1. Extreme Beer Fest. March 20 & 21, 2015 in Boston, Mass. Join us!
  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 DaveJanssen
3.83/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Split a 12 oz two ways. Poured into tulips. Reviewed 6/4/2010.

Ar: spice, juniper, floral, candy sweetness, herbal spice, spice very strong, nutty, brown malt toasty hints (but doesn't have a strong brown malt presence ), dark caramel, sage, alcohol, *figs and dates, *fruit, *earthy/woody

Ap: very fine dusting of almond colored head, medium retention, clear brown with red highlights, lace dots

T: strong spice, juniper and sage in front, caramel (dark), wheat toast and toast crust, light alcohol, herbal, nuttyness is apparent, good malt, sweetness is fitting for the style and balanced by the spice, sweet>dry, full but not cloying, malt>hop, spice>malt, ends with spice bitterness, *earthy, *mild sweet fruit (figs and dates), *chocolate, *jam notes

M: low fine carbonation, viscous and mouth coating, sweet finish, heavy and full, spice drys it out a bit, light alcohol

*ideas form fellow taster

O: almost spice soup, unique, sweet, would like less spice, but fitting for style (anchor our special ale...), i like the malt profile

DaveJanssen, Jul 22, 2010
Photo of jlindros
3.68/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Guess this has been in the back of my fridge since winter. I found it while moving things around, and it has little specks of mold on the outside, hope it's still good.

A: Pours a rich 2 finger head that rises up with a creamy thick look, and fades slowly, leaving a slight lacing on the sides. The beer is very dark raisin brown color with very little light getting through.

N: The nose is mostly what I expected. Some darker malts are there, not heavy, some sweet malt aromas with hints of booze. Some fruits, dried fruits, raisin, touch of apricot. Spices galore, nutmeg, cinnamon, nutty aromas like the Xmas nuts, I think there's some juniper too, perhaps some other berries of the bittering kind.

T: A dry taste to start. Some rich malts, darker malts, that I would have expected to be sweet and syrupy, but are instead dry and lackluster almost. I wonder if that is a product of the age or meant to be. It has a slight creamy note, like an oatmeal feel. More dried fruits, raisin, etc. Also more nuts, not as much but a little nutty quality. And again tons of spices. Nutmeg and cinnamon like Xmas spices. I def get juniper now, very dominant, semi Sahti like. I personally am not a big fan, but it seems to work a little in this one, as there are some many strange flavors melded together. As it warms and I get used to the aniset like spices, I start to get some dark roasty porter malts, and hints of chocolate malt.

M: Medium body, not as syrupy as I expected, and very dry, with good carbonation.

F: Finishes still very dry, with almost a feel that it was sticky sweet but it wasn't. Lots of juniper lingering again, adds that bitterness that is not my style. Then more Xmas spices again, with more nutty flavors, and a little creamy feel on the finish, almost as if there were lactose in it too, and slightly buttery too.

I bet this would make a nice sit by the fire winter beer to sip on, and share! A 1pt 9oz bottle by myself is a little tough.

jlindros, Jun 29, 2010
Photo of OWSLEY069
4.43/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a nice deep amber color, with a tannish head. In the aroma, dark fruits, fig and juniper. In the taste, bug sage flavor, dark fruits and a dry nuttiness. A spicy bite and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a semi dry, dark fruity and spicy aftertaste. Complex, sage and spice stand out nice, almost barleywine like.

OWSLEY069, Jun 08, 2010
Photo of ViveLaChouffe
4.13/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured 12/2009

It's murky brown in the glass and a thinnish but creamy tan head.Smells very Stone-y if you know what I mean. The malt smells very much like Arrogant Bastard. Big bitter hops with some citrusy hops underneath. Hint of alcohol.

Definitely some alcohol in the mouth, spicy, fruity with a pronounced juniper berry quality adding bitterness, Big bruising malt profile. I mean, this must be hopped but I am having a hard time telling if it's the juniper or some other form of bittering being used.. Again, spicy in the finish, must be the sage. I suppose there's a nutty quality to this ale form the chestnuts but I'd be hard pressed to detect it if I didn't know it was in there. Bug sticky mouthfeel. It a liquid meal.

