Gale's Christmas Ale | George Gale & Company Ltd

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Gale's Christmas AleGale's Christmas Ale
77 Ratings
Gale's Christmas AleGale's Christmas Ale

Brewed by:
George Gale & Company Ltd
England, United Kingdom

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 12-07-2001

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Ratings: 77 |  Reviews: 70
Photo of putnam
5/5  rDev +44.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I've used this beer many times since the initial review (in December 2002) to dazzle tasters at various multi-level tastings. It works after old, great wine just as well as it does after pilsner, hot dogs and televised sports. Most recently, at a spring retirement party, it exceeded even my lofty expectations. I look forward to tasting a 2003 in the cellar.

2002 Murky, sewage brown, with no effort to produce a head. Rather, there is some batik-like line patterning on the surface that provides the only evidence of gas.
Aromas are profound and deep, like living in a house made of Russian black bread...big, steamy bowls of rye groats on the table. Marischino cherries are being spooned into someone's drink. Dried apricots, Mexican coffee, porcelain, Reggiano+Boerenkaas...
Heavy flavors dwell impossibly atop a humble stream of baked, pressed apples and chai. They include suggestions of brown bananas, bitter, sour chestnuts and green grapes.

This is a tour de force...way beyond what I was expecting.

Must age some of these

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Photo of marburg
4.82/5  rDev +38.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This highly aromatic brew pours calm and dark like a pond just after dusk. The lack of head is a little disturbing until you begin smelling and tasting the beer. Aromas of cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, and exotic spices that I'm not nearly cultured enough to identify. The flavor is highly dynamic, turning on a dime. Highly sweet fruit flavors -- apricots or peaches -- with malty and syrupy sweetness is spun around to a spicy combination of Indian spiced tea, nutmg, cinnamon, and pepper. This is one of the finest Christmas ales I can think of -- an alcoholic warmer with a huge dessert potential to match any holiday cookies, spiced apples, and a number of other festive foods. I've been hanging on to this since Christmas, and I've got another to cellar to mellow it out a bit and see what else this beer can do. It's a great one.

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Photo of Murph
4.64/5  rDev +33.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark amberish orange color with almost no head. The smell is alcohol, caramel, and slight cherry. The first sip is very tart with a slight sweetness to it and lots of warming alcohol. I agree with Venom on the cherry sweetness and apple like tartness but I am not getting any cinnamon or nutmeg. Some slight caramel notes and some other small complexities that I can't quite figure out. The mouthfeel is nice and tangy and this beer is definitely pretty drinkable. This is a strange brew. On the first sip I thought that I had made a big mistake buying it, on the second sip I thought that it wasn't that bad, and by the time I got to the bottom of the glass I was wishing I had some of this on hand for some nice cold winter nights. The alcohol is somewhat assertive but it warms the body which I like in a winter brew. The tangy tartness is very different but very welcome as well. I really liked this beer and I would highly recommend it.

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Photo of kyleec
4.52/5  rDev +30.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From a 2003 bottle into a goblet.

A - reddish brown and absolutely no head at all.

S - Strong alcohol, raisin, clove, and fruit.

T - I'm not a brandy drinker, but in my poor recollection, this reminds me a lot of a brandy or some other such brown liquor. I got a fruity tartness with spices and a sweet raisin character. Fairly dry. Too much complexity for my novice palate to give due justice. This was an awesome beer. The drinkability is there, but I wouldn't have more than one. That one is a pure delight, though.

This tasted very different from any other beer I've had, and in a good way.

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Photo of francisweizen
4.5/5  rDev +29.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2001 Vintage. This stuff is a murky brown colour reminiscent of an unfiltered, cask-conditioned, real cider. Did Westons make this stuff? The aromas are very spicy, fruity, malty and complex. There is definately some cinnamon, and nutmeg in there, and an aroma that reminds me of blood pudding as well. The taste is pretty excellent. Chai, spiced cider, nutmeg, various fruits, a bit of lactic sour funk, and more. The mouthfeel is nice and full and the drinkability is excellent as well. I'd write more, but this one is kind of hard to explain. An amazingly complex beer from George Gale and Co. I should buy a few of these to cellar and drink at a later date. My local store has a stock pile of these for only $2.99 a bottle. Perhaps a trip is in order soon?

