Special Holiday Ale | Stone Brewing

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Special Holiday AleSpecial Holiday Ale
Very Good
323 Ratings
Special Holiday AleSpecial Holiday Ale

Brewed by:
Stone Brewing
California, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

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

Added by BeerAdvocate on 11-23-2008

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 323 |  Reviews: 291
Reviews by DannyS:
Photo of DannyS
3.49/5  rDev -11%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

A - Oh good god. Pours like thin syrup with suspended clouds of bubbles leading to a dark, yellow-brown head that dissipates fast.

S - The powerful malts rush the nose, aided by sage, caramel, juniper, and that herbal rye/fennel/caraway seed aroma. A very heady, spicy, warming, yet also very cool and calming, aroma profile.

T - The first sip yields a very sweet, pineapple like taste, flowing into the winter spices, ending with a bitter oak kick that lingers into the aftertaste. After the first few sips, the aftertaste wasn't as acrid, but it was still pretty obtrusive. Way too much bitterness here; gets in the way of the rest of the flavors.

M - The carbonation is lacking, and the beer is syrup thick, making this a coat-your-tounge heavy brew.

D - The relentless oaky bitterness, strong spice, thickness, and high ABV all make this a beer you should either nurse and sip all night or share with a friend. Maybe even both.

Overall - Perhaps July wasn't the best time to drink this; probably should have waited until this coming winter. Oh well, was still an interesting beer, though my chances of finishing this whole bottle are suspect.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of tectactoe
3.95/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

When I first had this beer long ago, I didn't care for it very much. I recently found it again in the store and decided to try it one more time to see if my tastes had developed at all. Pours a dark, murky brown and slightly ruby color - muddy, cloudy, opaque. Almost looks like a strong-ass Belgian quad. Thin tan head that recedes almost immediately. Very thick on the pour, looks like maple syrup coming out of the bottle.

Aroma is HUGE. Whether you like it or not, the aroma is as powerful as they come, super herbal, super malty, and full of spice. Ginger, toffee, caramel, sage, juniper berry come to mind (of course, a few of those are written on the bottle). Ginger seems to be the most powerful at this point. Upon tasting, I was right - almost gives a gingerbread like flavor, followed up both other spices; sage, cinnamon - very spicy. Sweetness comes alive in the form of juniper berries, dark fruits; plums, raisins, hard to pick out other specifics. Bitterness plays a roll about three-quarters of the way through, all the way to the end - hops are leafy and herbal in character, dry and slightly harsh, almost like a strong earl tea. After the beer is gone, my mouth is left with hints of pumpernickel or rye bread, most likely due to the combo of rye and yeast - it's quite nice. Alcohol shines through quite a bit, adding a nice warming effect. Thick and syrupy, juicy mouthfeel, leaves the mouth feeling kind of sticky and coated, low carbonation.

This beer is way better than I remember it, so I'm glad I had the chance to try it again. My tastes have certainly evolved since that time and now I can appreciate a beer like this. Very aromatic and full of unique flavor, this beer would be a nice choice for a holiday meal or sitting by a campfire.

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Photo of ricke
3.75/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Dark brownish ruby color with a medium-sized dense pale beige head. Some lacings.

S: Lots of big aromas. The spices, sage etc that they used in this brew are really prominent. Sweet caramel, wood chips, juniper twigs, holiday spices and a honey-like note.

T: The taste is very sweet and malty with a powerful musty spicy character. I get the same note of honey as in the smell. Fudge, cola, a quick hint of leafy hops and a herbal freshness. The finish has a nice herbal bitterness to it, lingering sweetness and a sudden punch of warming alcohol. There's a lingering spicy note (probably a combination of caraway and sage) that isn't too pleasant.

M: Full bodied and very smooth. Medium carbonation. Very easy to drink.

D: First of all, I had kind of a hard time to review this one. It's not the ordinary set of flavors and it got me quite puzzled. Anyhow, a good and very interesting beer, but not great. It's slightly too sweet and the spices in the finish get a little overpowering. But still, an interesting beer worth a try.

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Photo of boston2bburg
4.4/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Mahogany/ruby-brown with a lot of bubbles that cascade about from the pour, beneath a tight, tiny-bubble, tan head. In a special Sam Adams glass, I saw plenty of lacing and a resilient head. Visually very pleasing.

I can definitely pick up the sage first, followed by juniper berries, with a slight citrus throughout. The smell finishes with subtle, roasted chocolate malt. It's also got a light perfumy floral thing going on, maybe from the caraway seed although I'm not really sure what that smells like to be honest. Very complex nose, which carries over to the flavor in a big way.

