1. Extreme Beer Fest tickets go on sale Sat, Sep 27 @ Noon EDT.
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Special Holiday Ale - Stone Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Special Holiday AleSpecial Holiday Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
88
very good

314 Ratings
THE BROS
100
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 314
Reviews: 290
rAvg: 3.93
pDev: 10.94%
Wants: 21
Gots: 7 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Stone Brewing Co. visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  9.00% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes/Commercial Description:
This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

A collaboration ale between Jolly Pumpkin / Nøgne-Ø / Stone with chestnuts, juniper berry, white sage & caraway seed and 25% rye malt.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 11-23-2008)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Special Holiday Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 314 | Reviews: 290 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of theopholis
3.53/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance- This pours a very dark black with amber highlights. Very little head, and what little there is has little retention. Practically no lacing either.

Smell- Nice maltiness with a smattering of aroma hops and several spices (sage, caraway, jumiper).

Taste- Very robust taste. You will definately know this stuff is in your mouth. Lot of malt, malt sweetness, toasted malt and dark brown sugar. Some roasted nut flavors with notes of white sage, juniper, caraway and rosemary. Nice rye profile to.

Mouthfeel- Medium body with good carbonation.

Drinkability- I like it, but 1 is enough. This is not for the faint of heart.

theopholis, Dec 26, 2008
Photo of DoubleJ
4.22/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

So this is what the visit of Nøgne Ø and Jolly Pumpkin was all about at Stone nearly two months ago. I have a bottle which I've declared my official beer of Xmas 2008. On to the beer:

Creamy one inch thick head on top this dark amber water. It's so dark, light only penetrates the edges. The nose is all about the spices used in this beer. The juniper berries stick out the most in this one. An edge of burnt sugar. The taste is unique as well. Full flavored, viscous, yet feels so airy and puffy in the mouth. It's different, that's for sure, but I really like it. I can't really pinpoint any flavors, but I notice the rye used in this beer.

There's nothing like ending a night on a tasty brew. Xmas makes it even more special. Three cheers to Stone, Jolly Pumpkin, and Nøgne Ø for brewing this.

DoubleJ, Dec 26, 2008
Photo of gory4d
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear reddish russet into the glass; the head is tan and thick, but dissipates without leaving much lacing. The smell is spicy; a deep whiff brings home an astringent hit of booze. The juniper comes to the fore with first sip, and the alcohol is pretty well up-front too; there are some faint buttery notes (very faint), with a bitter finish preceded by more booziness. It's a thick quaff, though the carbonation imparts some pep to it. It's enjoyable to drink, but more than one or two would be a reach. This might age well -- the alcohol is a little hot.

gory4d, Dec 25, 2008
Photo of czfreeman
4.22/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Been looking foward to trying this beer for a while. Its super cold outside, tommorrows Christmas Eve. Lets get it off to a good start.
Pours out a beautiful chestnut mahagony red-toned brown color, an impressive two finger head remains for several minutes in my goblet.Extremely thick lacing. I am suprised by the activity in the glass, looks warm and effervescent, great winter warmer. Looks very inviting.
On the aromas, the spicy sage comes through first, followed by a chestnut-nuttiness, the juniper is in there, cinnamons, bread, fruity cherry like bite. This smells absolutly like the Holidays in a glass. The funkinessis there(jolly pumkin) spiciness,(stone) and a solid overall brew-nogne.I am really digging the smell of this beer.
Flavor is a gingerbread like bread flavor, spicy sages,juniper,honey,nutmeg,cinnamons, berries, tingling spice Im guessing from the caraway, a nice Pferrernuss cookie lingering taste is left. There is a nice yeasty mustiness in the background that adds to the overall herb flavor in the beer, finish is long,warming and quite welcome.
In my opinion, for something to be called a "winter warmer" this is a stellar offering.The triad of brewers that collaborated on this brew are all extremely talented on their own rights, and have created something fantastic. Each brewers subtle touch accents the other, and the result is a homogenous, yet extremly complex product. What a great beginning to Holiday enjoyment. Happy Holidays!

