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.

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Ratings: 323 |  Reviews: 291
Photo of mothman
1.86/5  rDev -52.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

Poured into Stone Old Guardian glass.

Pours a half finger of beige head. Color is a mahogony brown. Hazed.

Aroma: Potpourri, juniper berries, figs, brown sugar, spices, and malts. Not bad.

Taste: Way more malty and boozy than the nose would suggest. Juniper berries, figs, plums, raisins, toffee, and other malts and spices.

Mouthfeel: Spiced and dry. Medium bodied with a medium amount of carbonation. Ends dry and spiced again with some booze showing.

Overall, it is an alright beer for how much spiced was used in it. It is somewhat of a sipper, but I am slowly getting through my glass.

Edit: Review #2

Pours a half finger of beige head. Decent retention. Color is a murky caramel brown.

Aroma: Just a massive amount of spices. Coriander, cloves, cinnamon, herbal florals. It also has a decent amount of malts. Chocolate and caramel.

Taste: More spices. Just like in the nose. Too much spice. It also has the same malt profile. Not very enjoyable.

Mouthfeel: Spiced and creamy. Medium bodied with a medium amount of carbonation. Ends with more spices.

Overall, this wasn't a very enjoyable beer. I could hardly drink it. Just not for me. Way to much spice.

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Photo of FalconA
2.5/5  rDev -36.2%

Photo of Bitterbill
2.53/5  rDev -35.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Purchased on my last trip to CO for $2.79

It pours a very red with brown tints and a 1 finger head of foam.

The smell has notes of caramel malt, dark fruits, and some spices...clove and nutmeg? There seems to be bunch so it's hard for me to pick 'em out.

The taste starts off heavily spiced. I can taste the nutmeg and light clove but there's also a bitterish spice there that I can't identify. There's plent of fruitiness as well with a nice bit of plum flavour going on and...the malt brings some sweetness with some molasses, which I didn't care for much. Tasting this brew is kind of on the weird side. There are a lot of flavours but they all seem to be kind of in the background; when I put the glass to my mouth and start sipping, it feels like the body is really huge and overpowering and the taste places a distant second in a 2 horse race. I hope that makes some sense...More sipping and I'm not that fond of the flavours anyway so I guess my point is moot.

Bottom line: This is *not* something I'd buy again because I don't like the mouthfeel(nor smell) and the taste of the brew isn't doing anything for me other than making me wish I hadn't bought it.

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Photo of Thorpe429
2.66/5  rDev -32.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

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

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Photo of Pencible
2.67/5  rDev -31.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

(Reviewed March 5, 2009 but incorrectly posted.)
This poured a murky mahogany with a bit of tan head. It smelled like strong sour cherries and rubbing alcohol with some mulling spices and a bit of earthy malt. It tasted like sour cherries and burnt coffee, followed by licorice and charred oak, then alcohol. It was watery with moderate carbonation, and had a sour metallic aftertaste. Overall this was a very strong and strange beer. It seemed very messy and hot to me, so it's probably way to fresh. As it was, I didn't particularly enjoy the smell, flavor, or body. The alcohol was pretty harsh, and none of the flavor elements meshed well. I think there were some delicate spices and things that were totally washed out. Hopefully in a few years they will all develop into something wonderful. But right now, that's a distant guess.

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Photo of rowew
2.78/5  rDev -29.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Presentation: 12 oz longneck, printed bottle. Label has a triad with all three breweries, 9 % abv, Oct 21 2008.

Appearance: Pours dark reddish brown with a dense head that fades slowly. Sediment layer in the bottom of the bottle.

Smell: Dark fruit, spices - something like molasses.

Taste: Hmm - lots of spice .. alcohol, this one just doesn't sit right with me.

Overall impression: Interesting, but not my cup of tea .. glad this was only 12 ounces. This one is over spiced for my taste, and not enough beer backbone to balance it out.

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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 DefenCorps
2.83/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

Received as an extra form vurt in a recent trade. Thanks man!

A: Crystal clear ruby red with a brown head comprised of tons of bubbles. Plenty of visible carbonation. Retention is not that great, with the head falling to a disk rather quick

S: Rather crazy. Piney juniper aromas pop right out, with a cola-like sweetness. Nutty and spicy, rather intriguing. This is almost gruit/sahti like. Alcohol heat in the back

T: Opens up with a juniper flavor before a rather herbal bitterness kicks in. Sweet and nutty mid palate before an overly bitter finish (from the sage, I guess?) takes over. The combination of rye, caraway and sage make for the most unusual of palates. Definite coca cola presence. This beer is two beers rolled in one, and not in a good way.

