Christmas Ale | Goose Island Beer Co.

very good
572 Reviews
Christmas AleChristmas Ale

Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co.
Illinois, United States

Style: American Brown Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.30%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 11-21-2001

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

For Trade:
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Reviews: 572 | Ratings: 1,329
Photo of RBorsato
4.85/5  rDev +27.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Auburn, Bright Red towards any light source. Had a nice light brown head and nice lace. Great hoppy aroma (a bit sprucey hop character) and nice hoppy character (citrusy and sprucey, esp. when fresh)... reminded me of a lighter "SN Celebration". Med/Full bodied and smooth with a nutty(?) character and a nice bitter finish.

Easy to drink more than one of these !!

Label states "Bottle Conditioned"

1. 2001 bottle tasted 10/02:
2. Best Before: 05/19/03 Tasted: 1/17/03

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Photo of Schmidts
4.85/5  rDev +27.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours from the Bottle chestnut brown with a two fingers beigh head. Lots of lacing all the way down.

Smells of Pine fruit, and toasty malts and coffee.
Tastes of Pine,earth,malts and fruits and toffee. Also a nice hit of pure Allcohol.
Finishs smooth and dry and very refreshing in your mouth.
I give it an overall of 5.0.
This is an exceptional Christmas Ale, give this one a try it will be my Christmas Ale of choice from now on! I am very impressed.

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Photo of GuyFawkes
4.71/5  rDev +23.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Deep murky brown; purple when held to the light.

Nice dark khaki head; strong lacing.

Bread & dark fruits in the nose; a belgian vibe; also, hints of caramel, rasberry & strawberry.

Thick mouthfeel.

Taste is of acorn, light spice, raisin & caramel. Definitely a winter beer; viscous & sweet, almost like an American Barleywine, but not cloying. Sweet, unique & worth a quaff.

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Photo of Offa
4.7/5  rDev +23.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is an excellent, well-balanced, complex, yet very drinkable ale that packs a lot for the ABV, a big plus in my book. After letting it sit for a year, I had the 2009 vintage today, 23 Oct.2010, a beautifully cold, wet, rainy day here in Santa Rosa.

Slightly cloudy red-orange-brown amber, it has a big tan head, with hints of orange, steadily shrinking to a lasting, thin foamy top and some foamy lace.

Aroma is very nice, full malty, caramelised barley, & bread crust, jammy orange marmalade, leaves, pine,, juicy with yeasty bread.

Taste is similar. Up front, it is a jammy-spicey sweet brown bread with hints of rum, fruit and wood, followed by a drier finish with leafy-woody-toasty-citrusy-spicey bitterness and toasty dryness joining the jammy fruitiness, before becoming a sweet and spicey-bitter aftertaste with a lot of caramelised fruit, toast, and jam with light rumminess. It is balanced, complex, rich, but light, a faint warmth, full-bodied but very drinkable.

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Photo of MaxFenig
4.68/5  rDev +22.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This was the best seasonal, in this case a special Christmas variety, I have ever had! It had a touch of Christmas spices and provided a very pleasurable taste on my pallate. I had it on tap and the glass came with a nice foamy head, was served quite cold and it required a second glass to confirm the experience.

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Photo of wcintula
4.67/5  rDev +22.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage dated 2009 Bottled on Oct 30

Pours beautifully, murky brown like a compote or dark cider. Nice tan head. Smell strong sweet figs, cookies, light spice. Thh taste is wonderful. As my cousin put, "tastes like Christmas."

Tastes like Fig Newtons, but better, or like fruitcake, but better. Sweet , beautiful, velvety, magic.

I remember reading the article in BA in '10 about how this wasn't going to be brewed that year. This beer needs to come back, with the SAME recipe it is delicioso, magnifique!!

EDIT: and I would never guess this beer is only 5.6% ABV. Seems a tad stronger.

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Photo of kmpitz2
4.67/5  rDev +22.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Wrigleyville location. Definately my favorite winter warmer I've had to date, and I've sampled a few in my day. The beer poured a dark brown with ruby hues and just a coat of head over top of the beer. The nose was very deep caramel with notes of coffee. There was deep, deep hop in there. Damn it smells good. The flavor was great. Full of huge flavors, big well blended hop, big caramel sweetness and hints of coffee. I love it. The feel was big and thick, coating my mouth. The beer is overall very good. Its easydrinking and smooth. Goes down without hesitation. Just like I want it to be.

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Photo of elNopalero
4.66/5  rDev +22.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled on 11/11/11, enjoyed during the winter holidays of 2013.

I have no recollection purchasing this but found it tucked away in the basement of my parents’ house. Thought it would be fun to enjoy it.

This pours a ruddy raisin-color with thin foaming. It’s murky in appearance, like a poorly filtered French press cup of coffee.

