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.

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 323 |  Reviews: 291
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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Photo of djrn2
3/5  rDev -23.5%

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

A fimly malted English base with a lot of odd and interesting spices that, together, remind me of pine.

A structured and sturdy malt bill runs the gammot of medium toast, caramel and toffee, molassas, fruitcake, brown sugars, and kettle caramelization. Breads give a lot of weight and creaminess to the mouthfeel.

Hops give an earthy and resiny balance to the malts, but the real story here are the spice additions. Juiniper berries give a lightly tart complexity and a bit of a fruity note to accompany the esters. Sage gives a large pine impression that hinges on rosemarry. Caraway soft spiciness adds another layer to the beer without bringing attention to itself. A light nuttiness is present but this could easily be accomplished by the malts rather than the chessnut additions.

This is a fantastic Winter Warmer that doesn't shy away from the winter time spices. However the spicy boldness wears on the palate quickly.

Thanks Clvand0!

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Photo of kojevergas
3.72/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

12 fl oz brown glass bottle with standard pressure cap served into an EKU 28 snifter in low altitude Los Angeles, California. Reviewed live. Served refrigerator cold and allowed to warm as consumption progressed. Not paired with food or anything. Expectations are high; I trust Nogne quite a bit and Stone tends to be hit and miss. I'm hoping she's a good one; it's been a long day. Winter Warmers are one of me top five favourite styles.

A: Pours a one finger head of good cream, pretty good thickness, and good retention. Colour is a nontransparent solid black.

Sm: Chestnuts, heavy berry esters (I don't know that I'd necessarily detect it as juniper), and spices. Toasted malts, chocolate, and caramelized malts. Chocolate and berry are dominant. A moderate strength aroma.

T: Chocolate, heavy berry, lovely spices, chestnut, caramel, cream, and underlying toasted malt. Balanced quite well, with impressive subtlety. It doesn't fully commit to its flavours, leaving it feeling a bit muted. Quite enjoyable and pleasant. I like it. It's complex. Rich and delightful.

Mf: Silky smooth, wet, and creamy. Quite lovely, especially for the ABV. The most impressive aspect of this beer. Not too thick or too thin. Exquisite. Almost perfect. I'm extremely impressed.

Dr: Very drinkable - especially for the high ABV, which is well hidden. I'd have it again, preferably either aged in the bottle or on draught. I don't know that it'd get much better, but I do like it. I just wish it was more forward and confident with its flavours.


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Photo of emerge077
4.08/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Into a Duvel glass at 45º, the color is dark mahoghany, slightly red at the edge. A compact layer of tan foam appears, dotted with irregular bubbles. A swirl rekindles the head and creates about a finger's width of creamy foam. Retention is good.

Leafy west coast hops in the nose, with mildly sweet toasted malt. Rich malty flavor, spices come out in the middle and linger well into the aftertaste. They are hard for me to pick out individually, but the overall taste is pleasant. Some bitterness that works well with the moderate spice. It's creamy feel really adds alot to the whole package. Complex enough to sip for awhile, trying to figure out all the herbal nuances.

Thanks to TheBlackMallard for hooking me up with this one...

Huh, noticed this is listed 3 times on BA:

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Photo of brentk56
4.25/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a dark amber color with garnet highlights and a frothy head that leaves a nice web of lacing behind

Smell: Herbacious caramel, with sage and juniper clearly discernable; a bit of pine, too

Taste: Caramel, up front, but toned down from a sweetness perspective by the spices, so that while it provides a malty backbone, it serves as a platform for the sage and juniper flavors; there is some spicy rye and piney bitterness in here, too, but the bitter flavors are more herbacious, and last quite a while after the swallow; the rye just adds to that effect; almost an herbal tea-like concoction

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate to high carbonation

Drinkability: Another collaboration, where the brewers proved that they can brew a beer of subtle distinctiveness, which has apparently dismayed some folks around here who were expecting something more over the top; one of those beers whose character changes completely as it warms, this beer has a lot going for it once you latch onto its distinctive characteristics

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a deep clear burgundy color ale with a rather large foamy head with good retention and good lacing. Taste is nice mix between a sweet malt base with some light spices which may included cinnamon. Body is quite full with some creamy notes and with great carbonation and no apparent alcohol. I would have personally prefer for the spice mix to be more present but still enjoyable nonetheless.