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Photo of packetknife
4.44/5  rDev +28%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A bit of sweetness, caramel, chococate... spicy/cinnamon is the strongest character. Smells wonderful. Awfully pricey but for a once-a-year it's a nice investment. I had it with Indian food and it was quite good.

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Photo of Todd
4.4/5  rDev +26.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 9.3 oz thick brown custom bottle -- short, fat body, long neck. Stopped with a cork and sealed with a plastic neck wrap.

Appearance: A cloudy beer leaning towards brown in colour with amber-red hues. Pours a thin, but very creamy, tightly laced head.

Smell: Strong baked spice aromas of cinnamon and clove, with apple -- like apple pie.

Taste: Extremely smooth with a light, creamy, fluffy body. Quite tart initially, which is both unexpected and welcomed, with near sharp cherry, cranberry and sour apple flavours. It then smooths into an even more complex flavour of juicy raisins, leaving behind a leafy raw feel on the palate with fresh bitter tones. Burnt sugar flavours follow and help to subdue the tartness, then are rounded-off with dashes of cinnamon, faint clove and dare I say ... faint oregano and spruce? The experience is like taking a bite of a tart apple pie. Alcohol is warming and brings much cheer. Finish is leafy and very dry.

Notes: The most complex and enjoyable winter seasonal that I have had this year. Absolutely brilliant and an absolute treasure amongst the slew of boring seasonals.

Christmas Ale is naturally conditioned, which means there's yeast in the bottle. Just ensure that allow it to rest for sometime before serving to allow the yeast to compact, then uncork and pour with care. You could also age this beer upright in a basement for many years, and unleash at a later date to see how it matures.

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Photo of Weissenheimer
4.39/5  rDev +26.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is one of the most visually distinctive beers I've ever poured. The interior of the glass is completely coated with soda-sized bubbles. The smallish bubbly head sits atop the hazy brown, almost muddy-looking fluid. The lovely smell is just as distinctive. It's spicy, but with a creamy vanilla constituent which I associate strongly with homemade whipped cream.

The taste is every bit as striking as the appearance and smell. It's very carbonated and spicy, with lots of milky, creamy caramel and a licorice overtone. It's somewhat medicinal, but not in a bad way. The carbonation is omnipresent but never quite overdone. The medicinal licorice flavor reminds me of some Belgian styles I've tasted - perhaps North Coast Pranqster? - but is nonetheless unique.

This is fantastic stuff. The inital taste is rich and creamy, and this gives way to a bitter licorice taste in the middle. The licorice flavor persists into the slightly hoppy, medicinal finish. Gotta get me some more of this.

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Photo of jreitman
4.32/5  rDev +24.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very aromatic. Aromas I picked up on were a floral spiciness, vanilla, cloves, and nutmeg. All aromas made it into the flavor profile where they took turns coming out. Flavors and aromas really started to open up as the beer warmed. I quite liked this one to my surprise.

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Photo of Viking
4.2/5  rDev +21%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Red-amber brew with very little head and carbonation. Smell is vinous, with a spicy malty (butterscotch and caramel) presence. Nice malty flavor, with strong presence of slightly tart fruit and light spices - cinnamon and clove I think. Dry finish, with spices lingering on the palate. Served rather cold for my tastes. I'd like to try this one at room temperature (or warmer!)

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Photo of Shiredave
4.19/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Cask conditioned but unfortunatly not hand drawn. Hazy, reddish brown color with a sparse ring of head. Aromas of freshly sliced apples with nutmeg and sugar waiting to be baked in a pie.... in a wet basement. Caramel and more apple pie spice flavors roll smoothly over the tongue, very candy like up front but firm earthy flavoring hops push in and finish this medium bodied classic with a hoppy dryness that lingers along with the apple pie juice.
Rich in malt and expertly flavored, IMHO this one sets the standard for a ( British style) spiced Winter Warmer.