Very unique ale, very tasty and very well suited for winter. I doubt I can find any more...but I'll keep my eyes open.

ViveLaChouffe, May 27, 2010
Photo of bunnyhustle
3.93/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My favorite winter warmer ever, but I'm not a fan so that may not be saying much. Poured into pint glass, deep, dark ruby in color. Clear with cream light tan head. Good retention and lacing. Smell I thought was a little bland. Some caramel, some bitter chocolate, a little cream but nothing too pronounced. Taste was good. A nice mocha, caramel and bakers chocolate taste to it. Some spice as well and a touch of hops on the back end of it. Mouthfeel was full and very smooth and velvety. Overall a good beer. I thought this could easily pass for a stout and is definitely enjoyed best as warmer temps. A good sipper.

bunnyhustle, Apr 03, 2010
Photo of Tilley4
4.03/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A winter warmer in late March? Yep, it works for me... Here we go...

Pours a dark burgundy reddish color with this foamy thick stupid creamy head... Its over the top thick, man... Takes forever to subside away enough to actually see the top of the beer...

Surprisingly hoppy aromas coming off of this... There's also a brown sugar/molasses aspect to this one that really reminds me of a nice Christmas ham... Smells really nice and well rounded and delicious... Citrusy and sweet and delicious...

Sweet vinous maltiness followed by a hoppy kick in the teeth... The spices are rather subdued but still present.. Very nice in a world of overly spiced holiday ales... This could pass for a Strong Ale all year long in my book...

I really enjoyed this one... Well balanced and delicious this one is... A true Winter Warmer worthy of the title.. I'd love to have this one at Christmas with all of the festivities..

Tilley4, Mar 29, 2010
Photo of Kegatron
4.03/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle into a chalice.

Pours a clear dark ruby, with a thin covering of off-white foamy head. Retains with a thin fizzy ring around the edge of the glass that actually leaves a robust enough looking cascade of froth behind that quickly slides down the sides of the glass. The aroma is rich with toasted spicy bread and sugars, and a deep fruitiness from the juniper berries. Lots of extra spice here as well, with the sage being especially identifiable. Some alcohol warmth helps hold it all together.

The taste is similar to the aroma, with a hearty mix of bread, darker fruits, and burnt sugars, which lends the flavor more of a dark roasty feel. Spices are just as strong here as well, mixing with the rye notes to give this quite the festive tangy feel in the mouth. I'm getting a fair amount of an almost earthy bitterness as well (possibly from the yeast), with hangs in the finish with extra spice and a steady roasty dryness. The mouthfeel is medium to fuller bodied, with a sharp creaminess to it that fills the mouth up but I'm very glad to say that the ABV is kept in check for the most part. Pretty much that same amount of light warmth that held things together in the aroma is present, and it works just as nicely here to help meld all of those flavors.

This could have easily become a case of too many cooks (and ingredients) ruining the dish but I'm happy to report that this wasn't the case here. Nice even mix of character is present, with sweetness, spice, yeast, bitterness, and alcohol all working together to make this quite a tasty and warming sipper.

Kegatron, Mar 15, 2010
Photo of barleywinefiend
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a dark brown with good carbonation and a tan head. Looked very good. Nose is spices and lots of it. Sage, juniper, rye and light chocolate. Taste is a warm tingle from booe, sage, juniper, perhaps some cinnamon and other spices. Mouthfeel is warming and tingly. Tasty all the way around.

barleywinefiend, Mar 12, 2010
Photo of siradmiralnelson
3.95/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from 22oz bottle into Tulip.

A. Poured 3 fingers of light tan off white head. Color is very dark brown, almost black. Excellent retention. Thick lacing.

S. Dark chocolate malt, spices, juniper, alcohol. Very complex smell. Wide array of spice scents.

T. Spices. It is brewed with lots of spicy ingredients, so surprise suprise it has a big spice flavor. If you try hard you can pick out a lot of the individual flavors: rye, juniper, chestnut, what must be caraway?