czfreeman, Dec 25, 2008
Photo of vurt
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle purchased from Vendome Liquors in Toluca Lake, CA, and poured into a tulip glass. This bottle features beer haiku from Ron Jeffries, the head brewer at Jolly Pumpkin:

Triad formed
Saged hills speak slowly
A beer born

Appearance:
Great color-- a deep brown/burnt orange with highlights the color of embers deep in the heart of a campfire. It glows with a slight haziness. A finger of heavy, eggnog-colored foam dissipates into a sturdy ring around the edge of the glass and a thin veil across the surface of the beer. This beer looks a little syrupy, and leaves sticky dots of foam behind.

Smell:
Well, it sure smells festive. There's the juniper, right off the bat: a bright, piney smell against a backdrop of sugar and malt. I also get a blast of citrusy hop aroma and some spices that remind me of pumpkin pie. Below that, and mingling with the malt, is a mild aroma of roasted nuts and some dried fruit mustiness. Sage aroma finally comes out as the beer warms.

Taste:
Sweet, then quite nutty, and finishes with a big gust of spices. Though this beer starts off with moderate sweetness, it doesn't taste as sweet as it smells. The flavors of toasted malt and dark brown sugar really work well with the roasted nut flavors that follow. At the same time, the hops contribute substantial bitterness and a tasty candied orange peel flavor. The beer finishes bittersweet and citrusy, like thick-cut marmalade, with spicy herbal notes and a mildly peppery character like a rye beer.

Mouthfeel:
Full-bodied, a bit syrupy, and slick. Carbonation is pretty soft, but has some bite. It doesn't stop the beer from coating the palate luxuriously.

Drinkability:
Well, this attribute takes a hit because of the heaviness of the body and the intensity of the flavors. This is a heavy, filling beer, loaded with big bitterness and robust spices and powerful flavors. A single bottle at a time is plenty. Still, this is exactly the kind of huge, spicy winter warmer that I look forward to indulging in at this time of year. Make sure you let it warm up a bit to get the full range of flavors.

vurt, Dec 22, 2008
Photo of CoolJosh
4.33/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Dark red in the center which lightens as you look down the glass to a coppery bottom. An ok white creamy head that doesn't sit for long. Very hazy, looks very interesting.

Fresh hops, dark cherries and green apple. The hops provide a great light fruit scent. Slight nutmeg/cinnamin, but hardly noticeable.

I wanted to try and pick apart each breweries contribution, so here goes. (Stone) Simcoe right off the bat, which adds an excellent dryness, but not overpowering. Adds a piney freshness to it which rides through to the end. Great hope presence and nice kick at the end. (Jp) Caramel malts are semi present, and green tart/ripe apples come through adding a slightly funky but enjoyable taste, reminiscent of some of their better wilds (la roja came to mind, oddly). (Nogne). I characterizes nognes presence in the body and mouthfeel, really great here. Very smooth, well blended, and great from start to finish. Very nice spice play as well, excellent notes of nutmeg and very slight touches of cinnamin come through

CoolJosh, Dec 22, 2008
Photo of Jmamay22
3.18/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This collaborative ale pours a dark nearly opaque brown with a thin mocha colored collar. I can smell the Juniper Berries immediately after opening as will as rich resinous pine hops. I couldn't pick out the other individual spices until I read the bottle and the nuances of the chestnut and caraway seeds became available. However, the white sage proved to be elusive and I did not pick up on it at all in the scent. The spices blend well with the hops and a caramel roasted sweetness provides balance.

The taste has less depth than the nose. The spices stand out, but the underpinning sweetness has left a one sided spiced hop profile. A richer more Belgianesque carbonation would have been more appropriate than what seems to be an under carbonated somewhat watery feel. Amazingly unique, but misses the mark that each individual brewery regularly hits with uncanny consistency. Worth a try, but I won't be searching for a second bottle.