The bottle calls this a American Brown Ale but honestly it pours more like a Belgian spiced dubble. There’s a light, low aroma of dried stone fruits, raisin and dates, with a sweet and sweetly-spiced flavor of cloves and allspice blended with the raisin and dates. I found it a delicious and welcome surprise.

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Photo of fx20736
4.63/5  rDev +21.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

2011 edition reviewed on 11/24/13
Appearance: 4.5 Aroma: 4.5 Mouthfeel: 4.25 Taste: 4.75 overall 4.75

I am now reviewing the 2011 edition 2 years after it was brewed as I scored a whole case for $ 20.

Served in a pint glass, served at cellar temp.

appearance: beautiful burgundian reddish brown with a sticky thick creme brulee head.

aroma: aroma: sweet dark fruit yummy

mouthfeel; good, soft and sinuous

taste: toe curling raisiny goodness with some brown sugar sweetness and some oak tannin like bitterness.

notes; a Grand Slam of a beer. Unbelievable


2012 edition. 4.43 reviewed on 3/10/13

Appearance: 4.75 Aroma: 4.5 Mouthfeel: 4.75 Taste: 4.25 overall 4.50

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass, served at cellar temp.

Gorgeous tawny port reddish brown with a thick, sticky creme brulee head that leaves nice lacing.

aroma: ripe dark fruit with some cocoa

mouthfeel: silky, soft and smooth

taste: plums, richly toasted malt, cocoa, maybe some diacetyl, with some woodiness, walnut and herbal bitterness.

notes: quite impressive. this is like a ramped up version of their brown ale with much higher hops and some dark fruits. It is complex with multiple layers of flavor. Yet another great beer from Goose Island.

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Photo of marcpal
4.63/5  rDev +21.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

12 oz bottle poured into flying fish tulip glass. Thank you jtrockchalk for these.

A: Dark amber beer with a white foam one finger head that filtered to a finger but held on throughout the beer. Reiminscent of an anchor christmas, continual bubble on carbonation.

S: Caramel, biscuity and malts. Woodsy hop appearance.

T: Sweetness combined with a malty hop presence. The fruit flavors really caught up in the back end with the nutty caramel again. A really good tasting beer for the season and good representation of nuts and hops- terrificly balanced.

M: If any fault for the seasonal, a little bit heavy on the carbonation. Hops stuck a bit too but in a good way.

D: Tremendously drinkable on a freaking cold night. Pleasant in every way. Good job GI.

I hope to trade for some more of these before the season is past and I miss the chance. Between this anchor and mad elf, need to hold me off until late 08.

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Photo of Mitchster
4.62/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

5.4% ABV, 35 IBU, 30 SRM. Brewed with Belgian malts and Crystal (?) hops.

2003 bottling. Pours out to a slightly hazy, very dark amber with garnet accents, forming a soapy tan head with good retention and excellent lacing. Carbonation is mild to moderate. Aroma is interesting...Strong vanilla, raisins, prune juice, rotting apples and black cherries with a touch of caramel and very weak floral hops. Mouthfeel is creamy and very smooth with a medium-dense body. Nice. The taste begins with vanilla and sticky amber malts with a touch of soap and roasted barley astringency, followed by semi-sweet chocolate, and the aformentioned prunes, cherries, and apples. There is an interesting floral soapiness in the middle with a subtle touch of chalk. Bitterness is mild and earthy. Touches of tobacco, pine and leather in the finish. Very interesting and hard to describe. The aftertaste has the sweetness of Centennial without the hop flavor....weird...I wonder if spices are creating this impression, although they are not distinct. Alcohol is imperceptible, no off flavors.

A very interesting and well-crafted brew. This is a sleeper hit. I was expecting the typical nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger "blah beer", but this is closer to an imperial brown ale (if there is such a thing), and a good one at that. I'll be sure to pick this up next year when it comes out, as it would probably cellar well. Goose Island consistently brews some awesome beers, and this is no exception.

2005 Update-I still think this is the best Christmas Ale out there-This years batch was just amazing. Rich amber malts, hops galore, and a wonderful toasty, nutty, leathery finish, filled with dark fruits. Love it! Reminds me of GLBC Nosferatu a wee bit.

2012-Website now says brewed with Pale, Munich, Caramel and hops/IBU which changes from year to year, and 7.3% ABV. Still a really nice beer, like an imperial brown with a finish of leather, nuts, with some floral soapiness and a spicy finish. Lots of great 2-row husk taste.

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Photo of nortmand
4.6/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours ruddy brown and crystal clear, with a dollop of white head and good lace.

Smell is american hop citrusy goodness on top of chocolate.

Slightly tart flavor up front that immediately goes into a tasty citrus-chocolate. Light roast bitterness at the end.

