1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Great Lakes Christmas Ale - Great Lakes Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
Great Lakes Christmas AleGreat Lakes Christmas Ale

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

2,123 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 2,123
Reviews: 770
rAvg: 3.96
pDev: 13.13%
Wants: 96
Gots: 195 | FT: 4
Brewed by:
Great Lakes Brewing Co. visit their website
Ohio, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  7.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: OldFrothingSlosh on 11-16-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 2,123 | Reviews: 770 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of innersanctum


4.33/5  rDev +9.3%

This is a special one from the guys on the Erie shoreline! Had the opportunity to have a few of these this season, as well as compliment my Cleveland friends. Apparently this beer is revered there and folks will stock up on a case or two, but once you have a sip you'll see why. This is one of the more unique products from GL.

Appearance: Dark coper/orange with a nice thick head.

Smell: Cinnamon spice, and all those other fruit cake season gems.

Taste: Warm, zesty and complex. Despite some of the fruit, this is well balanced and its a nice sipper in the cold season.

Mouthfeel: Despite the complexity this is not a terribly heavy brew, but be warned:

Drinkability: At 7.5% this one is a real creaper because one or two of these in a snifter, while a smaller pour, can pack a nice punch.

Serving type: on tap in a snifter glass

12-28-2010 20:57:13 | More by innersanctum
Photo of JackieTH


3.73/5  rDev -5.8%

Appearance: Dark orange with a cap of thick white foam.

Smell: Spicy. Ginger and cinnamon layers over a toasted biscuit malt.

Taste: Less spicy with more presence of a biscuit-caramel malt muting a range of christmas spices - ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and dark brown sugar candied fruits.

Mouthfeel: Medium and somewhat creamy.

Drinkability: Medium-high alcohol level and spicy nature make this brew something to enjoy sparingly.

12-28-2010 06:26:10 | More by JackieTH
Photo of garymuchow


4.13/5  rDev +4.3%

Been waiting many years to get ahold of this. Happy for the opportunity.
Poured into SA glass where a very large head prevented adequate aroma seeking. Little more golden in color than I anticipated. Very clear. Attractive.
The mild and well blended spices with the malt make up the bulk of the aroma. Emphasis on the well-balanced. Kinda' bready malt in there too.
Flavor notes cinnamon right away, plus some nutmeg, but he former stood out, in a good way. Get that interesting aftertaste and dryness that comes from spiced beer. Tad of warmth. More hops than most for style, especially those with spices.
Lighter body, yet very smooth and soft.
I know I've repeated already, but the balancing of the spices make this a very drinkable beer. No problem with having another.

12-28-2010 03:34:19 | More by garymuchow
Photo of DavoleBomb


4.22/5  rDev +6.6%

Poured into a pint glass.

4.5 A: Clear darker orange color. Two fingers of off-white dense, super creamy head. Retention is good and lacing is a plenty.

5.0 S: Wow, there's an awesome interaction between the caramel/toffee and the Christmas spices. Gingerbread and nutmeg are strongest, cinnamon and cardamon next, and brown sugar and honey last. The malts are a combination of grainy and biscuity with the caramel and toffee flavors being at a strength between the nutmega and cinnamon. Very nice. Best winter warmer smell I've encountered so far.

4.0 T: The taste, though very good, isn't on the same level as the nose. Caramel and toffee, grainy and biscuity malts. No appreciable hop contributions - maybe some herbal. Spices are about the same as the nose. Ginger and nutmeg are the strongest with cinnamon, cardamon, and brown sugar pulling up the rear. The reason that this isn't as good as the nose is mainly due to the mouthfeel. This has a medium body, but it could benefit extremely from a thicker malty body and a more pronounced sweetness.

4.0 M: Medium body. Carbonation is moderate on the high end, and it makes for a wonderful, spritzy mix. Could be creamier. As I mentioned in the taste section, a thicker body could have put this beer over the edge. However, it is definitely good the way it is.

4.0 D: Solid brew. Good all-around with an excellent nose. If they thickened this up a bit, it would be out of this world.

12-27-2010 03:45:57 | More by DavoleBomb
Photo of Shrews629


3.65/5  rDev -7.8%

Appearance - Very nice clear amber with burnt orange and yellow highlights around the bottom. Slight off white head was thick and full of small bubbles. Great bit of retention and plenty of lacing for me to enjoy.

Smell - Smells of ginger bread cookies and cinnamon. Brown sugar and touches of honey. I even picked up hints of sweet molasses.