Jmamay22, Dec 22, 2008
Photo of TurdFurgison
3.85/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I picked up this 12oz bottle for $4.99 at Stimmels market, the only place I've seen it offered. The beer is dark burnt copper, clear, thin off-white foam. The smell is spicy and pine needly, kind of like a Christmas tree smells. My palate and vocabulary are too limited to adequately describe the aromas, but overall this smells like Christmas tree + pumpkin pie. The taste is pine needles and ginger, a little scathingness from hops (or maybe from spice), pretty tasty. Overall good, maybe a little less good than I'd hoped based on price and reputation of the 3 brewers. But solid.

TurdFurgison, Dec 21, 2008
Photo of dbONE
4.53/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

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.

dbONE, Dec 20, 2008
Photo of bluejacket74
4.05/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle, served in a Sam Adams BL glass. The beer pours a brownish/red color with about an inch off-white head. Head retention and lacing are both good. The aroma is sweet and spicy, I can smell citrus, sage, a mix of spices (I can't determine what exactly), and berries. It tastes like sage, chestnuts, piney hops, holiday spices and berries. Nice mix of all the flavors, it's not overly spiced like some winter warmers are. Mouthfeel is medium/full, it's very creamy with just the right amount of carbonation. Drinkability is good, it's very smooth and easy to drink. Alcohol isn't very noticable. I think this is a pretty good brew, I enjoyed it a lot. Definitely worth a try if you come across it anywhere.

bluejacket74, Dec 20, 2008
Photo of FrognutUnl
4.43/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep redish brown, almost cola, in color with a scant off-white head. The nose is full of citrus and sage with a subtle sweetness that I can only attribute to the juniper berries. I recognize the bitter taste of the sage which is offset by what I can only describe as an odd subtle sweetness and a rich nutty flavor. The finish is almost all sage. The combination of spices is certainly intriguing and somehow it works really well. Mouthfeel is wonderfully heavy and full bodied. Overall, I had high hopes for this beer and was not disappointed in the least.

FrognutUnl, Dec 19, 2008
Photo of SShelly
4.22/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz.

Nice dark red appearance with a low offwhite head.

Smells of citrusy hop aroma.

Flavor of this is impressive, malt and citrus hop flavors at first, with a number of spices that can be detected as it warms. I'm not usually an enjoyer of spiced winter kind of things but this one really hits the spot, there is great balance between the different spices, all on top of a nice malt base. I think its the balance that makes it standout in the positive for me.

Have to track down more of this and put it away for a little while.

SShelly, Dec 19, 2008
Photo of yourefragile
3.43/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: Pours a deep translucent ruby brown, with a dense, tight light brown head with great retention and thick sticky rings of lacing.
S: Fairly unremarkable, strong malt body with hops and alcohol finish. Slightly sweet with holiday spices.
T: Reminds me more so of other Stone brews than the other collaborators in this beer. Starts off like a weaker IPA and as it warms up more of the holiday spices and sweetness comes through. Roasted malt body with a fresh piney hop finish, little alcohol presence. Mouthfeel is very thick and full with little carbonation. Finish is slightly watery. An ok beer that I probably had too high expectations for.

yourefragile, Dec 17, 2008
Photo of magictrokini
4.13/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours auburn with a short white head. Spicy and sweet aroma with the sage coming through the strongest. Interesting taste. Spicy, then sweet, then bitter. The chestnuts and junipers are prevalent throughout, but then get overtaken by the caraway for a nice, bitter, dry finish. Expected a mess, but got something very nice.

magictrokini, Dec 16, 2008
Photo of JerzDevl2000
4.13/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picture it - beer lover walks into a store seeing an anticipated brew with a triangle on the label and 3 reputable breweries behind its inception. $2.99 later, this bottle comes home so it can be contemplated over late one Saturday night with Christmas fast approaching. Needless to say, this is one unique beer. It's a winter warmer, but it has the spice of an Octoberfest without the pumpkin, vanilla, and overpowerment that so many fall beers can be known for. Some say that this taste like Christmas. I'd sooner say that the Sierra Nevada Celebration fits that mold, but nevertheless, this has the taste of a late Autumn day right before winter and snow come knocking on the door!