Medium bodied and delicious, this is one of Goose Island's finest brews.

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Photo of laituegonflable
4.59/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Pours a slightly burnished brown-bronze colour, with reasonable head, cream-coloured and dense, but reduced to a thin crown. Lace is pretty nice and silky. Steady bead as well. Good-looker, could be browner.

Smells great. Beautifully sweet with loads of brown sugar and just a mass Christmas pudding aroma. Lots of plum, currants and a nice raisiny sweetness, plus wonderful cinnamon spice. Very slight sourness, but mostly rich and sweet and wonderfull complex. Beautiful Christmas brew.

Taste is quite a deal more rich and robust. Starts with toffee and brown sugar sweetness that swills around in the mouth before getting to the mid-palate which is surprisingly robust, plenty of eggnogg-y booze and some burnt toffee notes verging on roasty cocoa. Then back is all the pudding notes, with rich dried fruit, apple and dates and figs and touches of cinnamon spice and even a brandy note as a bonus. Quite wonderful, just a rich, sweet, warming brew, really puts one in the mood for a magical white Christmas. If only I weren't in barmy Australia.

Not the best mouthfeel, in all honesty. Too much carbonation tingle that really shows up on the palate. Body is decent but could be fuller to cover that carbonation. Not greatly enamoured. This is the pitfalls of making such a rich and flavoursome brew without upping the alcohol content, the mouthfeel becomes thin by comparison.

Notwithstanding the feel, a wonderful festive beer. Beautifully complex and the flavours are just lovely and balanced. I wish I had more.

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Photo of GeoffRizzo
4.57/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark amber with a thick head, a nice aroma of malts, citrus and some spices make this one eager to try. Some thin roasted malts, mild hops and a some citrus and fruit are noted up front. Medium to full bodied, incredible flavor, some cloves, banana and spices are noted towards the end, with the hops dominating. Tasty, filling, rich and awesome. Everything expected from this awesome winter brew!

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Photo of slayerhellfire
4.57/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Great beer I first got this at premier gormet and it was great tasting brew, I had the other goose island beers and was very impressed with them too. Anyone want a festive beer this should be on your list! To me it was a nice full bodied brew with the classic holiday spices that you would normally find in this style, not bad in price either!

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Photo of TurdFurgison
4.57/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

2011 bottling, not the first year I've tried this but the first time I've applied fingers to keyboard. Beautiful label, this looks classic and cool.

The beer pours a translucent brown color, kind of auburn when the light shines through, with a thick and wet-surfaced off-white foam. The aroma is just as classic as the label, this smells exactly as I want it to. Not overly spiced but still some gingerbread cookies in the aroma, a solid but muted malty sweetness beneath that, just a hint of hops as well.

It tastes quite nice, all the brown sugar and molasses you normally get from well-done Christmas ales but added with a light hand. This is neutral enough to be inoffensive while providing just enough flavor to satisfy. Sweet up front, gingerbread and "Christmas" flavor in the middle, and a very slight bitterness in the aftertaste.

Not particularly thick, but then again it's < 6% ABV so the malt bill isn't TOO substantial. Very nice overall, the 4-pack disappeared quickly.

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Photo of unklesyd
4.57/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

GI Christmas Ale is one of my favorite beers for any season. In a blind tasting, you might mistake it for a roasty ESB. Crisp and fully flavored without being overly heavy or malt-sweet, this is a great one for summer as well as winter. I'm drinking the last of my winter stash in August, and it is as well received as in December.

Wonderful deep garnet with a thin ring of continuous head.

Great nose of husky grains as they are mashing as well as some very subtle candy figs.

Fantastic balance of flavor. Deep and rich, but crisp bitterness that stops short of being cutting. Slightly bitter chocolate and rough grain. Faint raisin aftertaste.

Flavor enough to want to drink this one all night, but it is very rich, and so you will want to stop between bottles to cleanse the palate and stay sharp.

I can't wait untill January to see this one again, I'm buying a case.

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Photo of creepinjeeper
4.54/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle poured into a nonic pint. Bottled in August of 2012, last two bottles enjoyed on 12/12/15.

It's listed here as a brown ale. Maybe it was back when I first drank it over the 2012 holidays, but I'm not getting that impression now. It poured out of the bottle like a belgian. Almost thick. Only difference, was a very thin head. There was carbonation, but it was in suspension as opposed to rising freely. Hints of caramel, stone fruit, raisins. It was so good, I hated to see the bottom of the glass. Can aging change the attributes of a beer that much? Would the new Festivity Ale compare? I might have to try it.