M. Medium/full bodied. All the spices leave a somewhat strange aftertaste.

D. One of these is enough for me. This is a very unique and flavorful winter warmer. I liked it.

siradmiralnelson, Mar 07, 2010
Photo of sammiles
4.35/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked this up at Chapel Street Cellars, Melbourne. Bottle a little different, more in line with other Nogne O beers and also states it was brewed and bottled by Nogne O in Norway.

Poured a reddish brown, coming out very thick and syrupy and retains a nice head with not a great deal of lacing. Smells great and can defiantly pick up the juniper berries which is similar to a couple other beers that Nogne O brew. Lots of other smells going on as well. Brewed with spices is an understatement, very complex with lots of malt character. A fantastic beer.

sammiles, Mar 05, 2010
Photo of fropones
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours dark brown, nearly black with a thin khaki head

S - This is certainly an interesting smelling beer. The juniper berries are very present and make me think of gin. Definitely different, but not really in a bad way.

T - More beer flavors come out here with some hops up front and malt in the back, however the juniper berries are consistently there. The oat is noticeable as well, along with the caraway and sage. Not really getting any chestnuts, however.

M - Good carbonation, nice creaminess, smooth.

D - Interesting. Drinks well for a 9%er and definitely different than any beer I've had. Like sah'tea, but with more "oomph."

fropones, Mar 04, 2010
Photo of theghost3
3.88/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

09/10 vintage.

Pours a dark, opaque brown with some copper highlights. There's a creamy 3-finger cafe au lait head. that disappears halfway through the session. Medium lacing.

The smell is chocolate malt, dark fruit and rye. The flavor has an earthy hoppiness that goes well with prevalent carraway seed, rye and yeast. There are also hints of fruit and sweet malt to it. Sort of a metallic aftertaste. Mouthfeel is medium to full-bodied. Sticky with a fair amount of carbonation.

This is a drinkable beer. The rye and fruit cover up the ABV well. It would have been a little better if it were a little spicier.

theghost3, Feb 28, 2010
Photo of ShadesOfGray
4.15/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009/2010 season vintage. Poured from a 22oz bottle into my Koningshoeven small snifter. Pours a solid/cloudy medium brown with a slight reddish tinge at first to a more dominant brown as the glass fills. Creamy medium size tan head. Head retention is decent with slow sliding creamy/fizzy lacing.

Aroma is down because it's not a strong scent. Rather light...especially when compared to the taste. Distant sweet fruit aroma...berries, malts, sugars, and Belgian yeast.

Flavor is very good. Surpirsing characteristics for a Belgian beer. Then again, it's a holiday ale, so the spices are probably playing a part. The initial attack is sweet of berries and malts, hit with a second wave of hops...or spices, yet very distant. Bottle says 50IBU's. Carbonation is decent and medium which becomes apparent after a few seconds. Finishes very nice and smooth...creamy infact. Light mouthfeel overall. Very good beer.

ShadesOfGray, Feb 20, 2010
Photo of meeekyh
3.4/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a snifter.

Very dark beer here, where the light does show through the color is ruby. Head is tan, about one finger and not particularly lasting. No lacing to speak of.

Dark malt caramels and chocolates along with definite alcohol and spices make up the nose. Juniper, and the hazelnut come through

Bitter, hazelnut, spices and a bit of sweetness. Its beginning to taste a lot like Christmas.

Full body, medium carbonation slightly sweet finish with lingering bitterness.

Not particularly drinkable.

A decent beer and I love the Idea of collaboration.

meeekyh, Feb 05, 2010
Photo of diechipmunk
2.93/5  rDev -25.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured mahogany with a fluffy tan head.

Strong spice and some malt in the smell

The initial taste is good, a little different, from traditional winter warmers, but then the spices come forward. The caraway is pleasant, the juniper is a little sharp, but still not bad. Not sure what it is that dominates the finish, the white save perhaps, but to me it tastes like camphor - or mothballs. I read the ingredients and expected a savory turkey stuffing earthyness, but was disappointed.

The mouthfeel is rich and satisfying.

To me the beer would still be very drinkable if not for the finish. I think that for anyone who enjoys the the taste, it would be a very drinkable beer. It's just not for me.

diechipmunk, Jan 25, 2010
Photo of pokesbeerdude
4.43/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Review from notes 12/13/09. 12oz from Wilbur's in Ft. Collins.

