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Special Holiday Ale | Stone Brewing

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Special Holiday AleSpecial Holiday Ale
Very Good
322 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: 322 |  Reviews: 291
Photo of mrbeermug
4.05/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This light review comes well after drinking it just to get some more info out there...

Very pronounced winter spice mix aroma where the sage shines through. Beer is delicate on the tongue while having a very hearty and robust flavor, backed with a higher 9% ABV. The juniper, sage, and hops are balanced with roasted malt with a hint of bitterness in the back of the flavor. Nice beer overall, though you definitely won't want more than one. I'm surprised at how subtle this beer was given how the brewers are known for over-the-top beers.

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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 IBUnit63
4.17/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Dan Dan the Marty's Beer Man told me I showed up at an opportune moment - this just came in. Into the Duvel tulip we go...

1/2 finger bready head - ginger or cinnamon ice cream color. Body is more bourbon-barrel mahogany or dark oak. Retention isn't substantial; yeasty top remains. Carbonation is sparse and still.

Mild holiday spices - clove, cinnamon, ginger...with dates and an almost Quad or Dubbel feel to it. Hops are a mix of pine, floral and a little soapiness. And then the juniper hits like a Tyson right hook, but after a while it evens out and blends to make this quite festive alongside the dry rye malt and caraway.

Wow - the juniper really stands out on its own, jumping up and down on the palate like a 2-year old having a temper tantrum. The hop pine and Dubbel style spice and the rich malt are hanging in there, though. Slight sour tinge complements the nice yeast electricity. A little overpowering but very good.

The mouthfeel of this is dominated by...yes, the juniper berries...here - it's a bit much for some (the beautiful bride says she's drinking a Christmas tree) but I get a kick out of it. Needs warmth for a little Beautiful Chemistry to emerge and to balance the hop pine and mild roasted rye and malt.

This screams Christmas to me. Maybe a sipper but a very festive one.

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Photo of sleazo
4.33/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A_Dark brown/red hue with a three finger soapy head. Dissipates slowly with a lot of large bubbles congregating in the middle.

S_Sweet malt mixes with lemon zest, bready yeast and a nice spice background.

T_The first sip initially gives some malty sweetness reminecent of caramel. This is followed by a good degree of twang which alludes to rye. The finish proveds a nice degree of hoppiness as pine cones and a bit of floralness abound. The full beer manages to be quite dry despite the inital sweetness. There is a vague spiciness that I cannot place that adds a good amount of heat to the overall product. Perhaps this is the Juniper?

M_Medium bodied with an inital aggressive crabonation that veers towards softness.

D_If Sybil were a beer she would be this. Multifaceted and delicious. I admit, I was hesitsant towards this collaberation but the end product is delicious. The spices didn't really jump out at me but played nicely in the background

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Photo of SaucyA
3.98/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Looks fantastic in a snifter. A very nice, thick tan foam sits atop a deep mahogany base with dried-blood highlights. Retention is good. Lacing is present.

S - The smell is a little jumbled but wonderfully complex. Deep malty sweetness, light molasses, a splash of booze. Random notes of random-ness. As hard as I try, I just barely smell the rye, which I think is overshadowed a bit by sweet caramel. The special ingredients in here are VERY subdued, yet blend well enough to give it a cohesive, if not a little muddled, spiciness.

T - A nice hop profile makes itself known, which is surprising given the malty complexity of the nose. It starts off a little sweet, and finishes very balanced. I'm noticing a lot more of the spices as it warms up, but nothing is really jumping out at me like "OMG I'M A CARAWAY SEED" or "HOLY SHIT I'M A CHESTNUT". Basically a really nice spiced winter warmer, using unconventional ingredients.

M - Thick and creamy and wonderful. Probably the best part about this beer.

D - Not the most insanely drinkable beer, but a nice treat to have in the fridge or in my hand. I drank one a few days ago as well and enjoyed it just as much.

Notes: After seeing the less than stellar ratings for this, I was worried I had spent $5 on two bottles of rubbish. Is it really worth $5 a bottle? Hard to say. I'm jealous of those that are getting it for $3 tho.

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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 ypsifly
4.14/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Painted 12oz purchased at Merchant's and poured into a tulip.

Dark chestnut with a bubbly head of light tan that dissipates to a ring of large bubbles. Fairly active carbonation.

