Christmas Ale | The Defiant Brewing Company

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Christmas AleChristmas Ale

Brewed by:
The Defiant Brewing Company
New York, United States

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by dherling on 10-05-2006

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Reviews: 25 | Ratings: 66
Photo of KTCamm
3.89/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

12/13/16...pours very dark brown and low foam. Holiday spiced nose - cinnamon, nutmeg, dark fruits. Jammy flavors. Plums. Hints of spices amidst the dubbel/tripel flavors. Slight anise at the close. Tasty.

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Photo of RJQ3
4.27/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a pint glass. L: Wonderful copper color with frothy off white head. S: Makes mouth water from the cinnamon & spice aroma. T: Delicious winter ale. Perfect for a cold winter day by a fireplace. MF: A little on the thin side. Could be creamier, this on nitro would be amazing! O: Great winter seasonal brew that underrated.

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Photo of orcrist_cleaver
3.54/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

A: Dark mahogany to warm chestnut. Short lasting light tan head. Particles visible in suspension.

S: Cherry and figs; cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger.

M: Moderately carbed, med body. Easy flowing feel

T: Bready and malted rye taste with spicing in support reminscent or gingerbread cake, not as sweet. A little rough on the edges, not consistent throughout.

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Photo of metter98
3.74/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: The beer is relatively clear light amber in color and has a light amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high beige colored head that died down, but has good retention properties and consistently left a thin head covering the surface.
S: Moderate aromas of Belgian yeast and dark fruits are present in the nose.
T: Similar to the smell, the taste has flavors of dark fruits along with notes of Belgian yeast and hints of a metallic taste.
M: It feels just about medium-bodied and a little thin on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: Unlike most holiday ales, this beer isn't heavy on the body or is dominated by a multitude of spices that are overpowering.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.72/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

1 pint 9.4 fl oz brown glass bottle with a hood and wire cap over a cork served into a nonic pint glass in high altitude Castle Rock, Colorado. Reviewed live. Expectations are high, me mate (thanks Adam!) brought this for me from New York.

A: 1.5 finger head of fair cream and thickness, and great retention for the relatively high ABV. Very dark caramel-amber colour.

Sm: Heavy caramel, some spice, cream, chestnuts. Yeast and spice are the dominant and most appealing flavours. She lures you in.

T: Some spice is certainly impactful on the profile - heavily so - but the foundation tends more towards biscuity barley, full in a way rarely experienced in beer. Malts are de-emphasized in favour of barley. Interesting. Some light, uncertain candied sugar. The brewer was a bit timid with that flavour, but it complements the others nicely. Chestnuts make their way in, alongside some sticky fruit esters that subtly die as they approach the midpoint. They're welcome nonetheless. Cream is present but never definitive; it emerges as a tone but not a note. The strength here is the subtlety, which takes forefront over complexity - but this isn't to say that it's simple. It's masterfully balanced and near-uniquely built. I wish that it was structurally "longer", i.e. that the flavours didn't truncate so early. I do enjoy it above all other criteria, and no alcohol comes through, aiding the drinkability.

Mf: Smooth and wet, with a hint of increased thickness, largely suiting the flavours. I don't find the mouthfeel obtrusive, but it also isn't particularly unique or helpful. I wouldn't go so far as to call it generic, but it leaves something to be desired.

Dr: Quite drinkable. A lovable little Christmas Ale, and certainly an enjoyable one. I feel greedy to be enjoying it alone. I'd like to try this on draught. Every beer lover should give this one a try. I'm glad I did.

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Photo of brewandbbq
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750ml bottle.

Pours dark amber with a mahogany hue and a two inch head of tan foam. Plenty of ripped sheets of lacing throughout the glass as well as a partial skim coat.

Aromatics lead off with Belgian phenols, spice, and dark rum. Cloves, raisins, a trace of fusels, and some mild roast. Dark fruit and rum-balls follow through.

On the fuller side of medium bodied with a slick, velvety mouthfeel. Thickish.

Sugar-dusted raisins with dark rum and clove-studded fruit starts the palate. A warming boozy note steps forward along with dried plums and rich malt.

Finishes with plenty of raisins, rum, and sweet malt.

Pretty spot-on for a BSDA, but the carbonation is a bit low for style and it's a bit brash. Very nice though.

