Special Holiday Ale | Stone Brewing

Special Holiday AleSpecial Holiday Ale
Liked This Beer
3.92 w/ 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.

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 322 |  Reviews: 291
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 GClarkage
3.7/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12/07/08- Purchased at Hi Times in Costa Mesa, CA.

Presentation- 12oz bottle, fall 2008 release. Poured into my Duvel tulip.

Appearance- Deep burnt caramel colored pour. Slighter 1/4 inch head with light spotty and watery lace left behind.

Smell- Seems fairly hoppy with a mid range roasted malt base. Some spices noted, but uncertain of which.

Taste- Consumed cold it really just tastes like a random IPA-pale ale mix. A bit more roasted malt base with a handful of pine-like hops. When it gets to room temp the spices come out and are rather nice. I still couldn't tell you that they were sage of carraway seeds though.

Mouthfeel- Crisp and fairly smooth with a medium carbonation level. Slight hoppy and bitter aftertaste.

Drinkability- Good, but not as good as I was hoping for.

Serving type: bottle

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Photo of Wildman
3.88/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer poured a very dark amber color and formed a foamy light tan head that coated the glass with lace as it subsided. A medium amount of carbonation is present. An aroma of malt, spices and cherries. The flavor was of malt, cherries, chocolate and a hint of pepper. It has a medium light body with a peppery sweet finish.

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Photo of d0ggnate
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a deep copper, mud brown color and fills glass with a deep brown/amber appearance. Visual effervescence. Thin, bubbly head layer dissolves to near nothing quickly.
S: Spice/pepper aromas immediately. Almost hints of herb/sage bring memories of Christmas tree-like smell.
T: A rich fruit, plum or cranberry, noted. Almost like a chunky cranberry sauce flavor. The peppery/spicy note carries over. After swallow, the alcohol warming effect is pleasantly apparent, as it should be in a holiday beer.
M: Flavorful, but not overwhelming. Thin, watery consistency. Well balanced flavor, but lacking a bit in body.
D: Tasty and interesting. I didn't know what to expect from three very different brewers. As I think of this as a collaboration, I really enjoy the brewers' efforts. The beer alone leaves a bit to be desired, but is still impressive. I think this one makes a great stocking stuffer.

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

12oz bottle bought at the BevMo in La Jolla, CA.

Poured a deeper brown color with a smaller sized off white head. Aromas of spices, herbs, nutty, some berries, and just all around different. Tastes of nuttiness, rye bread, berries, roast, and some chocolate. Alcohol content well hidden.

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

Pours a near opaque brown with a big, high carbonation head. Immediate smells of sage dominates.

In taste, sage, pine, juniper really stand out. The body is thick and the spices hide the 9% fairly well, but it is definitely a winter warmer. I don't get much chestnut, but my taste buds are not used to the flavor in beers anyways.

All in all, not bad. I'm not huge on winter "seasonals," and this isn't any different. I'm glad I tried it, but I probably won't go out of my way to get another $3 bottle. It does grow on you as it warms up a bit.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
3.88/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours so thick it doesn't look normal. Color is a darker brown with a ruby hue. Nose is spiced. Flavor is pretty spiced. Lots of it. Smooth sweet tone. But the spices dominate. Feel is thick on an almost syrup like way. Soft but fuller carbonation. At first I didn't like this beer that much. Now I think it's okay. For a collaboration of three bug breweries, I would expect something with more of a wow factor.

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Photo of Halcyondays
3.8/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle purchased at Hollingshead's, $2.99,

A: Pours a ruby/maroon/brown with a thick head with some thick holes. Solid head retention, pretty standard lace.

S: Mix of pine needles, berry (I'm assuming juniper), cola and molasses. Flowery. Sage is clearly evident, smells a lot like the wild sage soap I bought at the health food store.

T: Mix of malt and nuts with a lot of flowery and herbal character from the sage and juniper being quite distinct. Fermeneted pie berries and more spice carry the brew to its clear caraway note in the finish, with a phenolic medicinal character.

M: A very thick beer, but I think it works in this style having a bigger body. Robust, powerful, smooth. Very creamy. Dry, spicy finish. Long aftertaste.

D: A good Winter beer from the 3 breweries. I'm sure to buy another bottle if I see it.

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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 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 DaggerEyes
4/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very dark beer...dark dark, molasses brown with some brown sugar colored highlights. A thin tan head, comprised of tiny bubbles coats the surface, sticking around until the end.

Sweet on the nose, loaded with spices. Lots of grain. I'm getting the rye and carroway, Juniper berries and sage more toward the back.

Juniper berries hit really hard at first on the taste. Some of the sage in the middle, toasty grains and spices on the finish, which is pretty dry.

A robust medium bodied beer, slick with a bit of carbonation.

