Christmas Ale | Sly Fox Brewing Company

very good
418 Ratings
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Christmas AleChristmas Ale

Brewed by:
Sly Fox Brewing Company
Pennsylvania, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
This malty, full-bodied red ale is made with traditional mulling spices: Ginger, Clove, All Spice, Cinnamon & Nutmeg. If this one doesn't get you into the Christmas spirit, you truly are a Scrooge.

Bottled: 16.0 OG | 16 IBUs | 6.5% ABV

Canned: 14.0 OG | 16 IBUs | 5.5% ABV

Added by NeroFiddled on 11-24-2002

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Reviews: 181 | Ratings: 418
Photo of Sammy
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Mostly foamy head on orange body. Medium mouthfeel,lots of spice, not too crazy on the ginger, then there is nutmeg, orange, cinammon, clove. Hops back there, and not bitter. Kind of thrown all together, a spicy flavour beer.Not my best Sly Fox, but quaffable.

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Photo of metter98
3.9/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is relatively clear amber in color and has a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger and a half high dense light beige colored head that gradually died down but left a large pillow of bubbles in the center of the glass, a collar around the edge, and lots of lacing down the sides of the glass.
S: The smell has a mixture of Christmas spice aromas in the nose—nutmeg and gingerbread seem to stand out in particular.
T: Like the smell, the taste is rather spicy but has a gingerbread-like sweetness and is almost like having a liquid gingerbread man.
M: It feels medium-bodied and somewhat smooth on the palate with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: I found this to be a nice Christmas winter warmer that had a good balance between the malty sweetness and spices—neither of which really stood out in particular. It is a nice choice for the holiday season.

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Photo of oberon
4.3/5  rDev +14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Another great offering from Sly Fox pours a deep red with some copper tints with a real nice fluffy head that leaves some nice lacing on its way down,aroma is of allspice and cinnamon with some light metallic hints.A real fine tasting brew cinnamon is the dominant taste I get with some light allspice notes a nice malty/bready backbone to makes it very appetizing.Gotta growler of it and now enjoying at home.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.06/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Update: I've adjusted my numbers based on this year's version, but my original review follows. I didn't find the finesse in the spice and malt that I found before. In fact, I thought that the spicing was a little heavy handed, yet dull. Hopefully next year's batch will be better.

- I haven't had a beer that's really turned my head in a while, but this is one of them. The body is a clear auburn topped by a thin, creamy ivory head that holds quite well and leaves some lace throughout the glass. The aroma entices you with a combination of lightly sweet biscuity malt & gentle spices (cinnamon & ginger) that's reminiscent of gingerbread. The body is medium with a very fine & moderate carbonation that leaves it smooth & creamy in the mouth. The flavor is very similar to the aroma, starting with a soft biscuity malt that reveals some sweeter caramel/toffee and light chocolatey notes as it warms and the mild spices start to appear. But the true spice character appears just as you swallow, with a vast array of flavors bursting forth including cinnamon, ginger, all-spice, nutmeg and clove. This is where the beer offers some complexity - certain spices will appear more clearly to you with each further sip. The spices continue to swirl about the mouth in a gently lingering aftertaste that generally dries with some clove character. Hop bitterness is well-heeled to allow the spice to do its job. Amazingly well-done for such a difficult style. The spice is fresh and vibrant, yet delicate. Restrained balance is obvious, and the way that the spice flavors play-off of the malt character is exquisite. An exceptional holiday treat. I may have to find myself some holiday shopping to do in Phoenixville so that I can get another growler before it's all gone! Absolutely worth seeking out.

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Photo of Rifugium
4.12/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First had: bottle from Pinocchio's beer garden, Media, PA

Loved this. Poured a hazy copper color with a nice thick head of delicate eggshell bubbles. Spicy aroma! Lots of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a sweet toffee base. Similar to the aroma, big cinnamon up front in the taste, all spice and nutmeg underneath the cinnamon, rich toffee, caramel malts, and ginger snaps. Complex and spicy. Medium-bodied and very smooth, and super drinkable.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.53/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Massively carbonated red-orange-copper with tangerine edges; a festive looking beer (what I can see of it that is). The orange-accented, light caramel-colored cap is frothysoft and is still filling more than half the glass after several minutes time. Another pour contributes to the immense rockiness of the head and I'm beginning to be reminded of a few Belgian ales that I've poured recently. All in all, a very nice look for a holiday beer.

I love Christmas spices and once I found out which 'mulling spices' were used, I was sure that I'd love the aroma. Not so fast. It isn't a bad nose, but it doesn't do the ingredients justice in my mind. There's no way that I could pick them all out, so I'll just list them: ginger, clove, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. The beer smells like a toasted, sweetly malty red ale with a nutmeg and ginger infusion.