Piney and somewhat citric in the nose with some of the spices mentioned on the bottle...namely the juniper and caraway. Nice spice/hop combo.

Dry flavors upfront with a spicy middle. I can taste the chestnuts towards the back. The chestnuts are the most notable contribution from one of the three breweries, JP. Spices linger in the finish. I get more sage from tasting than I do sniffing. Some slight juniper resin holds on but is nice. Lots of complexity here.

Moderate mouth that is dry and satisfying. I could easily sip a couple more. I get the feeling this should be drank fresh and is not a cellar candidate.

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Photo of justinhower
3.6/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I guess the numbers are ok, but I really did not like this beer. I mean, like the man said, if this is the sort of thing you like, you'll like this beer. I didn't. I don't hate it like I hate Harpoon Winter Warmer. I don't have the patience for it that I have each year for Anchor's OSA. For all the world it seems to me like a very successful combination of YooHoo and mouthwash, but less carbonated. A decent mouthfeel and yes, it is balanced, but my first impression, and I couldn't shake it even as the beer warmed while I consumed it, was of Listerine. And as the malt asserted itself a bit, then you know, like chocolate milk. So I guess Xmas, sorta kinda. It reminds me of a French beer I had 15 20 years ago, cant remember what it was called, but it came in this black plastic shell, in a three pack, oddly, because it was billed as an aphrodisiac, a beer for lovers. I guess I'm not a lover. I found someone who took two of the bottles off my hands.

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Photo of theopholis
3.47/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance- This pours a very dark black with amber highlights. Very little head, and what little there is has little retention. Practically no lacing either.

Smell- Nice maltiness with a smattering of aroma hops and several spices (sage, caraway, jumiper).

Taste- Very robust taste. You will definately know this stuff is in your mouth. Lot of malt, malt sweetness, toasted malt and dark brown sugar. Some roasted nut flavors with notes of white sage, juniper, caraway and rosemary. Nice rye profile to.

Mouthfeel- Medium body with good carbonation.

Drinkability- I like it, but 1 is enough. This is not for the faint of heart.

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Photo of DoubleJ
4.18/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

So this is what the visit of Nøgne Ø and Jolly Pumpkin was all about at Stone nearly two months ago. I have a bottle which I've declared my official beer of Xmas 2008. On to the beer:

Creamy one inch thick head on top this dark amber water. It's so dark, light only penetrates the edges. The nose is all about the spices used in this beer. The juniper berries stick out the most in this one. An edge of burnt sugar. The taste is unique as well. Full flavored, viscous, yet feels so airy and puffy in the mouth. It's different, that's for sure, but I really like it. I can't really pinpoint any flavors, but I notice the rye used in this beer.

There's nothing like ending a night on a tasty brew. Xmas makes it even more special. Three cheers to Stone, Jolly Pumpkin, and Nøgne Ø for brewing this.

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Photo of gory4d
3.9/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear reddish russet into the glass; the head is tan and thick, but dissipates without leaving much lacing. The smell is spicy; a deep whiff brings home an astringent hit of booze. The juniper comes to the fore with first sip, and the alcohol is pretty well up-front too; there are some faint buttery notes (very faint), with a bitter finish preceded by more booziness. It's a thick quaff, though the carbonation imparts some pep to it. It's enjoyable to drink, but more than one or two would be a reach. This might age well -- the alcohol is a little hot.

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Photo of czfreeman
4.2/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Been looking foward to trying this beer for a while. Its super cold outside, tommorrows Christmas Eve. Lets get it off to a good start.
Pours out a beautiful chestnut mahagony red-toned brown color, an impressive two finger head remains for several minutes in my goblet.Extremely thick lacing. I am suprised by the activity in the glass, looks warm and effervescent, great winter warmer. Looks very inviting.
On the aromas, the spicy sage comes through first, followed by a chestnut-nuttiness, the juniper is in there, cinnamons, bread, fruity cherry like bite. This smells absolutly like the Holidays in a glass. The funkinessis there(jolly pumkin) spiciness,(stone) and a solid overall brew-nogne.I am really digging the smell of this beer.
Flavor is a gingerbread like bread flavor, spicy sages,juniper,honey,nutmeg,cinnamons, berries, tingling spice Im guessing from the caraway, a nice Pferrernuss cookie lingering taste is left. There is a nice yeasty mustiness in the background that adds to the overall herb flavor in the beer, finish is long,warming and quite welcome.
In my opinion, for something to be called a "winter warmer" this is a stellar offering.The triad of brewers that collaborated on this brew are all extremely talented on their own rights, and have created something fantastic. Each brewers subtle touch accents the other, and the result is a homogenous, yet extremly complex product. What a great beginning to Holiday enjoyment. Happy Holidays!