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Photo of beerluvr
4.17/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured with not much of a head at all, over dense brownish liquid. Lots of apple pie spice & cinnamon in the nose with some mustiness present. Taste is at first tart, with more of that great apple pie/cinnamon flavor, not at all hoppy. Finishes dry and winey, very of the best, if not THE best British Xmas ales I've tried so far. I'm gonna cellar the remaing bottle and see what comes of it.

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Photo of RedBaron
4.17/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A nice Christmas offering from Gale's. The 9.3 oz. bottle comes corked with red sealing wax.

Appearance: Dense bronze, with a faint, sustaining head.
Smell: Spices, nuts. Wonderful aroma. What you'd hope for in a well-made English Christmas ale.
Taste: Lots of spices up front (cinnamon, raisin and even perhaps some honey), a yeasty middle and a nice, dry finish. The tongue wants more after each sip, but must be careful as this beer is pretty strong...
Mouthfeel: Buttery, and fairly well-balanced. The alcohol notes in the finish let ya know this is a serious winter warmer/Christmas ale -- one to be respected and enjoyed slowly.
Drinkability: Good Christmas beer for any lover of the English holiday style. I would love to try this beer in a vintage flight.

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Photo of BeardedSquash
4.17/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bought a 9.3 oz bottle, also at McScrooges in Knoxville. One of many good brews I’ve found tucked away in that store.

A: A murky cola colored pour with no signs of life. No head, no carbonation, but some legs while I drank. It looks more like a flat soda than a beer. I'm not going to knock an aged beer too much for looking old, but if I didn't know the vintage, I would have guessed much older than 5 years.

S: Wood and cider smells take the forefront right off the bat. A mix of fruits, somewhere between plum and apricot take up as it warms, but a heavy leather smell oversees everything throughout. It reminds me of my grandfather's basement workshop for some reason, dusty and organic.

T: Sour malts mixed with a bit of spruce that lingers on the tongue after the swallow. The whole thing is very vinous with the woody backdrop. Tart cherries and brown sugar flow well with the acidic effects of the aging.

M: As dead as it looked, the mouthfeel could be considered to be in a coma. Only a faint hint of carbonation. Feels somewhat like a prematurely corked wine. Old ales will die out with age, but again, this one seems older than 5 years. Works well with the flavors though.

D: This is a great beer to sip at the end of the night. I had it with a black forest cake and the acidity of the beer was the perfect compliment to the sweetness of the desert.

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Photo of Mitchster
4.13/5  rDev +19%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2001 edition.
Pours out to a very cloudy amber, barely forming a beige head with no retention or lacing. Carbonation is mild to moderate with bits of cork sinking to the bottom of my snifter, despite not having pierced it. Mouthfeel is tart and pleasantly astringent, sustaining my interest throughout the bottle. Medium-firm body. Aroma is immediately vinous with port, whiskey, ginger and very faint cinnamon. Immediate taste is of tobacco, followed by a spicy Belgian sourness, a dry and peppery blast of spices with an astringent bite of prune juice and sour crab apples. Funky sourness makes it interesting, and gives it a nice Belgian twang. The malt body is dank and musty. The alcohol is strong, but doesn't contain any obtrusive fusels or acetones, making it more palatable. The finish is woody and fruity. The level of bitterness is well-balanced with everything that's going on here.

I didn't know what to make of this upon smelling it, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is probably the most "Non-English" English brew I've ever had. Tasting closer to something DeDolle might make, this was a rewarding brew to drink. Was it worth $3.99 a bottle? Probably not, but I could see this one growing on me.
Many thanks to The Blue Goat for supporting my addiction!

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Photo of GClarkage
4.12/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

02/04/05- Purchased at Beverages and More in San Mateo, CA

Presentation- 2004 Version. Small stubby 9.3oz sealed and corked bottle. Poured into my Maredsous glass.

Appearance- Small 1/4-1/2 inch head that slowly erodes, but near the end there is still a tad left. Cloudy iced tea colored with average lacing.

Smell- Heavy on the cinnimon and nutmeg. A bit of clove-like scents plus some alcohol fumes.

Taste- Almost indentical taste to the scent. Nutmeg is most prominent with cinnimon not too far behind. A bit of alcohol in the background, but not too overpowering. Flavors come through big time after this thing gets to room temperature. I guess my mistake for only waiting 30 minutes from taking it out of my DBF.