Taste - Really picking up the ginger and cinnamon with the first couple of sips. The cinnamon comes on stronger as the beer glides across the tongue to the throat. Hints of alcohol start to pick up as I drink. Only traces of honey in the taste. This beer is really sweet!!!!

Mouthfeel - Medium to medium/thin mouthfeel that was mostly dry. The alcohol bite stands out and gives it not quite as smooth a finish as I like. Very warming however.

Drinkability - This brew is a pretty good "warmer." Definitely captures the Christmas feel. May be a bit too sweet for me to enjoy all night, but would be acceptable in small doses.

12-26-2010 14:30:28 | More by Shrews629
Photo of 321jeff


3.85/5  rDev -2.8%

12oz bottle consumed on Christmas Day 2010... fitting.

Pours a light amber with golden edges and a couple fingers of barely off white head. Head fades to a thin layer, leaving some nice lacing on the glass. Lots of carbonation bubbles can be seen floating to the top.

Aroma is a rather sweet mix of honey and some dark fruits and some bread mixed in there. Some Christmas spices appear as well. The aroma is by no means overpowering.

Taste is all malt and quite sweet. Fresh bread is prevalent but there is an underlying fruity sweetness that is a challenge to pin down. Seems like it could almost be black cherry or something similar. I also pick up on just the slightest alcohol bite in the finish.

Mouthfeel is medium and somewhat creamy. Very smooth overall with a moderate amount of very fine carbonation. Highly drinkable for 7.5% and it's fairly unique and enjoyable.

12-26-2010 04:01:51 | More by 321jeff
Photo of Thanby


4.43/5  rDev +11.9%

Pours a nice clear copper color with a finger of off-white head that leaves good, sticky lacing.

The aroma is mainly of winter spices, being cinnamon, ginger, honey, nutmeg and maybe some clove in that order. All come through and for once in a winter warmer the cinnamon isn't overbearing. The sweet caramel malt fills it out, and there some other bready malt characteristic in the background.

The flavor is full of the spice boquet, again with cinnamon in the lead, but the honey dries things out a tiny bit and leaves room for the roasted malt to show through. Not very common for this style, and something I really enjoy.

Sweet and roasty malt flavors make up the finish with a thin sheet of dry cinnamon that isn't too sweet and isn't too bitter. Medium body, not as syrupy as a typical winter warmer, good carbonation and supremely drinkable. This is definitely my favorite in the category and is a nice break from the typical sickly sweet or "beat you in the face with a cinnamon stick" warmer. Everything in balance and still festive enough to satisfy, it doesn't get much better than this.

12-25-2010 21:12:03 | More by Thanby
Photo of elgiacomo


3.98/5  rDev +0.5%

12oz bottle. Big thanks to Adam for this unexpected gift!

Pours clear copper with a one finger off white head that doesn't leave much lacing and holds a light cap.

Aroma is strong on the cinnamon along with some ginger, honey, bread and caramel malt. Moderate to good strength.

Flavor features a nice dose of cinnamon and ginger, honey-slathered bread, caramel and toffee, a fair bit of sweetness, not much hops or bitterness. Spices are done just right, not overpowering but not too subtle with cinnamon being the predominant spice and ginger taking a backseat.

Mouthfeel is creamy, medium bodied, medium carbonation.

Nice spiced Winter Warmer, I like the addition of honey in this one.

12-25-2010 20:58:06 | More by elgiacomo
Photo of darthpeepee


3.95/5  rDev -0.3%

A - 12 oz bottle. Pours a amber color. Light head from pour.

S - Smells of cinnamon, ginger and other winter/Christmas spices.

T - Tasted like a ginger snap cookie. Not overly spicey.

M - Light body.

D - A wonderful Christmas ale from Great Lakes.

12-24-2010 18:26:32 | More by darthpeepee
Photo of jkwuc89


4.83/5  rDev +22%

I have sampled several Christmas ales and Great Lakes easily bests them all.

The appearance in the glass tempts the drinker with what's to come.

The warm aroma of Christmas spices greets the drinker. This carries over to the wonderful but not overpowering taste of Christmas spices when this ale reaches your palette.

This is definitely a winter warmer not only with the feel in one's mouth but also with it's ABV. This is not a session beer. It is an ale that should be enjoyed slowly.

I have found this on tap at the Winking Lizard near Columbus and Average Joe's in Dublin, OH.