In the mouth: piny, musky evergreen sap you could crawl in and get lost in, a gin-like juniper bite, with sage on the periphery that seizes the finish. A very thick and mysterious mouthfeel that does well to balance the bitterness of the spices. Not much out of the malts in terms of flavor other than a solid backbone, enough sweetness to mellow it out and enough roastiness to not be too sweet. The rye and oats really contribute positively to the mouthfeel, creating a slick, spicy wonder that allows you to pull the most out of the spices. The alcohol is well-hidden until you stand up after half a bottle and fall over.

This is indeed a crazy beer...big thanks to Aaron for surprising me with it. It's an acquired tasted, but focused, and personally I enjoy it. As a homebrewer who's been dabbling in herbs and spices this winter, it's inspiring to sample such a masterpiece of extremity and balance. Here's to more collaboration beers from great brewing minds!

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Photo of sgoodship
4.54/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Not much of this in Chicago but my good friend Brian picked some up and left one at my desk at work.

Poured out of a simple 1 pt 9 fl oz bottle. Wow. The smell is refreshing and definitely a seasonal mix. It's a medicinal in a good way. Like going back in time to an old apothecary. After it has been sitting in a glass for a while, it has a slight port smell but apart from that, alcohol isn't present.

The look is lovely. More dense than I expected. It has a beautifully creamy and soft tan head that poured 2 fingers easily. The color is a very dark brown that turns more hazy gold going to mahogany on the edge against the light. The final pour shows lots of yeast making it look lighter brown.

The taste is really interesting. Sweet, tangy juniper hit me first. There's a bit of a nut brown ale character there with it's chestnut and caramel malt. Then, right over the top of it came a refreshing cool sage that hit the back of my palate. The end is a bit of a hop bite leaving a sweet and sour anise type taste in the back of the throat that is probably the caraway. There is a slight warmth to it but alcohol doesn't seem to be present - quite surprising.

The body is medium but the smoothness and creaminess of the head make it seem fuller. It has medium carbonation that is gentle but lively.

Man, there is a lot that can go wrong in a beer like this but it doesn't. It comes together very nicely. The flavors were well balanced and it was a nice taste progression. Really enjoyable beer. My wife thought it was like drinking Christmas stuffing. I don't know if it was partly because it was a rough day or because of the "tis the season" bollocks but I could really do with more of this. It is truly seasonal with smells and taste that put you in the right spirit. You couldn't drink too many of these but that's not what they are designed for. Nice work to all three breweries and thanks once again to my friend Brian for letting me try it.

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Photo of JMD71
4.15/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ap: Deep ruby red with thin layer of head which dissipated quickly. Clear when held to light.

Ar: Spicy aroma of berries, heather? Juniper definitely evident. Some rye aroma coming through crom carroway seeds. Some alcohol present.

Ta: Wonderfully warming initial impression - packed with flavor of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, spruce) & leads into a stiff bitterness from juniper berries. Alcohol provides additional bitterness & warmth as it goes down.

Mo: Full bodied w/ a good carbonation to offset the 9% ABV. ABV warming. SLightly syrupy in the middle but finishes dry from the bitterness.

Dr: A slow sipper to be sure but a great one for a winter's eve. Not too full bodied to hinder its drinkability but rich enough to want to consume slowly to savor the flavor nuances.

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
4.5/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Review from BeerAdvocate magazine Issue #26:

A collaboration ale between Stone/Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne-Ø with chestnuts, juniper berry, white sage and caraway seed, plus 25-percent rye malt. Check out stonebrew.com for the full story.

Pours a dark garnet with deep ruby hues, dressed in a creamy beige head, which drops to a solid lace that sticks to the glass. Nose is full of spice and herbal notes. The sage is soft, but dominant. Spicy notes from the caraway and rye pull through with a fruity, berry base, and a finish of alcohol and esters. Suggestions of lilac, too. Mouthfeel is a blissful surprise. It's creamy up front as the carbonation hits the palate, but dense beneath, with a chewy viscosity that melds into a silky-smooth palate and the formation of a malty, sweet base with chestnuts making a slight appearance. Some bready, toasty and charred flavors, too. Zesty punch of lemongrass. Herbal sage follows and dominates again, but the caraway sneaks in a spicy jab here and there with a nice rye snap. This segues into a prickly and spicy alcohol note that has some very distinct gin-like characters, thanks to the juniper berries. Some berry esters, hints of blood orange and warming alcohol, though the 9-percent ABV is fairly well hidden. Finishes dry with some residual spice, sage and rye.

Delicious. A unique take on the Winter Warmer style that pairs some very distinct and unusual ingredients and makes them work. For us, this is what the whole extreme beer movement is all about.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
4.05/5  rDev +3.3%
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.