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

12 oz. bottle purchased from Vendome Liquors in Toluca Lake, CA, and poured into a tulip glass. This bottle features beer haiku from Ron Jeffries, the head brewer at Jolly Pumpkin:

Triad formed
Saged hills speak slowly
A beer born

Great color-- a deep brown/burnt orange with highlights the color of embers deep in the heart of a campfire. It glows with a slight haziness. A finger of heavy, eggnog-colored foam dissipates into a sturdy ring around the edge of the glass and a thin veil across the surface of the beer. This beer looks a little syrupy, and leaves sticky dots of foam behind.

Well, it sure smells festive. There's the juniper, right off the bat: a bright, piney smell against a backdrop of sugar and malt. I also get a blast of citrusy hop aroma and some spices that remind me of pumpkin pie. Below that, and mingling with the malt, is a mild aroma of roasted nuts and some dried fruit mustiness. Sage aroma finally comes out as the beer warms.

Sweet, then quite nutty, and finishes with a big gust of spices. Though this beer starts off with moderate sweetness, it doesn't taste as sweet as it smells. The flavors of toasted malt and dark brown sugar really work well with the roasted nut flavors that follow. At the same time, the hops contribute substantial bitterness and a tasty candied orange peel flavor. The beer finishes bittersweet and citrusy, like thick-cut marmalade, with spicy herbal notes and a mildly peppery character like a rye beer.

Full-bodied, a bit syrupy, and slick. Carbonation is pretty soft, but has some bite. It doesn't stop the beer from coating the palate luxuriously.

Well, this attribute takes a hit because of the heaviness of the body and the intensity of the flavors. This is a heavy, filling beer, loaded with big bitterness and robust spices and powerful flavors. A single bottle at a time is plenty. Still, this is exactly the kind of huge, spicy winter warmer that I look forward to indulging in at this time of year. Make sure you let it warm up a bit to get the full range of flavors.

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

Dark red in the center which lightens as you look down the glass to a coppery bottom. An ok white creamy head that doesn't sit for long. Very hazy, looks very interesting.

Fresh hops, dark cherries and green apple. The hops provide a great light fruit scent. Slight nutmeg/cinnamin, but hardly noticeable.

I wanted to try and pick apart each breweries contribution, so here goes. (Stone) Simcoe right off the bat, which adds an excellent dryness, but not overpowering. Adds a piney freshness to it which rides through to the end. Great hope presence and nice kick at the end. (Jp) Caramel malts are semi present, and green tart/ripe apples come through adding a slightly funky but enjoyable taste, reminiscent of some of their better wilds (la roja came to mind, oddly). (Nogne). I characterizes nognes presence in the body and mouthfeel, really great here. Very smooth, well blended, and great from start to finish. Very nice spice play as well, excellent notes of nutmeg and very slight touches of cinnamin come through

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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 TurdFurgison
3.85/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I picked up this 12oz bottle for $4.99 at Stimmels market, the only place I've seen it offered. The beer is dark burnt copper, clear, thin off-white foam. The smell is spicy and pine needly, kind of like a Christmas tree smells. My palate and vocabulary are too limited to adequately describe the aromas, but overall this smells like Christmas tree + pumpkin pie. The taste is pine needles and ginger, a little scathingness from hops (or maybe from spice), pretty tasty. Overall good, maybe a little less good than I'd hoped based on price and reputation of the 3 brewers. But solid.

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Photo of dbONE
4.48/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served from a 12oz bottle in a stemless wine glass as I write this.
Poured with a soft off-white head with a mild lacing and a thin foamy coat on top of the rich dark redish body.
Aroma sinks in with a slight funk and dried fruit hint. Borderline stale with strong sage, juniper and citrus notes.
A complex spicy sweetness dominates the front of the pallet with a nutty sprinkle that follows through to the end that clings to a funky aftertaste.
This hangs on to the end with a full flavored heavy body that has a peaceful drinkability. I have 2 more I hope age well.