12-23-2010 02:02:33 | More by jkwuc89
Photo of thegodfather1076


4.33/5  rDev +9.3%

This beer was served out of a 12oz. bottle dispensed into a glass....

Initial review is on the GLBCA 2010 Edition.

Presentation- Great artwork and label in the GLB style.

Appearance - GLBCA is a copperish orange color ale with an off white one finger heard that leaves a nice lacing down the entire glass.

Smell - GLBCA has a wonderful smell. This offering is packed with Christmas spices and they def come through in the smell. Nutmeg, Honey, Cinnamon, Ginger are all apparent in the smell.

Taste - A very tasty beer that is heavily spiced with traces of nutmeg, honey, cinnamon, ginger throughout. A slightly malty flavor provides a good ale taste that balances out the heavy spices.

Mouthfeel - Definitly a full bodied offering that is smooth but slightly heavy in the mouth.

Drinkability - A true winter warmer with a fairly high alcohol content. GLBCA is very drinkable because of the flavor but if more than 3 of these are consumed you will definitly start to feel it!!!!

Being from Akron, OH I really enjoy GLBCA but has become so hard to find in this area that I have had to turn to other offerings at times. I would highly recommend as far as the actual beer goes.

12-23-2010 01:45:11 | More by thegodfather1076
Photo of Huhzubendah

District of Columbia

3.85/5  rDev -2.8%

Bottle shared by Dreadnaught33. Thanks Jonathan!

A: This beer appears a slightly hazy shade of orange, with an eighth inch of head that falls away after a few moments, leaving some decent lacing upon the glass.

S: The aroma is very potent, with a huge bouquet of spices, including cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

T: The taste is full of Christmas spices, with hints of alcohol when you delve past the dominant spice scents. I would like the beer to be a bit more robust, and / or have a more substantial malt bill, better supporting the myriad of pleasant spices used in this creation.

M: Thin in body, with moderate carbonation.

D: A nice choice if you're in the mood for a spiced Christmas brew.

12-22-2010 05:53:51 | More by Huhzubendah
Photo of AwYeh


4.15/5  rDev +4.8%

A: Pours a slightly hazy golden amber color, with one finger of white head.

S: Honey and spices are present in the aroma, though not as strong as I was expecting.

T: Fantastic; this beer is perfectly spiced, with cinnamon and ginger complementing the honey excellently. Ginger is so intense I got the sensation that I was in between pieces of sushi after I had swallowed the first gulp. This beer may be just as enjoyable at room temperature as it is chilled, thanks to these spices.

M: No flaws here; beer is sweet but not sticky, perfectly carbonated and goes down smooth.

D: Despite somewhat high ABV, it would be easy to put a few of these away in a row.

If you're fortunate enough to be in an area where you can actually find this around Christmas, stock up and enjoy it all season long.

12-21-2010 08:06:11 | More by AwYeh
Photo of drabmuh


3.7/5  rDev -6.6%

I was in a DC beer store recently and picked this up. The clerk informed me that they were under a strict ONE BOTTLE limit on this beer. I had no idea it was this popular, doesn't appear to be anything special oh well.

Beer is red / amber with a mild haze, broken white head of small bubble, some lacing, moderate carbonation. Looks fine.

Aroma...Hello! super strong, some alcohol, lots of spice, cloves and nutmeg come forward, malt, yeast, esters and bread. Interesting.

I guess I need to recalibrate what I think a winter warmer is...Beer is light and has some grainy acidity at the end of the palate. The forward is mildly sweet with some cinnamon and nutmeg spice in the middle. As far as I can tell, nothing special. Drinkability is fine but I'm failing to see what the huge draw for this beer is. No interesting yeast character, no odd hop profile, just an herbed ale. Am I missing something?

12-21-2010 04:04:48 | More by drabmuh
Photo of pzrhsau

District of Columbia

4.18/5  rDev +5.6%

A: A nice burnished copper ruby red color that almost appears like a christmas ornament. Crisp and clear with a slight lace of head.
S: Malty sweet with some notes of dried fruit.
T: It has a nice cinnamony breadiness to it. Slightly fruity with some notes of nutmeg and other spices.
D/M: Crisp and clean. Refreshing while still carrying some weight to it. Good Balance of flavor.

12-21-2010 00:23:21 | More by pzrhsau
Photo of KoolWhp


3.7/5  rDev -6.6%

Living in the Cleveland area, I'm almost duty-bound to absolutely love this beer. Pretty much every person I know here freaks out around late October when the Great Lakes Brewing Company announces the street date for this perennial favorite.