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Photo of warnerry
4.05/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A - Pours a very deep garnet color with some suspended material and one finger of tan head. Head has pretty good retention, but only leaves spotty lacing.

S - Big toffee and caramel malt with juniper and some nice spice of sage and caraway. Also a bit floral in the aroma.

T - Similar to the nose, this is very malty with a nice spice profile. Juniper is quite prominent, and the rye gives a nice bite. The spices are actually somewhat subtle at this point, not sure what is was like fresh. Sage is quite nice.

M - Nice, creamy medium mouthfeel. Spices give some dryness on the finish.

O - Nice, unique winter warmer. Spices really elevate the beer in this case, which isn't often true in my experience. Glad I got to try this.

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Photo of Beaver13
3.37/5  rDev -14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle. Pours a dark reddish brown with a thick creamy reddish tan head that retains well and laces the glass.

The aroma is pretty subdued - some malts, a little juniper and some floral spices and some alcohol.

The flavor is roasted malts, nuts, spices and some alcohol with a bitter finish. The mouthfeel is medium bodied and creamy.

Overall, interesting and different but I'm not sure I like it. It is a little subdued. I was expecting more.

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Photo of merlin48
3.9/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazy chestnut body with a creamy beige head. Very good retention and lots of sticky lacing. Herbal aroma with notes of juniper berry, sage, ginger, and a healthy dose of pine hops. Thick and creamy mouthfeel with moderated carbonation. Taste has a creamy caramel maltiness that is intensely edged with bitter pine hops and an array of spices. Juniper berry, ginger, and cardoman all seem to be present. Quite a bit of roastiness underneath. Some alcohol warmth is apparent. Works quite well as a winter warmer but too heavily spiced to be more than an occasional drinker.

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Photo of Billolick
4.08/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle, $3.50 @ New Beer in NYC. Allowed to warm quite a bit, and enjoyed in a Belgian tulip. Pours deep dark brown, mahogany. Dark Khaki head, frothy and retentive, a swirl elicits plentiful sheeting, morphing to fine, scattered lace. Earthy,mild sage, dark cocoa nose. Thick, milkshake of a beer. Smooth and easy drinking. Winter spice, robust chocolate, toffee all picked up. Alcohol no where to be found. Went great with a bowl of spicy chili on a chilly day. Delightful winter sipper.

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Photo of tigg924
4.3/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: huge 2 inch head, brown

Smell:complex: cinnamon, clove, malt, hops, holiday spice, and cherry

Taste: cinnamon, clove, malt, hops especially at the end, brown sugar, dark fruit, and pineapple,

Mouthfeel: smooth, light, with a hoppy finish

Drinkability: A nice and complex winter warmer, I hope they brew this again. The alcohol is not really detectable. I could have several if not for the high ABV.

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Photo of badbeer
2.8/5  rDev -28.6%
look: 5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dark amber color with a beige head that retains well and leaves pretty good lacing. Nose is of spice, roast, and alcohol. Taste is malty with ginger, nutmeg, rye bread, some weird roast and alcohol. Body is fairly thin and carbonation is above medium levels. Just not really happy with this beer. I went into it thinking it could be interesting, but it really wasn't. Thanks to doubleo for the bottle.

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Photo of DoShek
3.18/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Appearance - poured with a thin head that quicly dissipated to a whisper-thin ring around the glass, very dark brown with a hint of crimson when held up to light

Smell - malts, brown sugar, spices (sage, juniper, rosemary), picking up some slight green apple

Taste - coffee or dark chocolate like bitterness, getting the same spices in the taste, hint of alcohol, slight hops but are quickly overpowered by the spices

Mouthfeel - full and creamy

Drinkability - would only be able to drink one of these at a time

A very interesting beer and a great effort from the three brewers. That being said, the unique spices being used in this beer weren't really my thing. Still, a good beer and I am glad that I was able to try it.

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Photo of olradetbalder
3.75/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of magictrokini
4.08/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

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Photo of kingcrowing
3.62/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12oz bottle poured in a Stone pint glass.

Pours a dark brown with hints of red from the rye. Has a nice small head that fades. On the nose is sweet wintery smell, berries and rye, very nice!

The taste is very cool! I wish I had another bottle to save for Christmas! It's got some awesome woody tastes to it, juniper berries and lots of stuff going on! Something very unique!

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Photo of FrognutUnl
4.42/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

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

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Photo of glid02
3.93/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Picked this up at Tower on Piedmont in Atlanta.

Pours a cloudy brown color with a two-finger tan head. The head recedes into a thin layer of bubbles on top leaving decent lacing.

Smells of lightly roasted malts that are backed up by spices - some juniper and a pine smell that is more earthy than any pine aroma associated with hops.

