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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

Bros Score:
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Ratings: 77 |  Reviews: 70
Photo of t0rin0
3.5/5  rDev +0.9%

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 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 Jason
3.32/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

2001 vintage.

Nice tawny sunset hue, I though the lace was going to totally poop out but it stayed nearly the duration. Candied fruit, yeast, mild spice and lemon zest in the aroma. Very ester with some solvent alcohol on the palate, fruity with a woody spice duo. Flat maltiness with some coarse leafy hop flavour.

Tasty but not a beer I'd go back to. The alcoholic character brings this brew way out of balance.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
3.65/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Is a 9.3 oz. bottle ever worth $4.39 per, as I paid for it? Well, you never know, and that's the curse of the quest, the downside of trial and error, sometimes you try and you erred...This is my first sample, the 2003 edition, with jolly old St. Nick holding a chalice of ale aloft on the label, with a beatific smile on his cherubic countenance...is it this brew that brings such bliss about? Let us see!
Appearance: pours out a beautiful, bright cherry red color, with a thick, frothy, light tan-toned head of foam atop, which stays awhile before dwindling off.
Aroma: unusual, at the start. Arousing at first, lovely, heady and deep, with flowering fruitiness, sharp green apple foremost, plus citrus, grape, very rich and ripe.
Taste: those fruity flavors return on the palate, with apple still predominant, with it gets mixed-up, maybe even coagulated, and tossed among other sensations also, some woodiness, a bit of nuts, something wholly foreign to a typical beer experience, especially from an English brewery. Toward the end, too, the alcohol content starts to kick and thoroughly coats the mouth, stick on the palate good and will not quit. Body is near-to -full, finish is medium, and propelled by that appley taste.
Not what I look for in a Christmas-type of brew (what is that, though, anyway?), and I can't say that I was altogether thrilled by the peculiar flavor, but an admirable oddity is how I'll put it. Worth over $4 for under 10 oz.? Oh, no!

Five years later...it's damned good. Tasted the same, apples and raisins...but...yum,it is tasty.

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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 Rochefort10nh
4/5  rDev +15.3%

Photo of Gueuzedude
3.85/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

With a very careful pour it only produces a three-finger thick, somewhat tightly beaded, tan colored head. The beer is a brilliantly clear, deep orangish tinted, copper color when held up to the light, but is otherwise a dull, albeit fairly dark, cranberry color. A wonderfully tart character greets my nose as I am inspecting this beer. A mix of tart cherry, green apple and some definite aromas of white wine vinegar. Woody aromas of damp oak, leather, as well as full on funky notes of moldy cotton, barnyard aromatics & interesting sharp acidic notes. This is definitely quite a bit more funky than when I last had this. It has a really nice, vibrant fruity character to it underneath all of the funk though; at times it has a distinct, candied cherry note to it.

Very lightly sweet and definitely well carbonated, the beer has a distinct spice flavor to it that was expected, but not really noticed in the aroma. The spices add a sharp, woody, bitter astringency to the finish of this brew. Definitely tart though, the acidity adds a nice touch to this brew. Sort of chalky, lactic, green apple, star-fruit, tannic oak, a touch of urea, almond, nutmeg, a touch of apricot pit and a touch of butterscotch form a mix of flavors all which I can't quite discern. As the beer warms the astringent spice notes tend to die down a bit and the tart / funky character becomes a bit more noticeable. This is definitely quite a nice brew at this stage, and I definitely prefer this brew when it gets more towards the funky side of the spectrum.

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Photo of Bitterbill
3.75/5  rDev +8.1%

Photo of jdhilt
2.81/5  rDev -19%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a 5+ finger cream head that goes slowly and leaves a good lace. Cloudy amber color with yeast left in bottle. Light carbonation and medium bodied. Nose is apple cider. Starts with a strong flavor of sour apples, the high abv is not noticeable, finish is sour, hops are hidden. 275ml bottle for $4.39 from Tully's Beer & Wine Wells, Me.

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Photo of BGsWo22
2/5  rDev -42.4%

Photo of scruffwhor
2.93/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 9.3oz corked bottle.

Appearance- Pours a caramel and copper color with a lot of suspended sediment. I gave this brew about ten minutes to settle before drinking. The head was about two fingers, but bad retention with a foamy film lasting about 50% of the volume of beer consumed.

Smell- Starts out a malty mix of cinnamon and nutmeg, but then turns into a sour mix of the two aforementioned spices.

Taste- Starts out a sweet and sour mix of christmas. Nut and cinnamon dancing with a hint of sugary plums to boot. This quickly leads to a pretty acidic flavor.

I saw this beer in the bargain bin at Binny's in Glen Ellyn for $2.99. Im not gonna say I got what I paid for, but with a beer of this strength and a corked bottle to boot, I was expecting more.

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Photo of DrJay
2.52/5  rDev -27.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

This beer came in a corked bottle and poured a mostly clear, caramel colour. There was little head and nearly no carbonation to it. There was plenty of spicy nutmeg aroma along with mild fruit and a wine-like character. Nutmeg was dominant in the flavour as well, with a bit of cinnamon and sweetness thrown in. Moderate bitterness lingered into the finish where grape flavour kicked in as well. Medium bodied with some alcohol warmth. This really didn't work for me. It finished weaker than I would have liked and the extremely low carbonation just didn't cut it. Thanks Zithal!

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Photo of Hellpop65
3/5  rDev -13.5%

Photo of warnerry
1.77/5  rDev -49%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

2001 Vintage into a tulip. Cork is very dry and breaks on the way out. Not a good sign. But there is a slight release pf CO2 after pushing the remaining end of cork into the bottle.