Mouthfeel- Moderate carbonation with a tad bit of thickness.

Drinkability- I have no problem with picking up one of these each winter. A bit expensive for 9.3oz though. I think I paid as much as $4.99 for this little guy. Good deal though. Pick it up for the experience.

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Photo of rkhaze
4.07/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours out a bright red/orange color with a quickly dissapating, big bubbled light beige head.
Sweet malt, ripe fruit and baking spice aromas.
Nice flavor. Sweet bready malt and brandy soaked candied fruits spiked with hints of cinnamon and clove. It finishes with a rich caramel taste and a tart element that cuts the richness a bit and gives it an overall complexity. Well done!
Medium bodied but with a rather thinnish, pallid mouthfeel.
Really an up and down beer for me. Had its good and bad points. The alcohol was hidden well. Definitly a sipper.

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Photo of Dithyramb
4.04/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Enjoyed on cask at Max’s in Baltimore just yesterday while playing pool and watching bowl games. I’ve seen this one in bottle form, but it was always one of those “British corked brews”—I’ve had one too many bad ones of those. According to Casey at Max’s, the brew was still right, tight and drinkable. It was served at proper temperature in an imperial pint glass.

Poured chestnut brown and murky, with a limited beige head that rose and fell quite quickly. Limited rings of lacing. Not much carbonation trying to push through the brew either.

Had a “different” aroma to it that I didn’t expect. The usual winter warmer spicy character was there, but the spices were decidedly different. Though you would normally get a few cinnamon whiffs and such, I was certain to have detected some cardamom and sour apples steeping in rotgut whiskey.

Spicy, sour, and creamy brew, if that makes sense at all. Flavors of nutmeg, ginger, and some cinnamon were here, but there is a sourness that comes through that is lambic-like in quality. Tart, sour, homemade apple pie surges in the middle of the flavor very lightly. Very light hop bitterness poking in that was stealthy and unassertive. Mouthfeel was smooth and creamy. The cask may have helped this a bit, since the special flavor qualities and low carbonation would have been problematic otherwise.

Overall, I felt it was interesting, different, and subtle. I’d like to enjoy it fresh and on tap in England though. I’ll still keep away from those corked traveled bottles. I doubt those qualities will transfer well.

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Photo of alexgash
4/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hazy, light copper body with a good-sized off-white head. Smell: spicy malt, cork (oaky), tangy yeast, and candied hops. Interesting...for an English ale. More like a Belgian variety. Tangy sweet malts: caramel, honey, apple and spice. This is followed by tangy, citrusy hops. This is the sourest English ale I've ever had. I like the balance here, and there's plenty of alcohol to boot. Big body in a small package, with perhaps a bit too much alcohol character.

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Photo of Rochefort10nh
4/5  rDev +15.3%

Photo of NeroFiddled
3.99/5  rDev +15%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I first had this beer somewhere around '97 and found it quite tart. I thought that the beer had soured. I tried it again in 2001 alongside some of the other Gale's specialties. My opinion remained the same. This particular bottle dated 2001 has probably sat in one place in my cellar for a year and a half, and then a month or so in the fridge. I pulled it out and allowed it to warm to about 45-50F. I poured it carefully into a goblet and received a just-slightly-hazy body. The aroma was very nice with a gently caramelish malt, some apple-like fruitiness, a touch of spice (cinnamon, nutmeg) and some evident alcohol. The flavor displayed a similar maltiness and I was quite surprised that it was not nearly as tart as I'd remembered it. Then I made the mistake of pouring the yeast... it completely changed the beer by adding back that tart and vinous character. However, as it can't be expected that everyone cellar their bottles for a year and a half in one spot, I'll have to review it as is. But if you have the chance, pour it carefully and leave that last half ounce of yeasty sediment behind!