A really drinkable beer, but the alchohol will prevent one from having too many of them. A great beer. I'm glad I picked up a few bottles

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

Pours a rich and hazy mahogany amber from a 12 oz. bottle. Head settles swiftly yet the beer offers a tan surface film/lacing that seems steady and strong. And checking back, it still is!

Smell is mostly of sweet roasted malts actually, with a touch of alcohol. Caraway and sage notes I pick up, but then I have an herb garden! Chestnut and Juniper are more subtle and blended into the flavor of the beer. A nice malty undertone carries through, and with a touch of hops for balance.

Taste is a touch spicy upfront with pepper and juniper/rosemary. A nice holiday ale surely unlike any other. Its spices are more subtle than most yet worth discovering.

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Photo of beerceller99
3.85/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Clear deep copper color with a tight tan head. Aroma is mainly sage and evergreen brush with chestnuts i presume. Smooth medium body. Big burnt caramel flavor with sugared chestnuts and bittersweet sage. Has an underlying bite of mild warming alcohol throughout..." Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." a most festive holiday ale.

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Photo of johnnieoz
4.75/5  rDev +21.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Updated: consumed bottle on 10/28/09

Felt like something warming tonight as the Los Angeles area is being hit by strong, cooling winds. I just paired this with a wonderful burger loaded with Thai basil, spinach, tomatoes, mild Swedish mustard, Thai chili paste and mayonnaise. And the Special Holiday Ale held its own...big time.

At nearly a year since bottling, the aroma is even better than I remember. More forest and garden wonders! And the taste now matches the stellar mouthfeel. Each sip, as many have noted, brings out something new.

This beer is among the best and most unique I have ever had the pleasure of consuming. It belongs in the regular line-up and would be a perfect vintage beer to contrast with Anchor Brewing's equally unique and supremely different, Our Special Christmas Ale.


12/04/2008 (Original scores, if different, in parentheses)

A: A dark chestnut tint to this brew. Simply a very pleasing color to my eye.

S (4): I pick up more of the white sage, chestnut and a bit of juniper, and less of the rye and caraway. A pleasant and unique aroma.

T (4): Speaking of unique: this holiday ale is most special indeed! The sweetness on the tip of my tongue cometh from chestnuts, and the spicy finish from caraway and juniper. In between, there is a tart (Jolly?), titantic tussle for balance...With each sip I sense a different brew. Like no other basically. No trace of alcohol.

M: The best part. Creamy, luscious and full-bodied. It goes down real smooth and the finish is clean n' dry as bones.

D: I'm sure I could polish off a couple of these stylish 12oz bottle. The Special Holiday Ale works as an aperitif, paired with food (we ate oven cooked then broiled ribs in a Maui Coconut Porter-base spice sauce with baked potatoes) or to finish an evening off.

Last year I had two of Nøgne Ø's holiday beers. One was not to my liking and the other was delicious. The inspiration behind the latter made it into this brew. As did the craft of Jolly and Stone (especially along the lines of their use of Oaxacan chocolate in this year's 12th Anniversary). Seek this out and ye shall not be disappointed...

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

A- Reddish brown in color, but in the glass looks dark brown. Red highlights when held up to light. can't see through. Creamy finger and a half light tan head sits and sits.

S- nose is sweet, but spicy. Feels like there are some hop-derived floral qualities in there, but does have a menthol-like character in there. Maybe that's from the Juniper cause I'm not getting an exact Juniper smell.

T- A little roasty. Finishes sweet and with a dryness that has to be from the sage, because there is that same feel/taste in Craftsman's triple white sage. There seems to be a pretty fresh hoppiness to it.

M- on the heavy side of medium. Pretty slick.

D- Each category of this beer is good by itself, but the sum of the parts is a little less desirable over the whole bottle to me. Each sip is fairly good, but the flavor kinda weighs on me and doesn't let me be real excited about keeping going. Best in small amounts. Thank God this came in a 12oz bottle.

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Photo of Floydster
4.13/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle purchased from La Bodega in Riverside, the only place I have seen it sold besides the brewery, poured into my Stone pint glass tonight

A-Very dark brown with some blackish red tint, huge two inch soapy vanilla colored head that lasted almost ten minutes, nice retention, great chunky lacing
S-Whole grains and oats, lots of rye, sweet malt, sage, berries, tree sap, spruce, roasted nuts, big spice presence, coriander, mild fruit, milk chocolate, and
T-Big juniper berry taste right off the bat mixed with the white sage in the middle, finish is a little roasty with a nice variety of spices, chocolate comes to the surface as it warms, like the nutty flavors in the background too, taste is aggressive but tames when you swish it around in your mouth a little bit, not much alcohol in the taste surpisingly, this had an odd balance but it really worked, too bad JP did not bring any wild yeast into the equation, regardless this a great beer for the Christmas season and it offered fantastic complexity
M-Full bodied for a holiday style beer, carbonation is strong at first but really settles down as it warms, spicy, fruity, chewy, dry, and roasted mouthfeel, taste lingers a very long time
D-Could drink a few bottles of this but then it would get kind of heavy, flavors are strong and hold their ground, would be nice to sip on next to a fire during this holiday season, nine percent is hidden well as there are no booze in the taste really