But I'm a different breed of cat -- different, not one of the crowd. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm a follower like the rest. For crying out loud, Budweiser is one of my favorite go-to beers. This Christmas Ale, like most Christmas ales out there, just puts waaay too much shit in there. Honey? OK, I dig honey in my beer. Cinnamon? Uh...OK, sure. Ginger? What the hell is this? A mai tai?

I guess the faults of this beer really do come down to personal preference. I need to be able to drink at least four beers without feeling like I've already eaten an entire meal.

12-20-2010 16:27:46 | More by KoolWhp
Photo of Tilley4


4.03/5  rDev +1.8%

Received a single in a trade with bamadog.. Thanks!

Clear amber pour topped by a frothy eggshell head and generous lacing throughout...

Rich toasted malts are the mainstay here complimented with some Christmas spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon and I might even detect some honey in this as well... Very festive aroma to this brew as expected... Much more pronounced halfway thru the pint...

Sort of a cinnamon honey toast flavor lends nicely to the Christmas season... Not overpowering or overly spiced... Seems more subdued than I was expecting.. Hints of booze... Crackery malt... Nice rich mouthfeel to this...

A pretty good Winter Warmer... I could have several of these for sure... I'm glad I got to try this brew...

12-19-2010 22:00:08 | More by Tilley4
Photo of Chickenhawk9932


3.7/5  rDev -6.6%

Pours a beautiful amber color with an off-white head.

Smells of citrus, pine needles, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Certainly a Christmas bouquet.

Tastes of pine bitterness up front backed by warming spices of ginger and cinnamon, then fills out to a chewy grain mouthfeel, finishing with a slight caramel note. A very nice, festive beer.

12-19-2010 21:53:24 | More by Chickenhawk9932
Photo of ThePorterSorter


3.98/5  rDev +0.5%

Amber copper with a minimal head. The beer is watery and looks a little thin. This beer would definitely be what the doctor ordered if i was interested in a gulp-able ale that wasn't an added heaviness to my meal or evening.

Smells spicy like a christmas wreath with a little bit of fruity sweetness. If I didn't know any better I would initially think I was about to drink a mulled cider with the amount of spice added. The beer isn't bitter and doesn't have a strong maltiness. There is a generic ale presence, but the spice makes it intriguing.

The beer is a nice spice infusion with a solid ale backbone. I am surprised by how easily the strong aromatics are translated into flavor. I get a mouthful of chrismas spice followed by a smooth ale richness. Great lakes definitely took time in making this beer representative of the season's charisma and for that I give props because I usually am against any overpowering spices, but this time it's refreshing.

The beer is an average ale that doesn't do a tremendous amount for me. I served it cold and it went down smoothly. After letting it adjust to the rooms ambient temperature, I noticed more of the spice that was added. I would recommend a temperature somewhere between 45-55 degrees for maximal enjoyment. The beer is sweet like a candy cane in its aftertaste, which is good and bad, but don't expect any hoppy bitterness.

I would definitely order this beer in a bar, it would accompany any meal quite well. It's sweetness makes it less of a sipper and more of a cold temperature swigging. I would not recommend the warmer temperatures. The christmas spice makes it different from other other ales, it fits nicely into the "winter warmer" class.

12-18-2010 06:23:29 | More by ThePorterSorter
Photo of herman77


3.25/5  rDev -17.9%

A: Clear golden, orange with a soapy off white head. Okay lacing.

S: Not much of a nose, what's there is light spice, mainly cinnamon, a bit of malt sweetness and honey.

T: A bit of bready malt and honey to start. Lots of honey actually, then the spice comes next. Sweet cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg. The ginger really comes through. Finishes sweet candy like, vanilla and a bit of alcohol.

M: Medium body, moderate carbonation. Pretty slick mouthfeel.

D: Not so much my thing. Never really had a true winter warmer before and I think I'm not gonna be that big of a fan. One is enough, its just the whole spice thing in beer I'm not too down with. A little is fine, but when I can really taste it, not so much. I do like Winter Warmers more than Pumpkin beers so far though.

12-18-2010 00:00:08 | More by herman77
Photo of Phelps


3.93/5  rDev -0.8%

Another beer received from neorunner in the Blind Beers BIF. This one was poured into a tulip and reviewed blind.

The beer pours a lovely amber, transparent and the color of apple juice. A frothy, one-finger thick head cream in color sits atop, receding slowly to a thick, sticky ring of bubbles and a big patch of foam in the middle. Tiny streaks of lace decorate the glass as I go.