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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 largadeer
3.58/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Dark chestnut shell brown with an off-white, long-lasting head.

Smell: Fried sage, caraway and juniper stand out in the aroma, with a big caramelized fruit foundation. Somewhat cola-like. Chestnut comes out more as it warms. Interesting and complex, though more spiced than I tend to like.

Taste & mouthfeel: Opens with a twang of rye, some light fusels and a berry-like sweetness. The malt profile is somewhere between toasted and roasted, lending a nice bitterness that counters the liberal use of spices and adjuncts. The finish is surprisingly dry, allowing the spices to shine. Caraway and juniper berry come through strongly, along with a hint of sage. This was an interesting experiment; I can't say I love it, but it's not a total failure. Mileage may vary depending on your taste in heavily spiced beers.

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Photo of jlindros
3.7/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Guess this has been in the back of my fridge since winter. I found it while moving things around, and it has little specks of mold on the outside, hope it's still good.

A: Pours a rich 2 finger head that rises up with a creamy thick look, and fades slowly, leaving a slight lacing on the sides. The beer is very dark raisin brown color with very little light getting through.

N: The nose is mostly what I expected. Some darker malts are there, not heavy, some sweet malt aromas with hints of booze. Some fruits, dried fruits, raisin, touch of apricot. Spices galore, nutmeg, cinnamon, nutty aromas like the Xmas nuts, I think there's some juniper too, perhaps some other berries of the bittering kind.

T: A dry taste to start. Some rich malts, darker malts, that I would have expected to be sweet and syrupy, but are instead dry and lackluster almost. I wonder if that is a product of the age or meant to be. It has a slight creamy note, like an oatmeal feel. More dried fruits, raisin, etc. Also more nuts, not as much but a little nutty quality. And again tons of spices. Nutmeg and cinnamon like Xmas spices. I def get juniper now, very dominant, semi Sahti like. I personally am not a big fan, but it seems to work a little in this one, as there are some many strange flavors melded together. As it warms and I get used to the aniset like spices, I start to get some dark roasty porter malts, and hints of chocolate malt.

M: Medium body, not as syrupy as I expected, and very dry, with good carbonation.

F: Finishes still very dry, with almost a feel that it was sticky sweet but it wasn't. Lots of juniper lingering again, adds that bitterness that is not my style. Then more Xmas spices again, with more nutty flavors, and a little creamy feel on the finish, almost as if there were lactose in it too, and slightly buttery too.

I bet this would make a nice sit by the fire winter beer to sip on, and share! A 1pt 9oz bottle by myself is a little tough.

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Photo of zestar
3.75/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of nickfl
3.98/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A - Just over one finger of light brown head on a dark brown body with minor highlights. The head settles slowly and leaves a uniquely solid film of lace on the glass.

S - Brown malty aroma of caramel and toffee with some minor fruity notes. Definite molasses notes. Plums and alcohol and maybe some cloves.

T - Sweet, rich malt up front; toffee and a hint of chocolate. Spicy notes of clove, cinnamon, and fennel come out in the middle. The finish darkens significantly with bittersweet chocolate, dark, citrus hops with a hint of tobacco and a molasses flavor that lingers on the palate.

M - Thick, truly chewy body, moderate carbonation, and a moderately sweet finish.

D - Nice malt character and pleasing warmth, but the mouthfeel is probably the best part of this beer. This is one of the few beers that I have ever had that I can really call chewy and that leads to a certain satisfaction as I slowly sip.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.43/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

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

A: The beer is a medium brown color, with a short off-white head that fades shortly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is very spicy and minty along with caramelized malts, some fruit and a touch of hops.