This had a great pour - a picture-perfect deep mahogony hue and head were worth savoring as long as possible before I took the first sip. That wasn't easy, only because the aroma filled up my glass and anywhere within a foot of it. There's the junpier and sage that this beer has as part of it's composition, but there's a lot of pepper and sesame here as well. If beer truly is liquid bread, than this is all that one would need for a diet this time of the year. It's very malty, heavy, and has quite a spicy kick in the back, but the mouthfeel is wonderfully warming and this comes just a few steps short of being too overwhelming. There isn't much of any carbonation to be found here, but it's so complex that ya won't even notice!

9.00% ABV? Says who? Yeah, I'm sure the label is right but ya won't notice it. The slight metallic and pine notes in the aftertaste is enough to balance out the spiciness that silently lingers after each sip. So what that there isn't any lacing in my glass? This pretty outdoes any Octoberfest I've ever had and a majority of winter warmers as well. There's enough spice in here to please just about any beer drinker and this would go well with just about any holiday meal. Kudos to these three breweries for pushing the envelope on what can be done with some collaboration!

JerzDevl2000, Dec 14, 2008
Photo of TheDoorman
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark amber with only a very slight head. Aroma is alluring. Spicy, piney, malty. Tasty palate, warm, and interesting. A very slight amount of carbonation when it hits your tongue. Rich, and full of different spices,that I can't put my finger on, but it has a warmth a christmas spicyness. Pine flavors and a hint of berries. Hops are present, but in the background. The spices are the most forward flavor. Sticky, dry finish. Well balanced. A delightful unique, christmas ale.

TheDoorman, Dec 14, 2008
Photo of LilBeerDoctor
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle. Pours a deep red/brown with a light tan head. Aroma of stew and chestnuts and spices. Flavor is like biting into a rich meaty stew. Interesting stuff! Very warming and rich. One of the few holiday ales I've really enjoyed.
Aroma: 8/10
Appearance: 4/5
Flavor: 8/10
Palate: 4/5
Overall: 16/20
4.0/5

LilBeerDoctor, Dec 12, 2008
Photo of klewis
3.13/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Pours a dark-reddish brown with a small, bubbly head. Light lacing briefly sticks to the glass.

S: Nothing stands out - just a potpourri of generic holiday spice aromas.

T: Malty with muddled flavors of juniper, black pepper, nutmeg, other spices. Rather generic and one-dimensional. The spiciness and the alcohol are both a bit harsh on the tongue.

M: Full-bodied and slightly over-carbonated.

D: It's nice to see three great brewers team up on a project, but it would've been nicer if the result was anywhere near as good as their independent endeavors. Admittedly, the expectations were high on this one, but it still falls way short of other beers in the style. Perhaps with a bit of age, this one could have some potential.

klewis, Dec 11, 2008
Photo of GClarkage
3.68/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12/07/08- Purchased at Hi Times in Costa Mesa, CA.

Presentation- 12oz bottle, fall 2008 release. Poured into my Duvel tulip.

Appearance- Deep burnt caramel colored pour. Slighter 1/4 inch head with light spotty and watery lace left behind.

Smell- Seems fairly hoppy with a mid range roasted malt base. Some spices noted, but uncertain of which.

Taste- Consumed cold it really just tastes like a random IPA-pale ale mix. A bit more roasted malt base with a handful of pine-like hops. When it gets to room temp the spices come out and are rather nice. I still couldn't tell you that they were sage of carraway seeds though.