Very biscuity in the aroma. Lots of sweet crackers, mushrooms and sweet almond. In the background: earthy yeast. Nicely sweet.

Interesting new aspects reveal themselves in the flavor. Lots of peanut skins, perhaps some nutmeg, biscuits, oyster crackers, maple syrup, gingerbread, rum, maybe even some pumpkin, and oh yeah, cinnamon. Only lightly sweet before a rather crisp finish and long-lingering spicy flavors of nutmeg and ginger.

Smooth, medium-light body. Very fizzy as it moves about, with medium, massaging carbonation and a bit of warming alcohol in the throat.

I'm always fond of Christmas brews, and this is one of the best I've had so far this year. Great balance of spiciness and Christmas flavors. I could see several of these going down very easily.

12-17-2010 04:34:41 | More by Phelps
Photo of rmdunlap85

North Carolina

4.08/5  rDev +3%

A: Looks really nice, crystal clear with a deep copper color, a thin white head caps it off that turns into some decent lacing
S: Caramel malts and orange, some cinnamon and other spices like nutmeg too
T: Lots of spice all over this drink with ginger notes, tastes kind of like drinking a gingerbread cookie. It has some nice sweetness as well, like honey.
M: Feels good, nothing really of note here, crisp and warming.
O: This is a good winter beer one that I will enjoy often during the upcoming holidays.

12-15-2010 23:59:17 | More by rmdunlap85
Photo of lukekruse1


4.45/5  rDev +12.4%

For those of you outside of Northeast Ohio, Great Lakes Christmas Ale is more than simply another beer. It has a devoted cult following and cases usually sell out within days of hitting the shelves. I had to call 3 groceries stores this year before finding one for myself.

A - Beautiful red ale with slight head retention.

S - Malts, Cinammon & Honey

T - They call this "Christmas Crack" for a reason around here. Honey, Malts and a sweet finish.

M - As with all Great Lakes Brews, this one feels "just right."

D- At 7.5% be careful. The taste hides it well. This one does sit a bit heavy, so more than 3 in a session is probably overdoing it.

Overall this is the best "Winter Warmer" of many I've tried. A true Cleveland classic.

12-15-2010 01:35:24 | More by lukekruse1
Photo of dogfishandi

New York

4/5  rDev +1%

12 oz bottle pulled from my fridge poured into a nonik pint glass. best before 02/24/11.

pours out a very clear red, golden, orange color with a finger and a half of a slightly off white creamy head. very retentive and a really nice sticky lace. lots of rushing bubbles.

decent amount of spice in the aroma. cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, gingerbread, allspice, all the holiday spices are there. some honey like malt sweetness.

in the initial sip i was like "holy spices!", but the high amount of spices is more easily accepted the more you drink. all the holiday spices are there, but mostly you get cinnamon, ginger bread, and nutmeg which seem to tingle the palate almost in a peppery way. lots of honey sweetness. medium bodied with a bit of a high carbonation. the 7.5% is not noticed at all making this a very drinkable choice for the winter. the flavors really lingered after i was done with the beer.

overall, i very much so enjoyed this beer, the honey seems to add something to the usual holiday spiced winter warmer. some may find this to be way over spiced, but i welcome all the spices. i would for sure drink this again.

12-14-2010 00:25:30 | More by dogfishandi
Photo of Lolli1315


3.98/5  rDev +0.5%

A- Clear copper color and you can see a stream of bubbles rising to the top. Less than a finger of head forms that disappears only to leave a small blotchy section in the middle with little traces of lacing around the glass.

S- The winter spices jump out led by cinnamon and nutmeg. Underlying candy sweetness with caramel and small notes of dark fruits jumping up periodically.

T- Once again the spices jump out with cinnamon and nutmeg leading and hold pretty steady throughout the beer. Beneath the spices you get a solid caramel and bready taste to the beer that become noticeable around the middle and fade into the aftertaste. A slight bitterness picks up towards the end of the beer and follows along into the aftertaste slightly. Only small traces of alcohol make themselves apparent which is quite impressive for being 7.5% alcohol.

M- Medium body with a slight amount of carbonation, something that could probably be improved. Leaves the mouth feeling dry.

D- One of the better spiced winter beers I have had, but as always the high spice content takes slightly away from these beers. Nevertheless, great on a snowy night like now.

12-13-2010 03:55:16 | More by Lolli1315
Great Lakes Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Co.
89 out of 100 based on 2,123 ratings.