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Photo of bluejacket74
4.05/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle, served in a Sam Adams BL glass. The beer pours a brownish/red color with about an inch off-white head. Head retention and lacing are both good. The aroma is sweet and spicy, I can smell citrus, sage, a mix of spices (I can't determine what exactly), and berries. It tastes like sage, chestnuts, piney hops, holiday spices and berries. Nice mix of all the flavors, it's not overly spiced like some winter warmers are. Mouthfeel is medium/full, it's very creamy with just the right amount of carbonation. Drinkability is good, it's very smooth and easy to drink. Alcohol isn't very noticable. I think this is a pretty good brew, I enjoyed it a lot. Definitely worth a try if you come across it anywhere.

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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 SShelly
4.2/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz.

Nice dark red appearance with a low offwhite head.

Smells of citrusy hop aroma.

Flavor of this is impressive, malt and citrus hop flavors at first, with a number of spices that can be detected as it warms. I'm not usually an enjoyer of spiced winter kind of things but this one really hits the spot, there is great balance between the different spices, all on top of a nice malt base. I think its the balance that makes it standout in the positive for me.

Have to track down more of this and put it away for a little while.

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Photo of yourefragile
3.46/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: Pours a deep translucent ruby brown, with a dense, tight light brown head with great retention and thick sticky rings of lacing.
S: Fairly unremarkable, strong malt body with hops and alcohol finish. Slightly sweet with holiday spices.
T: Reminds me more so of other Stone brews than the other collaborators in this beer. Starts off like a weaker IPA and as it warms up more of the holiday spices and sweetness comes through. Roasted malt body with a fresh piney hop finish, little alcohol presence. Mouthfeel is very thick and full with little carbonation. Finish is slightly watery. An ok beer that I probably had too high expectations for.

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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 JerzDevl2000
4.15/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picture it - beer lover walks into a store seeing an anticipated brew with a triangle on the label and 3 reputable breweries behind its inception. $2.99 later, this bottle comes home so it can be contemplated over late one Saturday night with Christmas fast approaching. Needless to say, this is one unique beer. It's a winter warmer, but it has the spice of an Octoberfest without the pumpkin, vanilla, and overpowerment that so many fall beers can be known for. Some say that this taste like Christmas. I'd sooner say that the Sierra Nevada Celebration fits that mold, but nevertheless, this has the taste of a late Autumn day right before winter and snow come knocking on the door!

This had a great pour - a picture-perfect deep mahogony hue and head were worth savoring as long as possible before I took the first sip. That wasn't easy, only because the aroma filled up my glass and anywhere within a foot of it. There's the junpier and sage that this beer has as part of it's composition, but there's a lot of pepper and sesame here as well. If beer truly is liquid bread, than this is all that one would need for a diet this time of the year. It's very malty, heavy, and has quite a spicy kick in the back, but the mouthfeel is wonderfully warming and this comes just a few steps short of being too overwhelming. There isn't much of any carbonation to be found here, but it's so complex that ya won't even notice!

9.00% ABV? Says who? Yeah, I'm sure the label is right but ya won't notice it. The slight metallic and pine notes in the aftertaste is enough to balance out the spiciness that silently lingers after each sip. So what that there isn't any lacing in my glass? This pretty outdoes any Octoberfest I've ever had and a majority of winter warmers as well. There's enough spice in here to please just about any beer drinker and this would go well with just about any holiday meal. Kudos to these three breweries for pushing the envelope on what can be done with some collaboration!

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

Pours a dark amber with only a very slight head. Aroma is alluring. Spicy, piney, malty. Tasty palate, warm, and interesting. A very slight amount of carbonation when it hits your tongue. Rich, and full of different spices,that I can't put my finger on, but it has a warmth a christmas spicyness. Pine flavors and a hint of berries. Hops are present, but in the background. The spices are the most forward flavor. Sticky, dry finish. Well balanced. A delightful unique, christmas ale.

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

Bottle. Pours a deep red/brown with a light tan head. Aroma of stew and chestnuts and spices. Flavor is like biting into a rich meaty stew. Interesting stuff! Very warming and rich. One of the few holiday ales I've really enjoyed.
Aroma: 8/10
Appearance: 4/5
Flavor: 8/10
Palate: 4/5
Overall: 16/20

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Special Holiday Ale from Stone Brewing
Beer rating: 3.92 out of 5 with 322 ratings
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