T: The taste is likewise spicy up front with a strong juniper flavor complemented by caramel, rye and some fruit. The malt character is heart and there's a mild presence that tries to provide some balance. There's very little trace of the 9.00% ABV. The after-taste is spicy and slightly sweet.

M: Smooth and crisp, medium body, medium carbonation, sticky finish.

D: It's flavorful but not flavors that I liked, goes down easily, not too filling, strong kick, decent representation of style, I suppose it had to happen eventually but I'm surprised to find that Stone has finally made a beer that I don't particularly care for. Given their track record and the fact that this was a 3-way collaboration, I'll give them a pass on this one.

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Photo of olradetbalder
3.75/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of billab914
3.9/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark mahogany color wit ha thick off-white head. The foam settled and clung to the sides but left nice lacing on the glass.

Aroma is Spicy and sweet. The spices are unique, I don't think I've encountered them in a beer before and I didn't recognize them. After reading the side of the bottle I see Juniper berries and sage, makes sense now given the taste but I wouldn't have been able to guess them. The sweet maltiness comes through a little behind the spices.

Taste is pretty good, the spices are pretty dominant as in the nose. Again not something I would have guessed but the juniper and sage play a big part in the taste. The malt is there in the background which has a sweet caramel flavor to it

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Drinkability is good for the abv and amount of spices.

overall this was pretty good, a nice change from the cinnamon and nutmeg spiced winter beers that I usually find but I probably wouldn't buy it very often.

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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 Kegatron
4.02/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle into a chalice.

Pours a clear dark ruby, with a thin covering of off-white foamy head. Retains with a thin fizzy ring around the edge of the glass that actually leaves a robust enough looking cascade of froth behind that quickly slides down the sides of the glass. The aroma is rich with toasted spicy bread and sugars, and a deep fruitiness from the juniper berries. Lots of extra spice here as well, with the sage being especially identifiable. Some alcohol warmth helps hold it all together.

The taste is similar to the aroma, with a hearty mix of bread, darker fruits, and burnt sugars, which lends the flavor more of a dark roasty feel. Spices are just as strong here as well, mixing with the rye notes to give this quite the festive tangy feel in the mouth. I'm getting a fair amount of an almost earthy bitterness as well (possibly from the yeast), with hangs in the finish with extra spice and a steady roasty dryness. The mouthfeel is medium to fuller bodied, with a sharp creaminess to it that fills the mouth up but I'm very glad to say that the ABV is kept in check for the most part. Pretty much that same amount of light warmth that held things together in the aroma is present, and it works just as nicely here to help meld all of those flavors.

This could have easily become a case of too many cooks (and ingredients) ruining the dish but I'm happy to report that this wasn't the case here. Nice even mix of character is present, with sweetness, spice, yeast, bitterness, and alcohol all working together to make this quite a tasty and warming sipper.

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Photo of wethorseblanket
3.91/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Photo of XmnwildX12
3.75/5  rDev -4.3%

Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.28/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. single - $2.99 at Bullock's in Marietta, Georgia.

Appearance: Pours out a seemingly heavy, opaque, brown body with a growing, lasting, off-white head.

Smell: A downright potpourri-scented aroma smelling deeply of rich notes of dark caramel-coated bread crusts, cocoa, herbaceous sage, piquant juniper berries, ground chestnut shells, miscellaneous fruit paste, and spice.

Taste: Sweet burnt caramel sauce, cocoa powder, and an earthy nuttiness upfront. A second later the prickly spicy rye deftly melds in with the other long-riding flavors. Full, though not overwhelming tastes of minty rubbed sage and juniper berries (which always sets my mind thinking about gin). Slight bitterness, leaving the other flavors to round out the sweet malts. At times you get flashes of dried cherry fruitiness, and other times some fleeting sourness. Drying, spicy, deeply earthy finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Oddly dense, questionably high, yet creamy carbonation, as if my bottle contained one of those nitrous widgets.