A: Very dark red verging on brown, nice accents of red, 1/2" worth or cream colored head. Decent head retention, not much lacing, nice looking beer. 4

S: Melange of spices sage is very strong as well as the caraway, piney smells, hops, juniper berries, gin, booze, some whiskey, very strong spice smells, pretty much the only things going on, but it is nice. Extremely complex. 4.5

T: All the spices play nicely, sage is bitter, juniper is spicy and gin like, definite herbal qualities, spicy and strong. Underneath is a huge malt backbone that is roasted, flavors of coffee, the rye lends a dryness to the beer. For as many thing that are going on it all blends nicely. Excellent. 4.5

M: Thick, surprisingly thick and velvety, dry, warm alcohol, excellent. 5

D: Easy drinking beer for the strength, excellent flavors, balance of spice and malts is nice, really a great beer. Glad I sat on this one for a year. Highly recommended. 4

pokesbeerdude, Jan 24, 2010
Photo of Thorpe429
2.63/5  rDev -33.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Poured a somewhat reddish-brown with a nice-sized tan head. The smell is just a complete onslaught of spicing along with some chestnuts in the background. The taste is quite similar with a bunch of spices that never really seem to meld together. I always have big expectations from Stone (as well as Jolly Pumpkin and Nogne O, for that matter), but this one really disappointed.

Thorpe429, Jan 20, 2010
Photo of lordofthewiens
4.05/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This beer was a dark brown color with red highlights. It had a medium-sized tan head. Kind of an earthy aroma, spicy, and sweet. Nice malt taste, cinnamon and peppery. The peppery taste lingered, and was very pleasant. A substantial beer, I really enjoyed rolling it around in my mouth. Very enjoyable.

lordofthewiens, Jan 09, 2010
Photo of womencantsail
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had this back when it originally came out, but picked up another bottle yesterday to do a side-by-side tasting with the new Nogne-O brewed version.

A: The pour is an opaque dark brown with reddish highlights. A thin layer of tan foam sits on top.

S: The nose is a bit weak (could be the age, however). A slight sourness seems to be present, but it could be the combination of the herbal ingredients and different malts. The spice of the rye is definitely present, as is the juniper.

T: The spice character has really developed in this beer. A huge contribution from the rye and the juniper and sage add interesting flavors. I don't necessarily pick up the caraway seeds, which is disappointing because I'm a big lover of rye bread.

M: The body is medium to full with a moderate level of carbonation.

D: This beer is still in the "interesting" category in which I placed it over a year ago. Good, but not something I get all jazzed up about.

womencantsail, Jan 07, 2010
Photo of Hullabaloo2
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

My bottle was a Nogne-O, different from the picture here.

Aroma - Sweet aroma that is heavy on the spice. Very pronounced aroma with little malt, and no apparent hops.

Appearance - Murky brown with a tan head. Poured with a good head that dissipated to a very small head just covering the top surface area. Very little lacing.

Taste - There is some toasty malt flavor, but the dominant taste (like the aroma) is of the spices and juniper berries. The alcohol is present, but is very subdued. The taste of the spices is balanced differently than most spice ales. It's much better than most spice beers that tend to all taste the same. As it warms I get just a very slight hint of tartness.

Mouth Feel - Medium body. Smooth. Medium to high carbonation with no carbonic bite. There is a bite from the spices. Some alcohol is noticeable, but it is not hot. Lingering finish with the spice.

Overall Impression - I wasn't really sure what to expect when I poured this beer. This is a collaboration, but I can't clearly pick out a signature characteristic of any of the three breweries. I am very happy with this beer. This is probably one of the best spiced beers that I've had. It's not a nutmeg bomb like most spiced beers. Give it a shot.

Hullabaloo2, Jan 02, 2010
Photo of billab914
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark mahogany color wit ha thick off-white head. The foam settled and clung to the sides but left nice lacing on the glass.