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Photo of Jwale73
3.65/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750ml bottle served in a Portsmouth tulip. Pours a dark plum color with a semi-hazy clarity. Head is loose, one-inch and cream-colored and quickly dissipates into a thin skim with ringlets. Some spots and small strands of lacing revealed during the tasting. Nose expresses dark fruit, a vinous quality and Belgian yeast. Taste is vinous, but there's also a slightly metallic character, followed by a spicy quality and culminating in an earthy/hoppy finish. Mouthfeel is medium-light in consistency with a lively, almost prickly carbonation. A decent brew. Some aspects of the flavor profile are a bit overpowering. Also the finish is a bit too hoppy for the style. That being said, I've been generally impressed with what I've had from this brewer and look forward to trying more.

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Photo of jrbuch
4.05/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Defiant Christmas Ale, bottled version (750 ml), poured into a Captain Lawrence snifter.

A: Has a deeper copper, red body. Strong head at pour and lingering head. Good lacing.

S: Dark fruits, esters and sweet. Some Christmas spices, a little caramel.

T: Sweet, dark fruits, good bitterness. Toffee and ripe pear. Semi-dry finish.

M: Carbonation to style. Good body.

D: Good beer. Sessionable, could be drank any time of year.

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Photo of 321jeff
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Pours a clear deep amber, almost black in the middle with about a finger of off white head that lingers around for awhile.

Smells of standard Christmas spices and some sweet dark fruits. Also present are some Belgian yeast aromas and hints of caramel.

I'm really getting a heavy dose of the Belgian yeast right off the bad followed by those Christmas spices and some sweet caramel in the finish.

Body is pretty thick overall with some light but very prickly carbonation. I enjoyed this one and it is fitting for a Christmas time beer. Pairs very well with a Christmas dinner.

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Photo of DoubleSimcoe
3.87/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Defiant Christmas Ale, bottled version (750 ml), poured into a Sierra snifter.

Appearance: Solid two-finger head that recedes soon into one, then into a rim with a bubbly mantle. Deep brown color, auburn, like expensive wood. Not much lacing.

Smell: Soaking raisins and other dry fruits. Sugar, sweetness all around. A bit of must/grape juice. Booze as it warms up. A tang of whiskey barrels/oak, even though it was not aged.

Taste: More sweetness and raisins. Moonshine rotgut. Very earthy, a bit too heavy and filling. Yeast and some sweet bread, sort of french toast. Alcohol at the end. Some spice.

Mouthfeel: Huge feel, sticky, chewy, a tad cloying. Too sweet

Drinkability: Unquestionably heavy and boozy despite being only 7.5%. Hard to drink, despite the great smell and taste.

This is one of my favorite Defiant beers, despite the drinkability and mouthfeel shortcomings. I love how it is so different from your typical suave Christmas ale with tons of spices.

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Photo of CHickman
2.87/5  rDev -24.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

On tap at Stout in NYC; pours hazy copper brown with a creamy 1 finger tan head that left OK lacing after the head faded on the fast side.

Smells of sweet malt, caramel, floral hops, toasted grains and cinnamon or other spices like allspice; spicy nose that is on the mellow side.

Tastes of sweet malt, caramel, floral hops, toasted grains, dark fruit (plum, raisin, etc.), brown sugar and cinnamon or other spices like allspice; a little too malty as the spices take up a chunk of the flavor and leave a strange aftertaste.

This is a good beer, not a great beer, and typical for a holiday beer with that pine cone or earthy taste. Alcohol level was not present at all.

Mouthfeel is light and crisp, with a smooth feel on the tongue, mild carbonation and a spicy bitter finish. Medium drinkability, as this was OK and I think that most Christmas Ales are just not my thing because of the spices in the mix.

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Photo of uberkane
4.05/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Came in a 750ml bottle with "Defiant Christmas Ale" printed on the front, along with an angry Rudolph with Christmas lights in his antlers.

A: Pours a dark leather-brown with a hint of red. Vaguely see-through and not very cloudy. A semi-aggressive pour yields a quickly dissolving head, which stays very small, with some lacing.

S: Not a strong smell. Roasty, mustiness with a bit of dark sugar. A little bit of figs and light chocolate-hazelnut.

T: Dark fruits with soggy toast. There is a hop bitterness on the back of the tongue and as an aftertaste. There is also some alcohol warmth, along with fleeting spiciness. A dark, musty yeast can be detected as well.

M: Pretty light body for a darker beer--there is some viscosity. Has a nice tingly carbonation. Occasional powdery feel on the tongue.

D: For a dark beer, it's pretty drinkable. 7.5% abv isn't too high, and it only appears occasionally with a pleasant warmth. Not really a session beer--the 750 was ample for a sitting.