Tastes similar to how it smells. The roasted malt flavors are more muted in the flavor than in the smell, but the spices are still there. The ending is slightly bitter and reminds me of a gruit.

Mouthfeel is good. It's got a nice thickness with soft carbonation that make this go down smoother than I was expecting.

Drinkability is good. I had no problem finishing one, but the flavors are a bit too far out there for me too enjoy another.

Overall this is a nice winter warmer that doesn't overdo it with the spices. Definitely worth a shot.

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Photo of linnet
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Deep brown, almost reddish colour. Very thin beige head that disappears quickly. The aroma is intense with dark fruit, malts, spices, cinnamon, brown sugar and alcohol. Flavour is more bitter than the smell lets on. It is also very sweet and almost makes me think of a doppelbock with very much hops in it. The flavour is also full of spices and dark fruit. It also has a slight acidic quality to it. Mouthfeel is very smooth with small bubbles and the liquid is rather sticky. This is a demanding but also rewarding beer to drink.

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Photo of awinckles
4.58/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Managed to find a few bottles of this at the Anderson's in Maumee, OH. Pricey (4.99 for a single) but I figure, I love these breweries, I may as well spring for it.

A- Poured into a tulip, small head forms at the end of the pour and then dissipates quickly. Dark, rich amber color, almost a dark purple. Very pleasing to the eye.

S- Pleasing malt aroma, can definitely make out a defined spice bouqet - especially the caraway and a strong whiff of sage.

T- Very complex and becomes more so as the beer warms. The sage hits you right up front along with a slightly resinous hop bite. As it warms in the mouth there is definite malt sweetness, nicely complemented by the chestnuts in the background. Then the juniper berry starts to come through - coating and warming the palate. This is defining flavor as the beer goes down and on the finish.

M- Thick and viscous without being overpowering. Coats the palate nicely. Rather velvety going down.

D- Quite good for a higher ABV beer. Starts out sharp but mellows considerably over time. I found myself thinking about the taste throughout the day and wanted another one soon after I finished the first.

A true winner from three great breweries. Its really a shame it will probably be brewed only once. If you see this one, definitely pick it up.

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Photo of GilGarp
4.4/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours slowly from a 12oz. bottle into a snifter glass. Bubbles rise very slowly to form a perfect crown of head. The beer is a very dark redish brown color with very little light passing through. The head sticks around very well.

Aroma is very good with obvious influences from warming winter spices. Just right for the style.

Taste is excellent as well and definately above par when compared to more common American versions. Tons of malt greets you at first with a slight sweetness but it's quickly balanced by a great deal of hops. The bitterness is disguised in part by the perfect addition of spice. It all works really well together.

Mouthfeel is very full and smooth but with spice and hops in abundance. Alcohol is evident but not obtrusive and isn't overly strong.

The strength of flavors makes this one a good beer to have on it's own or with some soft cheese. I will cherish this one and be looking for more again soon.

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Photo of Metalmonk
4.35/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Garnet-hued burnt brown sort of color. The head is creamy but thins to a skim and crown quickly.

Aroma gives off much of what the label promises, in terms of its spicing. Caraway and juniper are prevalent, and the white sage is detected too. The base ingredients of malt and hops don't show up much in the nose, but it's quite nice, a bit exotic and definitely very much in the spirit of the style.

Flavor is wonderful and complex--and all about balance. Toasty malts provide the foundation, and the roasted flavor of chestnuts underpins everything, including the lovely warming glow from the alcohol. Yeast is very subtle--remarkable considering funk-lovers Jolly Pumpkin were in on this--but it is there adding its character. Exotic spicing is dominant yet not at all cloying. Everything mingles to remind of anise and especially spruce tips (which were not used), as well the ingredients revealed on the bottle (chestnuts, juniper, caraway, sage). A little bit on the sour side in the finish, with hops finally working their way into the flavor in its final moments before the swallow.

Medium-bodied with ample carbonation and a non-sticky buttery glide that offers a bit of balance itself. Even gets rather creamy with warming, and that's when this beer really starts to shine (ie. don't drink it too cold!). Light tingle in the finish is both from the carbonation and the sharper spices.

This is delicious and well-made. Lots going on here but never a mess. A successful collaboration, and thankfully not a case of "too many cooks..."

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Photo of Sammy
3.92/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Black, little head. Easy drinking, subtle x-mas spices,everything blends well together,toasty chestnut, dry finish and understated carbonation. Tasty no sourness at all, only a tad of wood and a mellow bitterness and glad I caught up with it.Liam's bottle.

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Special Holiday Ale from Stone Brewing
Beer rating: 3.92 out of 5 with 323 ratings