M: Medium bodied with soft carbonation but the astringency on the finish is harsh

D: I doubt I'm finishing this bottle :-(

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Photo of TLove
2.95/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 1.5

Do not judge this beer by its rating AT ALL! This beer is one of the most unique I've ever had. The spices and flavors are astounding. Worth investing in a single, without a doubt. Four? Six? Up to you....but one is a bit too much spice for me....

Appearance is dark brown and ruddy, with a very odd, circumference carbonation and a head that disappears quickly.

Smells like fruit, rye, and molassas.

Taste is harsh at first, but explodes with spice, especially dark fruits and caraway seeds, which make it bitterly sour and subtly sweet. A bit of wheatberry charges the unique graininess and a kicker of a 9% ABV.

Mouthfeel is also fixated on the complete spice experience. Coriander and dried sweet potato. Harsh and intriguing.

Finish is bitter and densely spicy. Not drinkable, really, but flavor undoubtedly follows through well.

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Photo of diechipmunk
2.95/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured mahogany with a fluffy tan head.

Strong spice and some malt in the smell

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

The mouthfeel is rich and satisfying.

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

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Photo of Gonzoillini
3/5  rDev -23.5%

Photo of StarRaptor
3/5  rDev -23.5%

Photo of djrn2
3/5  rDev -23.5%

Photo of kbutler1
3.06/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Bottle. Pours a on the light side darker brown that collars around the glass in a wispy head. The aroma is, well, kind of bad and reminds me of sticking my head in an aquarium to clean it. Swirling gives it some life with notes of spice. Thankfully the taste is WAY better than the nose. Notes of candy, spice, and herbs intensify this brew. Man, the nose kills me but I'll keep drinking. Nuts and berry make themselves present as this warms a bit. Booze shows slighlty. No lace. Ends with a lingering spicy and booze note.

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Photo of NewGeneric
3.08/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Had this last night after work. Poured a burgundy color with caramel head that faded quick and left good lacing. Smelled of pumpkin, cinnamon, and mild hops. Tasted of pumpkin, heavy toasted malt, and a hint of fruit. Quite thick and creamy, though a little fizzy. A decent beer, though definitely an acquired taste. I would probably not have made it through another one.

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Photo of beagle75
3.1/5  rDev -20.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

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

A: Opaque medium brown color with no foam head. Scant lacing remains on the glass.

S: Molassses and juniper work together to suggest decayed resinous foliage. Minty sage is mild and complementary. No alcohol is detected.

T: Begins dry, with volatile sage, some unctuous chocolate, and distracting saccharine sweetness that builds toward the middle. Roast emerges in the middle before more typical winter spices dominate the finish with an astringent quality. No alcohol is detected.

M: Medium viscosity, oddly numbing on the palate, with moderate carbonation.

D/O: This well-aged winter beer is a clashing juxtaposition of brewing skill and misguided ingredient selection. At its best it is suggestive of Unibroue/Trader Joe's Vintage Ale. At its worst it is merely confused.

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Photo of Overlord
3.13/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours an amber-brown. Surprisingly large tan head.

Smells like ... whoa, spice overload. Is that what chestnuts smell like? Cuz' there's some big nuttiness in the background, along with ... what seems like a minty pine.

The taste is way, way, way too much for me. Minty pine (almost like a bit of menthol), that same nuttiness, and a twiggy berriness. Overlaying it all is a ton of spiciness.

This was completely not for me.

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Photo of PatronWizard
3.13/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Stored and served to myself at 55 degrees.

Pours a dark burgandy blood moon with a dirty white frosting that slowly falls to a film. Slow moving bubbles in a sea of thickness.

Smells like Jack and Coke, light on the Jack. Ginger?

Taste is wildly unique. A slight burn after a mouthful of spiced pumpkin. Some kind of candy. A bitterness. Lot's going on. More than I know, but not lots that I like.

The liquid is smooth enough, but that little "burn" at the end detracts from the overall enjoyment. I can't tell if it's alcohol or a particular flavor. Not bad but not something that I would drink repeatedly.

Overall: enjoyed ONCE

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Photo of klewis
3.15/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Pours a dark-reddish brown with a small, bubbly head. Light lacing briefly sticks to the glass.

S: Nothing stands out - just a potpourri of generic holiday spice aromas.

T: Malty with muddled flavors of juniper, black pepper, nutmeg, other spices. Rather generic and one-dimensional. The spiciness and the alcohol are both a bit harsh on the tongue.

M: Full-bodied and slightly over-carbonated.

D: It's nice to see three great brewers team up on a project, but it would've been nicer if the result was anywhere near as good as their independent endeavors. Admittedly, the expectations were high on this one, but it still falls way short of other beers in the style. Perhaps with a bit of age, this one could have some potential.

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Photo of bark
3.16/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

The colour is deep, deep brown-red; the liquid is clear and a bit thick. The head is finger thick and gold-brown. Almost no lacing at all.