Notes: Pretty good brew from Defiant. They are mainly a brew pub, so it's nice to see a new bottled beer from them. This ale reminds me a lot of Chimay Blue. The Christmas ale is just a little lighter, spicier, and not quite as dark. Also, great paired with garlic-herb boursin cheese.

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Photo of claspada
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Aromas of dark caramelly malts and Belgian yeast cloviness, some dark fruits (figs, plums, dates, the usual) and perhaps a hint of spice in the background. Not overpowering, but pleasing overall. I am pleased so far.

The taste follows the nose to a tee with sweet yeasty rich dark caramelly malts accompanied by the dark fruit backbone. Creamy and smooth with robust flavors of burnt caramel, plum and nutmeg. Slight chocolate and coffee flavors creep into the finish. Mouthfeel is fairly thicker for the style but not to its detriment, still has a nice viscous dryish Belgian finish. Overall a very pleasant brew for this smaller brewery, haven't been a fan so far but this could sway me going forward.

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Photo of axeman9182
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750mL bottle, part of Amanti Vino's December Beer of the Month club package. I'm assuming that this bottle is from 2010, and it was poured into my Duvel tulip

The beer pours a super deep brown, one could almost call it black. The khaki head rises to about three fingers in height, it's nice and frothy but nothing too impressive for the style. The head retention and lacing are both just good enough that I can call Defiant's Christmas Ale above average in the looks department. The nose is about what one would expect from a BSDA. Sweet dark fruits and some pepper and clove are the main players, and a dash of brown sugar livens things up a bit. That said, the nose was just a little bit weak. That nice dash of brown sugar is lost on my palate though, it clears out to let raisins and plums and peppery yeasty notes. It's solid, but not noteworthy for the style. The mouthfeel just misses being great. The body is very good, with a nice full creaminess to it. The carbonation however is a bit dull. There's enough of it, but it's not pinpoint prickly enough on my tongue like the best of the style. I feel like every step of the way I was describing Defiant's Christmas Ale as decent but not great, and that's what ends up ringing true for the beer. It's certainly enjoyable, but far removed from some of the best beers of the style

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
4.17/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2010 release - 750ml cork/cage bottle served in a glass chalice.

L - chestnut brown color with a beige head that settled as a cloud with a ring that left some spotty lacing.

S - dark fruits and warm spices, very nice aroma.

T - sweet and spiced with some warming from the alcohol as it goes down.

F - medium bodied with a smooth, warm feel.

D - goes down easy on it's own and would probably go well with a holiday meal.

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Photo of caddybuyer
4.35/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Not sure why this is categorized as "Preview". 2009 bottle, caged and corked 750 marked with 7.5% ABV on the side.

Poured at cellar temperature into a tulip glass.

A-Dark brown cola coloration with ruddy highlights when held to light. Brown head that settles rapidly within a few mintues of the pour.

S-Malts and Belgian yeast, dark fruits (figs, plums, dates) and perhaps a hint of spice in the background. Not overpowering, but pleasing overall.

T-Nose is well represented in the palate, with sweet yeasty rich malts carrying the dark fruit backbone of this brew. Some light spicing is also present, largely anise and a touch of clove but not overpowering at all. Alcohol is present in the finish, as is a mild hop tingle and a slighly sour apple finish which by no means diminishes the experience and adds to the character. I'm really enjoying this one and am bummed that it was a lone bottle on the shelf.

M-Just shy of a full bodied ale, with a smooth creamy mouthfeel that isn't ruined by the high carbonation present in so many of the Belgian styles.

D-Extremely drinkable and enjoyable brew. I'm thinking that this may be a tad higher than the 7.5 ABV listed on the bottle and its richness is sure not going to help my waistline, but this is damn good.

Kudos! Please brew this again next year guys...

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Photo of scootny
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2009 bottle. A opaque dark brown with a brown head of respectable size, retention, and lacing. Smell is almost a dead ringer for Aventinus. Are they sure this isn't a hefe dopplebock? Big overripe banana with raisins and figs. A bit more alcohol vapors than the aforementioned. Taste is much the same with a bit more heat. Still not what I would call a "Hot" beer. A lovely light Belgian dark maltiness. Adding the yeast gave the feel a creamier texture but also introduced a metallic bitterness so I would keep it out. In both cases,( nose and taste ) the wheat like facets aren't really pronounced there so I guess it is a BSDA. Like Aventinus meet Corsendonk Brown. Feel is smoothly carbonated and nicely dense. Pretty drinkable as I finished this rather quickly.