There is a cool quote on the back of the bottle written by Jolly Pumpkin's Ron Jeffries that says, "Triad formed, saged hills speak slowly, a beer born," Stone's second triple brewer collaboration was quite interesting and it will be very interesting to see how it ages, I bought the only two bottles left and promised the other one to a trader, in the mean time I will be trying to track down some more, look forward to drinking again, recommended

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Photo of slayer3604
4.68/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Took a lot of searching and heartache to get this fella, even though I live in SoCal! haha.

A- Gigantic tan/white head that boils upon itself to keep a good finger of head at the end. Rich mahogany/cherry color, with lacing up the who hah.

S- pine, cedar, a roasted malt bath, spicy herbs, CHRISTMAS, a nice piny hop presence, and nice rum kissed nuances that roam the spectrum of this beer.

T- Huge mouthfeel, silky, overbearing with zest, spice, herbs, and a proverbial bitch slap of complexity. im going to have to pour over this beer for a while to find out what went on in this mother.

M- Chunky, deluxe, especially with tangy spices headbutting your palate the whole time.

D- WISH this was more widely available. i paid 6 bucks per bottle because i was afraid it would be the only time i could pick it up. but dang, this is so classy it could be my new favorite winter warmer if its brewed yearly.

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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 scottoale
4.03/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz. brown bottles with no bottling codes, but the silk-sreened labels had the Head Brewers signature date of October 21, 2008.

One poured into a Duvel goblet a dark mahogany with a big fat finger of lasting khaki froth. It eventually settled to a ring and surface patch, leaving some very delicate lace clinging to the glass, initially.

At first, the only smell coming through was spice, spice and more spice. As it warmed, the aroma became spice, spice and alcohol. This has got to be a "spice bomb".

The taste is interesting and unique, comprised of many spices, yet blending very well together. I'm getting juniper berry, white sage, caraway seed, rye malt and some hops. There a bit more there, but that's what stands out. The alcohol is there in the smell, but not so in the taste.

Solid medium body with just the right carbonation for this Holiday warmer...really a must try if you looking for something quite different. What a brew, Happy Holidays!

An interesting note - I picked up a few of these at the brewery today and noticed on the front labeling that 3 breweries and there logos rotated to different positions on the triangle. And the back labeling was really different, one with a poem and signed by the Jolly Pumpkin Head Brewer and another with a page long story, signed by the Nøgne Ø Head Brewer. Those clever Stone folks!

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Photo of likestoswallow
3.83/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle from Beverages4less in Santee.

A: Pours a translucent amber-brown color with a small khaki head.

S: The aroma is moderate in strength with berries, nuts, spices, tar and a hint of molasses.

T: The flavor is nutty with the complex spices filling in the sides and biter-sour hops on the back end. The finish is long and spicy.

M: The mouthfeel is a bit light but builds to a full pasty conclusion. The carbonation is lively.

D: This one goes down very easy--too easy. A very different and enjoyable winter warmer. Recommended.

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Photo of travolta
3.85/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

App: tight lacing, really tight head, boot brown in color, khaki head, moderate retention, moderate lacing.

Nose: sage, chestut, pine, dried herbs.

Taste: bitter chestnut, malty syrupy finish, slight bite but with no linger, lightly toasty up front, dried herbs.

Notes: very interesting, worth a try for sure.

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Photo of goodspeed94
4.22/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a thick, deep reddish color that really turns into quite a dark brew as the glass fills. Looks very inviting held up to the light.

S: Can definitely smell the chestnuts and spices used in this one. Smells like the holidays, like a well decorated house that has been baking all day. Fruit profile seems at a moderate level.

T: Merry Christmas. Talk about brewing a liquid holiday. This one is spiced just the right amount, but also brings in some unique but very familiar holiday flavors not found in other seasonals. The juniper berries was an excellent addition here as it creates something truly special, tastes similar to the smell. Very enjoyable but get ready for a very strong burst of flavor.

M: Feels about medium weight, not going to take much to make it through a glass. Unique flavors leave a pleasant finish, and they hang around for a little while.

D: Given how unique (and strong) the flavors are in this one, I couldnt see having more than 2 at the max, and I might be struggling with the second.

Very interesting creation, I expect nothing less. Great starting point for Stone's first holiday beer and well done to all those involved.

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Special Holiday Ale from Stone Brewing
Beer rating: 76.7% out of 100 with 322 ratings
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