03:31:07 | More by DoctorDog
4.55/5 rDev +15.8%
A: Deep amber/brown body with a off white lacy head.
S: There is a bitter bite in the beginning of the aroma. There is a deep caramel and sweet aroma.
T: A nice balance between the bitter hops (citrus and pine) and the malty notes. There is sweet caramel and toffee.
M: Perfect body and carbonation.
O: Great beer. It's a shame it's not going to be brewed again.
03-04-2013 04:35:52 | More by jvillefan
4.53/5 rDev +15.3%
Not much of this in Chicago but my good friend Brian picked some up and left one at my desk at work.
Poured out of a simple 1 pt 9 fl oz bottle. Wow. The smell is refreshing and definitely a seasonal mix. It's a medicinal in a good way. Like going back in time to an old apothecary. After it has been sitting in a glass for a while, it has a slight port smell but apart from that, alcohol isn't present.
The look is lovely. More dense than I expected. It has a beautifully creamy and soft tan head that poured 2 fingers easily. The color is a very dark brown that turns more hazy gold going to mahogany on the edge against the light. The final pour shows lots of yeast making it look lighter brown.
The taste is really interesting. Sweet, tangy juniper hit me first. There's a bit of a nut brown ale character there with it's chestnut and caramel malt. Then, right over the top of it came a refreshing cool sage that hit the back of my palate. The end is a bit of a hop bite leaving a sweet and sour anise type taste in the back of the throat that is probably the caraway. There is a slight warmth to it but alcohol doesn't seem to be present - quite surprising.
The body is medium but the smoothness and creaminess of the head make it seem fuller. It has medium carbonation that is gentle but lively.
Man, there is a lot that can go wrong in a beer like this but it doesn't. It comes together very nicely. The flavors were well balanced and it was a nice taste progression. Really enjoyable beer. My wife thought it was like drinking Christmas stuffing. I don't know if it was partly because it was a rough day or because of the "tis the season" bollocks but I could really do with more of this. It is truly seasonal with smells and taste that put you in the right spirit. You couldn't drink too many of these but that's not what they are designed for. Nice work to all three breweries and thanks once again to my friend Brian for letting me try it.
11-26-2009 03:52:41 | More by sgoodship
4.53/5 rDev +15.3%
Finally was lucky enough to find a store a few weeks that had some of this on their shelves. Poured into my pint glass. This beer pours a clear dark, deep amber/brown color. tan head is about an inch when poured, settling to a very nice surface coating about 1/8 of an inch thick about 10-15 minutes after being poured. Very excellent lacing. Excellent roasted, malty aroma with some nut,beery and sage also present. A very complex aroma indeed. Roasted malt and nut flavor upfront along with spice such as nutmeg and sage, followed by the fruity berry flavor. Has a crisp and smooth full bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. Very easy to drink. The 9% ABV is certainly well masked. I hope this becomes a winter seasonal that is brewed yearly! I can't wait to see how it ages.
01-30-2009 02:56:31 | More by neenerzig
4.53/5 rDev +15.3%
Served from a 12oz bottle in a stemless wine glass as I write this.
Poured with a soft off-white head with a mild lacing and a thin foamy coat on top of the rich dark redish body.
Aroma sinks in with a slight funk and dried fruit hint. Borderline stale with strong sage, juniper and citrus notes.
A complex spicy sweetness dominates the front of the pallet with a nutty sprinkle that follows through to the end that clings to a funky aftertaste.
This hangs on to the end with a full flavored heavy body that has a peaceful drinkability. I have 2 more I hope age well.
12-20-2008 00:34:07 | More by dbONE
4.53/5 rDev +15.3%
From notes 2-11-09
Eye: While on this desk the color of this beer is dark brown which fades to a lighter brown right at the bottom of the glass. However, when light passes through this and shines behind this one its true color is revealed-deep dark garnet. Head formation and retention are excellent...perfect. The head itself has some magnificient staying powere at two fingers. It is a thick head with a creamy appearance...they don't get any better than this.
Nose: Not a whole lot going on in the nose here. Pretty weak and lacking any robust character. Overall character is that of a barleywine. Ahh, as it starts to warm the sage comes out. Some warm tones as well and some juniper in there. Overall this is a pretty complex aroma...warmth, piney notes from juniper, and then the sage as well. This is all backed by a solid and strong malt backbone. The only thing I'd like better is if the aroma were a bit more forward, stronger, more potent, etc.
Tongue: Bittering hops smack the palate right away and are then followed by juniper which is in turn followed by sweet malt flavors. Malt in this beer is composed of coffee-like, roasted, and cocoa tones. This beer has some serious flavor going on in it. There's also an earthy quality to it...not funky but an earthy character is in here like in Jolly Pumpkin's Bam Noire. This beer is full of flavor and is complex, overall inviting and just awesome.
Feel and Drinkability: Lighter levels of carbonation are appropriate for this beer and its fuller body. The finish is dry here, I can't see this one being any different than it is. This is one that I'm glad to have found, real good beer. If I can find it again I'll most likely pick up a bottle...I'd really like to see this one offered yearly, but I know that prolly won't happen, this is a one off I think.
03-22-2009 21:44:01 | More by becktone
4.5/5 rDev +14.5%
Review from BeerAdvocate magazine Issue #26:
A collaboration ale between Stone/Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø with chestnuts, juniper berry, white sage and caraway seed, plus 25-percent rye malt. Check out stonebrew.com for the full story.