The smell is sweet, smooth and spicy. Some hints of nutmeg, herbs, ginger snaps, orange peels, some alcohol, roasted malts and brown sugar. The smell is a bit dense. It reminds me quite a lot of Nøgne-Ø's spiced Christmas ale "Underlig Jul".

The taste is very sweet with spiced hints of Coca-Cola, nutmeg, juniper berries, and cinnamon. Lots of sweet malt and toffee/caramel/brown sugar. Some very light bitterness in the background. The aftertaste got some bitter notes that border to sour. Some sweet malty flavours, but the spicy notes fade quickly.

The carbonation is very mild, the bubbles small and smooth. The liquid is smooth and very thick, almost like syrup.

This beer... was too thick and dense for my taste.

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Photo of t0rin0
3.16/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I'm pretty sure I overpaid for a locally brewed 12oz bottle but I paid $4.99. I had a difficult time placing it into a catagory. I got some hints of dubbel and some hints of brown ale all fermented with a funky yeast that I want to say is an american strain but fermented warm.

Pours a pretty red color with some brown showing. Very clear, very little sediment, decent off white head, but no retention or lacing.

Aroma is confusing. Lots of things going and lots of alcohol to mess with the senses. I smell a nutty smell and at first I assumed it was brown malt but after reading the bottle I discover that there are chestnuts in the beer. There is also a strange sweetnes that I can only assume is the sage but I'm not sure and probably shouldn't speculate. Mostly just nutty and boozy.

Flavor is moderately boozy but also spicy from the rye. Possibly a placebo effect but I want to say I can taste a bit of chestnut in the aftertaste. Moderately bitter and very crisp. Don't know enough about caraway to comment on its presence.

Body is medium, maybe a bit oily. Low CO2 which is about right in my opinion. Probably very drinkable with food but by itself its just average in terms of drinkability. I honestly think this beer could stand to be a bit lower in abv.

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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 kkipple
3.22/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Split this bottle with Orangevango... had to see if a few months have improved this one any. I have to say I didn't much care for it upon release.

A. Dingy, dishwater-rust brown, thick and full looking, bloated.. rather ugly really. A low tan head gimps along for the duration of the snifter.

S. Now this is just strange. Lots of smells here that are on the edge of familiarity. It's spicy and Christmas-y, with a an Old Ale dense malt profile, some fusel booze and heat, but with more. I can smell the juniper pretty well (it's a bit excessive IMO), and something which I assume is sage. Hints of prunes and dates too, this is all over the map and hard to pin down. Ultimately the sheer uniqueness of this smell is a good thing, but it's certainly a challenge.

T. The taste still doesn't live up to the nose, and that's a shame. This is a lot more dried out than you'd be led to believe, but the spice is still there and isn't as tight as the nose suggests. There's a lot of malt richness and flavor but the sweetness ain't there to hold it together, the result being a boozy, spicy and juniper tasting brew with hints of nuts, dates, and an undesirable medicinal Aspirin bitterness in the finish. Certainly complex, but not in a good way. This is something of a chore to finish.

M. Creamy, lightly syrupy, odd odd odd. Finish is nutty malts, sage and pine, and alcohol with a bitter death rattle. Not my bag.

D. Low, it was hard to finish 6 ounces of the stuff. Disappointing, as collaboration brews are way cool, and I must say I love Jolly Pumpkin. Stone too, makes good brews and while I've yet to really dig into Nogne's offerings I'm sure they are quite capable. This was an ambitious miss.

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Photo of Jmamay22
3.22/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This collaborative ale pours a dark nearly opaque brown with a thin mocha colored collar. I can smell the Juniper Berries immediately after opening as will as rich resinous pine hops. I couldn't pick out the other individual spices until I read the bottle and the nuances of the chestnut and caraway seeds became available. However, the white sage proved to be elusive and I did not pick up on it at all in the scent. The spices blend well with the hops and a caramel roasted sweetness provides balance.

The taste has less depth than the nose. The spices stand out, but the underpinning sweetness has left a one sided spiced hop profile. A richer more Belgianesque carbonation would have been more appropriate than what seems to be an under carbonated somewhat watery feel. Amazingly unique, but misses the mark that each individual brewery regularly hits with uncanny consistency. Worth a try, but I won't be searching for a second bottle.

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Photo of MADhombrewer
3.28/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

This was nothing like I have had before. I am not a Belgian fan because I don't really "get" the spices in beer. This has a sage note that is there for sure.

I poured this into a pint glass. There was little to no head and the retention was nill.

The color is hazy auburn. I did not think there was much of an aroma.

Taste had a little alcohol note with white sage flavor.

Mouth feel was a little thin in my opinion.

Drink ability is ok, but at 9%, it will creep up on you.

I would keep buying this beer.
This was my first review.

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