The body displays a hazy marmalade when held to the light, but takes on a darker, more reddish appearance when sitting on the table. Initially a short head of loose, off-white foam comes up; but it drops slowly to a thin cap, and then just a minor collar. A swirl of the glass will bring some of it back up, but it never leaves anything more than just a bit of short-lived spotty lace about the glass. The nose displays a vinous character similar to red wine, some sugary malt, a touch of spice, and some alcohol. It's medium bodied with an exceptionally fine and very low-key carbonation (<1.9 volumes CO2/litre) that leaves it quite supple and velvety smooth across the palate. The flavor starts with a swirl of mildly tart cherry-like fruitiness upfront, backed by some soft caramel. Some more cherry and a hit of raisin/plum appears as it crosses the palate; and the alcohol rises in a bone-dry finish along with some residual spiciness, a sprig of dried pine, and some eventual green grape astringency. Overall it's fairly nice, and it actually rounds a bit more as it warms beyond cellar temperature (although the alcohol becomes clearer as well).

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Photo of kunzbrew
3.97/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This brew pours a rich amber color with no head. Lace is non-existent. A cidery nose is present with no hop or malt aroma. The first sip is very cidery, it is almost like drinking a hard cider. The finish is the same way filled with cider. This is not what I expected out if this beer.


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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.97/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2003 vintage. Considerably murky tawny that looks remarkably like sweet apple cider. The head isn't really a head at all, at least not in the conventional sense. A somewhat vigorous pour has resulted in a loose collection of big bubbles that are rapidly dying as I watch and are now all but gone. As there was nothing present to create any lace, the glass is spotlessly clean. Tough call on the appearance, but the so-called head was so pathetic that I can only be so kind.

Christmas Ale begins to gain some measure of respectability with the nose. Its primary feature is sweet, dried fruits such as spiced apples, golden raisins and, perhaps, figs. I don't appreciate any of the darker fruits such as black currants, raisins or prunes. It smells, in a sense, like a golden fruit version of Christmas fruitcake.

It has taken me a couple of sips and much rolling around of beer on tongue, but this is a pretty decent winter warmer. While the fruitcake comparison is still relevent, it's a cake that's heavy on sour fruit and light on wintery spices. Keeping the analogy alive (long past its usefulness perhaps), the fruitcake is coated with a sweet sauce that has been lightly spiked with white rum. The mouthfeel is lightly syrupy and matches the flavor profile perfectly.

Gale's Christmas Ale is a sipper that should be enjoyed by those who don't normally care for higher ABV beer (the 9.3 oz. will be gone before they know it). This is the first of many winter warmers for me this holiday season. It was nice to start things off with a good one.

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Photo of Brian700
3.94/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This pours a cloudy amber ale with not much of a head. What head there is sits an off-white color but does not stick around very long. It smells strongly of alcohol and darker fruits, maybe dates and brown sugar. It also tastes of darker fruits and apples with a little trace of cinnamon but not much. There is some nutmeg flavor in the finish. The mouthfeel is good, medium body and good carbonation. I think it is a good Holiday beer. I will definately have one of these on Christmas and then move on to something else. Go ahead and give it a shot.

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Photo of marcobrau
3.93/5  rDev +13.3%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Christmas in July! I saw this bottle at Binny's in Glen Ellyn, Ill., for $1.29 and couldn't pass it up. It seemed like they were clearing out some Christmas brews. I figured this brew would still be in good shape after noting the 8.5 percent alcohol on the label.

This amber-colored ale poured with a lot, and I mean of LOT of carbonation, which oddly enough, dissipates rather quickly leaving the beer almost flat. Asr things calm down, I can't help noticing the nutty, musty and yeasty aroma of this beer. This beer takes me back to when I would go to my Grandmother's house around Christmas and she would always have a bowl of mixed nuts (in the shell) in wooden bowl. I think her favorite nut was called a Filbert and that's what this beer smells like -- Filberts -- with a little bit of Grandma's basement thrown in the mix. A musty sort of smell. I also can pick up a hint of cinnamon in the aroma, too. Albeit a bit odd, I really like the aroma of this beer.

The flavors are not as interesting as the aroma of this beer. The nutty character in the aroma translates at least partially into the flavor of this ale. The body seems a bit thin and the mouthfeel a bit dry and almost tannic. The finish is a touch tawny (and tannic) with warming sensation of alcohol. A tasty enough winter warmer, but it could use a bit more body and less tannin.

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Gale's Christmas Ale from George Gale & Company Ltd
Beer rating: 3.47 out of 5 with 77 ratings
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