Pours a dark garnet with deep ruby hues, dressed in a creamy beige head, which drops to a solid lace that sticks to the glass. Nose is full of spice and herbal notes. The sage is soft, but dominant. Spicy notes from the caraway and rye pull through with a fruity, berry base, and a finish of alcohol and esters. Suggestions of lilac, too. Mouthfeel is a blissful surprise. It's creamy up front as the carbonation hits the palate, but dense beneath, with a chewy viscosity that melds into a silky-smooth palate and the formation of a malty, sweet base with chestnuts making a slight appearance. Some bready, toasty and charred flavors, too. Zesty punch of lemongrass. Herbal sage follows and dominates again, but the caraway sneaks in a spicy jab here and there with a nice rye snap. This segues into a prickly and spicy alcohol note that has some very distinct gin-like characters, thanks to the juniper berries. Some berry esters, hints of blood orange and warming alcohol, though the 9-percent ABV is fairly well hidden. Finishes dry with some residual spice, sage and rye.
Delicious. A unique take on the Winter Warmer style that pairs some very distinct and unusual ingredients and makes them work. For us, this is what the whole extreme beer movement is all about.
09-20-2010 20:07:19 | More by BeerAdvocate
4.5/5 rDev +14.5%
Vintage 2009 in a 0.5L Nøgne-Ø bottle, served in a tulip glass.
Dark brown with a creamy beige head that left a few patches of lacing on the glass.
Smell is full of Christmas spice aromas similar to ginger and nutmeg.
Taste is very well spiced with a hint of rye and a very light touch of bitterness on the back end.
Medium bodied with a smooth and creamy feel.
Very easy to drink.
Note: The 2009 vintage is 8.5% abv.
12-20-2009 22:18:39 | More by JoeyBeerBelly
4.5/5 rDev +14.5%
Pours a deep, hazy brown that is translucent if enough light is applied. 1.5 inch head with ok retention. Medium hardness. Not much lacing to speak of.
Smell is easy to pick apart. Bigtime juniper, spices and malt. Smells great.
Taste is nice and dry, but juniper is the real star. A good malt backing with a bit of a hop bite. Just a hint of alcohol. Not very complex, but really, really good tasting.
Mouthfeel is perfect. Nice and creamy without seeming heavy, medium bodied, with ideal carbonation.
Drinkability is outrageously high for a 9% beer. I just want to drink this forever.
A really great beer that I will be sad to see go. More juniper in beer, please!
05-06-2009 06:53:49 | More by photomike
4.47/5 rDev +13.7%
12 oz, DFH Signature Glass
Dark, murky brown with ruby highlights when held to the light. Spotty-white cap with average lacing.
Smells fantastic! A multitude of spices meet up to make a mouth-watering scent. Alcohol takes a peek here as well.
I really don't know what juniper berry, white sage, and caraway seed tastes like but I know they combine with chestnuts to make a damn good Winter Warmer. Spices show early and nutty alcohol shows late. I get that nice warm feeling in my belly from this beer which puts it over the top. I wish I could buy this every winter.
Dry finish and a silky smooth mouthfeel. One would think this was an oatmeal warmer with that smoothness.
Too drinkable! I look at what is very likely the only bottle of the best Winter Warmer I'll ever have and it makes me sad. This beer is fantastic. The spices are perfectly balanced and it gives me the warm feeling it's supposed to. Beautiful.
04-09-2011 04:27:20 | More by abar22
4.47/5 rDev +13.7%
A- Poured from the bottle with 1/2" of tan colored head, which quickly receded to a skim-layer of foam. The body was an opaque dark brown. No carbonation was visible... not necessarily absent; the turbidity of the beer may have been hiding it.
S- Super spicy nose. Predominantly gingerlike aromas with a lesser background aroma of sweet caramel malts. Smells beautifully pungent and absolutely delicious...
T- An EXPLOSION of sticky sweet malt and spices (some significant juniper flavor comes-in on the palate to meet the anticipated gingerlike flavors). I feel like I'm also getting some faint barnyard flavors somewhere in the depths of the nuance... although, this could just be based on my preconceptions of Jolly Pumpkin's contributions to this collaboration... Finishes with a "dry" feeling from the spices. Not dry as in the lack of sweetness, but dry like the tongue smacks the roof of the mouth after each sip to wipe-off some tacky spicy resin. All in all, the spiciness of the brew is over-the-top, but not off-putting in any way... just delicious.
M- Big chewy body, packed with unattenuated sugar and soft carbonation. Coats the mouth wonderfully for extended gratification!
D- A wonderful Holiday Ale. I wouldn't drink it any other time of the year... but in the midst of December, it gets me in the Christmas spirit... and it goes down smooth... alcohol is very well hidden!
Note: As stated earlier in my review, the spiciness is over-the-top. Some of my friends, with whom I split the bottle, were turned-off by this. Therefore, I would call this a "chance" beer, where any given drinker could love or hate it... without much middle ground. Lastly, as John Michaelsen pointed out, the bottle I sampled had the Nogne label on it, showing three wise men with the Nogne O superimposed on it.
12-16-2009 14:10:22 | More by jgasparine
Special Holiday Ale from Stone Brewing Co.
88 out of 100 based on 314 ratings.