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Photo of jsh420
4.5/5  rDev +18.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

bottled 11/13/07

pours a dark ruby red with a 2 finger tan head that leaves a sick amount of lacing all over the glass

smells sweet candy malts carmel with a great deal of hops still on the nose

taste - spiced carmel malts and hops

mouthfeel is medium body - the malts leave a nice sticky sweetness in the mouth

drinkability is high no matter what time of year

overall - great great winter warmer but to me its an amber

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Photo of budgood1
4.5/5  rDev +18.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

pours out a chilled, hazy ruby color. big foamy head diminishes to a bit of fine lace. huge citrus and pine hop aroma is followed by whiffs of malt and spice and everything nice. tastes of sweet belgian type malts, gingerbread, and lots of juicyfruit hops with hints of caramel and cocoa. no alcohol is detected in the flavor profile. full mouthfeel is as smooth as can be, making it extremely easy drinking. mega citrusy hops are mostly for flavor rather than bitterness, leaving a somewhat fruity aftertaste. for a relatively spicy, high alcohol brew, it has a uniquely refreshing and highly dangerous drinkable quality to it. i really like this brew. after a few of these it would be extremely easy to find yourself singing "tis the season to be jolly...."

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Photo of BeerBob
4.48/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Goose Island Christmas Ale pours a deep mahogany from a 12oz dark brown glass bottle. Head was rather unremarkable and uninspiring.

Nose is quite intense with forests of large pine trees and sweet malts, Goose Island Christmas Ale is among one of the best in this regard.

Palate is a wonderful combination of pine and malt with citrus and bitters that will surely complement any holiday feast.

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Photo of Gehrig
4.48/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

My brother-in-law kindly passed this along to me and, after a good chill set upon it, I decided to not let this wait too long. This also came along at a very good time, when I have had a very good amount and variety of Winter ales against which to compare Christmas Ale. It stacks up pretty well.

I really like the color, a cloudy brownish amber that almost appears two-shaded--the upper half brown, and the lower amber. There is a subtle spice smell, ginger and some cinnamon; moderate fruit, especially berry; and a roasted finish that I'm fond of. It's very well-balanced, and the carbonation is just right, enhancing the smooth body. Quite well done, and again I'm wanting six instead of one.

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Photo of Chiefy770
4.45/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: A rich, hazy red/brown look. Not much of a head. Great lacing.

Smell: Hints of toasted nut. A sweet malty scent dominates the overall scent of this beer.

Taste: Smooth, very smooth taste. Subtle hints of fruit and herbs are layered in this great brown ale.

Mouthfeel: Medium-rich body. Lacks a little bit of carbonation. Semi-dry finish.

Overall: Great brew. There are plenty of winter seasonals to get your hands on but this one is a "go-to" for me. This is a bit overpriced for a four-pack in my area but it is well worth the extra cash for a seasonal treat like this.

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Photo of OttoBomb
4.45/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bomber poured into a Dogfish Head signature glass (December 7, 2009).

It should be noted that the recipe for the Goose Island Christmas Ales changes from year to year, with slightly differing tastes and alcohol content. I am reviewing the 2009 offering with 5.7% ABV.

Eyes: A nice ruddy jewel color. Just under 1 finger of head, some good lacing.

Nose: It's quite subtle. A strong malty bread backbone leads into a surprising citrus hop aroma, while the spicy cinnamon and fruit are almost undetectable.

Tongue: Very soft cinnamon and caramel notes, a nice hop presence. Not bitter at all, and that's why I like it, there is not as much going on as one expects from a Christmas ale, not overwhelmingly spicy, but that's a good thing.

Mouth: Smooth, soft carbonation, light on the tongue.

Libation: Quite nice overall, and certainly a great holiday brew. The alcohol has a bit more or a kick than the 5.7% ABV would suggest, which is great for winter drinking. My only complaint is that maybe I would have liked a tiny bit more spice for a Winter Warmer, but in the balance it's probably for the best. If the beer had a bit too much spice I definitely would not go back for more, as it is I'll be drinkIing this again.

I've had this now both on tap and in a bottle, I prefer the bottle version slightly better, but that just might be a function of mood.

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Photo of Beerenauslese
4.45/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear red brown with a good head that quickly dissipates, leaving a fine layer of foam and some lacing.

Smells of hops, citrus, brown sugar, vanilla.

Sweet nutty malt taste resolves into a nice dry fresh green hop taste, with a little vanilla and some subtle spices, a bit of clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, some orange/citrus peel. Finishes bone dry and a little peppery, which is unusual for a Christmas ale. Burps of roasted chestnuts.

Mouthfeel is light with mild, but sufficient carbonation to give it a buttery feel.

This is a very drinkable American brown ale, with a nice dry hoppy taste. Not much alcohol but the flavor is huge and it lubricates the tongue for another. This is a rare sessionable Christmas ale, one I could drink all night and not get tired of.

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Christmas Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
3.81 out of 5 based on 1,329 ratings.
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