Aroma is Spicy and sweet. The spices are unique, I don't think I've encountered them in a beer before and I didn't recognize them. After reading the side of the bottle I see Juniper berries and sage, makes sense now given the taste but I wouldn't have been able to guess them. The sweet maltiness comes through a little behind the spices.

Taste is pretty good, the spices are pretty dominant as in the nose. Again not something I would have guessed but the juniper and sage play a big part in the taste. The malt is there in the background which has a sweet caramel flavor to it

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Drinkability is good for the abv and amount of spices.

overall this was pretty good, a nice change from the cinnamon and nutmeg spiced winter beers that I usually find but I probably wouldn't buy it very often.

billab914, Jan 01, 2010
Photo of Durge
3.98/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Found at RSVP in Portland, Maine this beauty shows a seriously thick, dark mahogany color with a goodly light oatmeal colored head and a blanket of lacing. The aroma says chocolate malt juniper raspberry and licorice menthol. It's very nicely blended and really pleasant. The flavor is somewhat jarring. It's again pretty thick with licorice and juniper and even a hint of smoke. There's plenty of sweet malted milk, a touch of chocolate with a little allspice. Very complex, pretty different for sure. It matures so nicely as you work through it and now I wish there was more than 25 ounces to keep this going. It is pretty much full bodied with fair drinkability. A good experience although perhaps a little disappointing considering this impressive collaberation. Still, it's quite good, I would drink it again for sure. Quite unique and a nice holiday option.

Durge, Dec 31, 2009
Photo of Sean9689
3.7/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle received as an extra for my main man, eyebrews! Jack, you are simply the man, and that's the bottom line. Poured from 12oz bottle into Stone Levitation glass.

A - Pours black with a couple of fingers-worth of cream-colored head. There's a good amount of sticky lacing that stays behind after the initial head disipiates. There's a thin cap of head that remains along with a thick ring of head along the edge of the glass.

S - Spices, dark fruit, alcohol hotness, coconut, honey, and malts.

T - A lot more hoppy then I expected from the nose, wow. Along with the floral hoppy notes, I get some spices that reminds me of nutmeg and cinnamon. There's a slight sweetness consisting of honey and malts, perhaps some oak as well.

M - Medium bodied, medium carbonation, creamy on the palate with a similar finish.

D - One or two of these and I'm good...for the entire year. It's good, but not something I'm going totally crazy for.

Sean9689, Dec 30, 2009
Photo of Lunch
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served from a .5L bottle (2009) purchased at the Perfect Pour in Columbia, Maryland (12/25/09) into my Maudite snifter at the appropriate temperature.

A: Pours a very dark mahogany brown that is nearly black capped off with one finger of a creamy caramel brown head with decent retention.

S: This is quite a strong scent that this beer emits which is dominated by juniper. Tones of roasted malt and sage are there as well.

T: The juniper is toned down quite a bit in the taste, but it is still very much present along with a nice roasted malt containing a bit of coffee and chocolate. Seems to have a real porter or almost stout quality to it.

M: Medium-bodied with a nice creaminess that is heavy at times.

D: Good drinkability and not a hint of the 9% abv.

Overall this quite a collaborative effort from Jolly Pumpkin, Nøgne-Ø and Stone and is certainly a unique winter warmer. Recommended.

Lunch, Dec 28, 2009
Photo of goldbot
4.13/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 vintage, poured form a 0.5 L bottle.

A: Pours a deep mahogany with two fingers of foamy light tan head and a small amount of lacing. It seemed to be a bit hazy when held up to a bright light.

S: Blend of spices, which is good considering this is a spiced beer. Some roasted malt notes and a touch of floral hops.

T: Sweetness from the malts, balanced well with a slight bitterness. The spices remain from the aroma, but are a bit more subdued. Chestnut flavors with nice alcohol warmth on the finish.

M: This beer has a medium to heavy body, good carbonation, and a smooth, somewhat viscous feel.

D: It is a bit heavy, but actually went down pretty smooth. A good beer for a treat on a winter night.

I have one of these laid away for next winter. I will be interested to see what happens to the spice notes in theis beer after a year of age.

goldbot, Dec 27, 2009
Special Holiday Ale from Stone Brewing Co.
88 out of 100 based on 314 ratings.