Drinkability: Wow! I'll admit to being a bit hesitant after reading the list of bonus ingredients. It's true, I may have even murmured "Jesus Christ" right in the middle of the liquor store on a Friday afternoon. But boy was this flavorful and simply brimming with character and tasty complexities. Also, I appreciate it being sold in twelve ounce bottles, as that seems to be just the perfect amount. I don't know about the rest of you jokers, but I'll never ever think of saying "no" to a three-way again.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.76/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into my Duvel tulip.

a - Pours a dark mahogany brown with 2 inches of off whit head and moderate carbonation evident. Little bit of rentention and lacing.

s - Smells of chocolate, roasted malts, juniper, spices, pine, alcohol, and a hint of coca cola.

t - Tastes of pine and juniper berries, as well as roasted malts, chocolate, coffee, and nuts.

m - Medium body and low carbonation, smooth and very easy to drink.

d - I thought this was a pretty good winter warmer. I think the juniper berries have a very distinct smell and taste. It's very interesting but enjoyable. If you don't like that smell/taste, you might want to skip this one, otherwise definitely worth checking out. I would try again.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.28/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Blood orange with persimmon colored highlights and a veritable blizzard of fine yeast. This is as good a hue as any for a winter warmer... and is better than most. The brown sugar colored crown filled almost half the glass after a spirited pour. It's melting exceedingly slowly and is beginning to lay down a thick blanket of finely stippled lace. Outstanding.

One whiff is all it took to tell that juniper berries are present. Special Holiday Ale smells like the beer equivalent of spiced gin and mulled wine. Chestnuts, white sage and caraway seeds are present as well, although I could never have identified them on my own. The nose is different, interesting, and enjoyable.

The same can be said for the flavor. It looks like Stone's first foray into winter warmers is a successful one. Credit must be given as well to the brewers from Nogne and Jolly Pumpkin. It can't be easy to come up with original beer these days (that works), but I've never tasted anything quite like this sweet-bitter-spicy-herbal exilir.

There's plenty of barley present, including 25% rye malt and what tastes like a fair amount of caramel and/or Munich. Hops have definitely not been forsaken, because at its current age, this sucker is still bitingly bitter. I love the way the lupulins and the alpha acids cut through the malt sugars like a hot knife through butter.

Specifics include well-toasted rye bread studded with caraway seeds, English toffee, black tea leaves, citrus zest and medium-dark fruit macerated in Tanqueray. I'm not sure if the brewers made up a few test batches or if they designed the beer on paper and went full steam ahead, but the flavor combinations work extremely well.

Since the flavors become even bolder (and better!) with warming, I have no choice but to bump the taste score. Amazingly enough, not one iota of alcohol is present on the palate. The body/mouthfeel is a fraction lighter than expected. That said, more full wouldn't have worked as well. The beer is softly silky and is crushed velvet smooth.

Stone/Nogne/Jolly Pumpkin Special Holiday Ale won't be everyone's cup of Christmas grog, but I think it's an inspired creation. If big, bold and bitter beer scares you, then stay away. If it entices you, then pick up all you find (if it's still available). It sure would be nice if this became a Stone winter seasonal, but I won't be holding my breath.

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Photo of drewone
3.5/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Photo of mikesgroove
3.33/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this one from a kind trader this week, as I had actually never had one before. Served chilled and poured into a snifter, this one was consumed on 05/08/2009.

The pour was decent. Dark brown and cloudy with a light tan head on top that reached a height of around an inch before settling back down to earth. Spicy aroma, cinnamon, tree bark, roasted nuts and caramel like, nice, but not blowing me away here by any means. As I take a sip I am underwhelmed I have to admit. Smooth, like alcohol notes, but there is just nothing really big, noticeable, or standout about this one. Lots of roasted nuts and cinnamon, but everything just seems kind of off to me if I am being honest. Kind of like a light oxidation in it. Flavors just did not meld together well at all for me.

Overall a bit of a let down, not really something I would go back to again anytime soon.

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