Mouthfeel- Crisp and fairly smooth with a medium carbonation level. Slight hoppy and bitter aftertaste.

Drinkability- Good, but not as good as I was hoping for.

Serving type: bottle

GClarkage, Dec 11, 2008
Photo of Wildman
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer poured a very dark amber color and formed a foamy light tan head that coated the glass with lace as it subsided. A medium amount of carbonation is present. An aroma of malt, spices and cherries. The flavor was of malt, cherries, chocolate and a hint of pepper. It has a medium light body with a peppery sweet finish.

Wildman, Dec 11, 2008
Photo of d0ggnate
3.85/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a deep copper, mud brown color and fills glass with a deep brown/amber appearance. Visual effervescence. Thin, bubbly head layer dissolves to near nothing quickly.
S: Spice/pepper aromas immediately. Almost hints of herb/sage bring memories of Christmas tree-like smell.
T: A rich fruit, plum or cranberry, noted. Almost like a chunky cranberry sauce flavor. The peppery/spicy note carries over. After swallow, the alcohol warming effect is pleasantly apparent, as it should be in a holiday beer.
M: Flavorful, but not overwhelming. Thin, watery consistency. Well balanced flavor, but lacking a bit in body.
D: Tasty and interesting. I didn't know what to expect from three very different brewers. As I think of this as a collaboration, I really enjoy the brewers' efforts. The beer alone leaves a bit to be desired, but is still impressive. I think this one makes a great stocking stuffer.

d0ggnate, Dec 10, 2008
Photo of hopdog
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle bought at the BevMo in La Jolla, CA.

Poured a deeper brown color with a smaller sized off white head. Aromas of spices, herbs, nutty, some berries, and just all around different. Tastes of nuttiness, rye bread, berries, roast, and some chocolate. Alcohol content well hidden.

hopdog, Dec 10, 2008
Photo of antilogic
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a near opaque brown with a big, high carbonation head. Immediate smells of sage dominates.

In taste, sage, pine, juniper really stand out. The body is thick and the spices hide the 9% fairly well, but it is definitely a winter warmer. I don't get much chestnut, but my taste buds are not used to the flavor in beers anyways.

All in all, not bad. I'm not huge on winter "seasonals," and this isn't any different. I'm glad I tried it, but I probably won't go out of my way to get another $3 bottle. It does grow on you as it warms up a bit.

antilogic, Dec 09, 2008
Photo of RblWthACoz
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours so thick it doesn't look normal. Color is a darker brown with a ruby hue. Nose is spiced. Flavor is pretty spiced. Lots of it. Smooth sweet tone. But the spices dominate. Feel is thick on an almost syrup like way. Soft but fuller carbonation. At first I didn't like this beer that much. Now I think it's okay. For a collaboration of three bug breweries, I would expect something with more of a wow factor.

RblWthACoz, Dec 09, 2008
Photo of Halcyondays
3.78/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle purchased at Hollingshead's, $2.99,

A: Pours a ruby/maroon/brown with a thick head with some thick holes. Solid head retention, pretty standard lace.

S: Mix of pine needles, berry (I'm assuming juniper), cola and molasses. Flowery. Sage is clearly evident, smells a lot like the wild sage soap I bought at the health food store.

T: Mix of malt and nuts with a lot of flowery and herbal character from the sage and juniper being quite distinct. Fermeneted pie berries and more spice carry the brew to its clear caraway note in the finish, with a phenolic medicinal character.

M: A very thick beer, but I think it works in this style having a bigger body. Robust, powerful, smooth. Very creamy. Dry, spicy finish. Long aftertaste.

D: A good Winter beer from the 3 breweries. I'm sure to buy another bottle if I see it.

Halcyondays, Dec 08, 2008
Special Holiday Ale from Stone Brewing Co.
88 out of 100 based on 314 ratings.