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Photo of pzrhsau
4.03/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Deep brown with a finger measure of head.
Smell: Smells of yeast and malt with hint of spice at the end.
Taste: It has a fruity taste from the yeast coupled with deep flavor of the different malts. This beer has a slight hint of spiciness. You can sense the alcohol content but it its not overpowering.
Mouthfeel/Drinkability: Nice tight carbonation and very good dark beer for the holidays.

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Photo of Billolick
3.22/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Belgian style bottle, caged and corked, and no bargain at $12 and change. Pours cola amber, under a dark tan head, that does not stick around and leaves minimal to no lacing. Carbonation seems to be on the low side. Some winter spice in the nose. Things continue to go down hill on the first few sips, this beer is quite sour for the style and has an off putting metallic bite. I did get some of the advertised chocolate in the middle, but sour unfortunately dominates. I gave this one a chance to warm up in the hopes of the taste and complexity to improve, but sadly it didn't happen. Not sure what happened here and I don't understand why a brewer would put out a brew like this one which clearly seems off.

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.06/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Reviewed on 7/26/08. On tap at Blind Tiger. Pours a cloudy caramel brown with a tan head. Aroma of caramel, brown sugar. Flavor of sweet oatmeal, brown sugar, with some sourness in the finish. Kind of odd tasting. This is ok but I don't think I'd get it again.
6/4/6/3/12 (3.1/5)

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Photo of madmanjf
2.1/5  rDev -44.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

Serving was a Cask

(A) Reddish Amber and a little cloudy. An inviting appearance overall. The carbonation was on par with what I'd expect from a cask.

(S) Spiced like many Christmas Ales. It had a ginger/cinnamon aroma that was inviting and reminicent of holiday brews.

(T) Metalic and Sour. The spice flavors barely came out due to the acidity and sour flavor.

(M) Again, somewhat metalic to the point you'd have not choice but to squint somewhat

(D) Not drinkable.

I can only assume by the other reviews that this cask had been sitting around too long. I can say that it was tapped right in front of me, so it was not a vicitim of oxidation from sitting around too long after being opened.

I did have a Defiant Pale Ale on cask once and it was EXCELLENT.

Unfortunately, this was left me very disappointed.

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Photo of Shiredave
3.7/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Gravity poured from a naturally conditioned firkin on the bar at The Golden Rail Ale House in Newburgh.

Well conditioned with a dense clotted head over a murky, red / brown beer.

Aromas of apples, star anise and christmas cookies over the underlying super sweet malt.

Liquid fruit cake flavors of candied fruit and more ( much more!) star anise along with a distinct cider character that reminded me of a Gales Christmas ale ( any year). Big yeast influence is obvious.

Medium to full bodied with a tart cider finish along with some stewed fruit sweetness. Lingering aftertaste of cookie spices and a mild alcohol burn make this decent winter warmer though I suspect this cask was exposed to some warm fermentation/ conditioning temps. resulting in the yeasty apple notes.

Keep those Defiant casks commin!

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Photo of cbl2
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

10/4/2006 $3.50 12 oz. 8.40% Fresh on tap.

I've been holding off on a review of this until Neill officially named the beer for the holidays, but he ran out of it months before Christmas, and so here is my review from October:


Pours a pitch black with 1/2 inch of fluggy tan/brown head that settles rapidly leaving a rim of lace around the edges.


Nutmeg, candied sugar, plums/raisins and a touch of anise are blended together in this heady brew.


Creamy and smooth with robust flavors of burnt caramel, plum and nutmeg. Slight coffee flavors creep into the finish, with a hint of licorice. By mid-glass there is a warming alcohol sensation. This is expected due to the high ABV, but it doesn't detract at all from the drinkability. This is deliscious, and extremely drinkable. Head to Defiant now, and get yourself some.

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Photo of maddogruss
4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Very similiar characteristics to the porter except this baby tastes like Christmas! I am a huge fan of Neil's brewing capabilities and he has yet to let me down. The appearance of this beer is beautiful with a great head and a great smell. Tastes like he brewed it with gumdrops and has a great fell in the mouth. A little bitter like most Belgian dark ales, but still another great brew. Drink it up!

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Photo of dherling
4.05/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured out a dark mahogany brown, crowned with a cappucino brown head, thick n' creamy. Good malty nose, woody character, maybe pine? The flavor is full of malt, dark and Sweet. I get mollasses, burning embers, slight smokyness, chocolate, and roasemary/pine. Finish is big and sweet, with a slight hoppy bitterness bringing up the rear. Made with German, Belgian, and English malts.

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Christmas Ale from The Defiant Brewing Company
3.8 out of 5 based on 66 ratings.
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