A - That must have been all the CO2 left, as this pours with absolutely no head Pours a murky brown with a couple cork bits floating on top (which I'll blame on user error).

S - Lots of caramel, a bit of cardboard and quite a spice presence. A bit odd overall. Cardboard suggests this is way past it's prime.

T - Quite bit tart up front, with a big caramel malt presence. Some fruit: apple, raisin and a bit of cherry. Pretty unpleasant overall. Was hard to drink enough to get the flavor profile.

M - Medium mouthfeel and completely flat.

O - Well this is clearly way past it's prime. I knew it was a gamble, and it didn't pay off. Drank enough to review and poured the rest. Would love to know what this tastes like fresh.

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Photo of Dogbrick
3.57/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2002 Bottle: This isn't the first corked beer I have had, but it is definitely the first corked beer I have needed a corkscrew to open! Pours a dark reddish-mahogany color with virtually no head or lacing. Aroma of alcohol, raisins and grapes, and spice. Flavor is malty and spiced with some nutmeg. I found it a little earthy but thin. I think I may look for this one again next year.

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Photo of RoyalT
3.35/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance – The thick, dirty brown liquid was topless. Where’s the head?

Smell – The sugary malts were good but covered with boozy alcohol.

Taste – I really enjoyed the sugar and dark fruits, especially the raisins and cranberries, but the alcohol really trumped any subtlety in the flavors.

Mouthfeel – This medium-bodied bottle of booze was as flat as Whitney Houston before her boob job.

Drinkability – The lack of complexity, flat mouthfeel, and stinging alcohol makes this a one time effort.

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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 TheLongBeachBum
3.82/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: The classic Gales Prize Old Ale bottle, a short 9.3 fl.oz. (275ml) stubby with the thin neck, is put to good use again. Covered in tight fitting red plastic “foil”, which has a small red tab allowing you to easily remove the upper lid which revealed a clean looking fresh cork. The main label is appropriately festive with a grizzled looking Father Christmas raising a goblet of Ale. Strength listed as 8.5% Vol. This is a 2003 Bottling.

Appearance: The cork was in excellent condition, it’s almost white in appearance, but easily extracted. The body of the beer is a turbid chestnut brown color, the head suitably beige in character but very thin, it tried hard to form a semblance of a decent covering but failed. But this is not ‘flat’ far from it, a myriad of bubbles form on all the inner surfaces of my McEwan’s Scotch Ale Glass. Usually this is the sign of a dirty glass, but as I cleaned it scrupulously, I know that can’t be the case. A slow tip of the glass reveals dissolved carbonation when the Glass is uprighted, but not that much.

Nose: Apples & sour Fruits mixed with a hint of Scotch Whisky. Strange, hardly a Xmas beer in nose, or character. Different.

Taste: There is for certain a large dollop of Nutmeg and Cinnamon in here, and I get hints of dry Ginger also at the back end. Has a spiced Cider feel to it at times. In fact the whole beer reminds me of some home-made spiced Apple Pies that I used to eat when I was in the South of England. Quite weird, but strangely likeable. This is quite a sharp, tart beer with some gingery bitterness in the finish. I found much more to the flavor profile in this beer as it warmed, as with all of the George Gale beers, even Cask-only ones.

Mouthfeel: This has quite a thin average mouthfeel at first, well when fresh at least. Feels light and is easily swirled, but as the beer warms to ambient the higher alcohols make themselves known and give the beer more body.

Drinkability: Average Drinkability when chilled, much more rewarding as it warms to room temperature. A light chilled 68 Degree afternoon in Long Beach is not the best time to drink this beer I suppose. I close my eyes and see the flaming Coal Fire that was always roaming in my Local when I lived back in England – then it was easy to drink.

Overall: I have two more of these 2003's, and it will be interesting to see how they develop in 2004 and 2005.

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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 Brent
3.08/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

2002 vintage, it seemed a bit weary of the wait. Clean, tight cork. Minimal carbonation. Very vinegary and tart, like hard cider with sort of a fruity Belgian twist. Prunes hang around in the background. Not quite as hefty as it seems it ought to be to carry the flavor profile. Not a bad beer, but it did not engage me.

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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 tgbljb
3.73/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a cloudy brown color with virtually no head.
Smell presents with a bit of fruit, but really nothing notable.
Taste shows more of the fruitiness, and somewhat resembles a liquid fruit cake.
The ending allows more of a hoppiness to present itself.
The alcohol is extremely well hidden.
Nothing that great as compared with other winter warmers I've had. Not worth the price

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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 brewdlyhooked13
3.6/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Very nice presentation with Santa on the label, very festive and I like the English style bottle, too. Christmas in June!

Pours a soft, muted red, rather cloudy at first but clarifies as it sits in the glass while one takes notes on its appearance... No head and no carbonation, rather ordinary there, but maybe Appearance is not this beer's strong suit.

Aroma is fruity, vinous, grape-like, I'm not picking up much spice on the nose.

Taste is very wine-like. Very fruity up front, resolving to a raisiny, alcohol taste. As the aftertaste begins to develop, I pick up some spiciness, but cannot nail down anything specific. The window of opportunity there is small, too, for the aftertaste turns (pleasantly) sour and that takes over, lingering until the next sip.

Mouthfeel is thin and watery. This would probably be well served as a wassail, with a cinnamon stick (don't know how you feel about flavoring your beer, but this would enhance it a bit I think).

It's not my favorite, but it would be very relaxing and soothing on a wintry or rainy evening, I could make an evening out of several, wrapping presents, listening to Christmas music, etc. Just think - only 185 days until Christmas!!!

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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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