The flavor is more to my liking than is the nose, but I'll require a lot more beer to come to a decision between pretty good and unquestionably good. Good thing that it's a 750 ml bottle. My first thought is that the beer lacks subtlety. It's full of flavor (many different flavors in fact), but it tastes muddled and run together rather than having that multi-faceted, separate-yet-works-well-together complexity that all good, boldly flavored beer has.

The malt base is solid and reminds me of toasted brown bread soaked in melted caramels. It isn't as sweet as that sounds however. The bitterness of the hops and the rampant spice load have seen to that. As in the nose, nutmeg seems to have been added with the heaviest hand. My suggestion to Sly Fox would be to either cut back on the number of spices (three well-chosen ones should do) or to cut back on the total amount. A sledgehammer isn't needed where a ballpeen hammer will do.

The body matches the ABV more than the flavor. This really is a light-medium beer, not a full, syrupy sipper. Come to think of it, it might be better at 8% with a generous mouthfeel and a seriously restricted amount of carbonation. More to consider Sly Fox; I'm only trying to help.

2005 Christmas Ale looks good--both the bottle itself and the beer that exits the bottle--but doesn't quite measure up to my expectations. I hope that the brewery changes thing up each holiday season, because with a few tweaks this one could be a contender.

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Photo of smcolw
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2010 Christmas Ale version

Impressive four finger head.  Settles rockily.  Appears clear.  The color is light brown. Despite holding the head exceptionally well, there's very little lace. 

Smells a little earthy, light yeast bite. 

The spice really shows up in the flavor (I didn't notice it in the smell). There's some earthiness and darker malt flavors. I can't detect any hop, but that's okay given the style. 

The body is as expected. 

Overall a classically, highly spiced winter ale. 

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Photo of mikesgroove
3.68/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Big thanks to my secret santa for sending me this and the 08 version to do a nice little vertical with. I went with this one first, the corked and caged 750 ml bottle beckoned me with its yule tide presence. Served chilled and poured into a snifter, this one was consumed on 12/14/2008.

The pour was nice with a rich brown color with some nice light highlights around the side and bottom. A nice tan head rose up to three inches above the surface before settling down into a full crown with modest side glass lace.

The aroma was charged with ginger and cinnamon. Lots of spice here with only a modest touch of anything else to balance it out in any way. The flavor was more of the same, big, rich, and loaded down with tons of spice. Light cherry notes coming through as it warmed but this one was pretty one sided. Nice feel though as th smooth consistent carbonation kept it pretty well grounded, a nice sippable beer.

Overall not bad. It did not come across as too big at all, in fact it was just about right. A solid offering for sure and something I cannot wait to see how the 2008 edition came out.

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Photo of womencantsail
3.78/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks for sharing this one, Bobby.

A: The beer pours amber in color with a very, very large tan head.

S: There is no mistaking the spices/flavorings in this beer. Tons of ginger right away followed by clove and nutmeg. The cinnamon and all spice there, but seemingly not as intense as some of the other additives. Underneath it all, there is a decent enough bread and toffee character.

T: Things are pretty much the same on the palate. Lots of ginger, with an almost gingerbread type of flavor. There is a pleasing sweetness that works well with the typical winter types of spices used in this beer.

M: The body is medium with a moderate to high level of carbonation.

D: For a spiced winter beer, this was very nicely done. While the ginger was the strongest of the flavors, none of them were overdone.

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Photo of woodychandler
3.83/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

It is Christmas evening/night 2014 and I just realized that I have never reviewed this beer from a CAN. It seems like an appropriate moment to further The CANQuest (tm)!

From the CAN: "Season's Greetings!"; "Ale with Ginger, Cinnamon, Allspice, Nutmeg & Cloves"; "It's a real gift that we are able to gather round with family and friends to enjoy a most special brew accented by mulling spices and aromas which recall near-forgotten holiday memories."; "Enjoy Anywhere. Recycle Everywhere."

Following the Crack!, I celebrated Christmas with an inverted Glug, resulting in two-plus fingers of foamy, rocky, tawny head with moderate retention. Color was Deep Amber/Light Copper to Copper (SRM = > 13, < 17) with NE-quality clarity. Nose was quite spicy, but it was impossible for me to discern one from another, although the cinnamon really cut through everything else. Mouthfeel was medium. The taste was an interesting mélange of spices, but the prevalent flavors were of ginger, cinnamon and cloves, at least in the mouth. Why do I mention it like that? Because I felt like I got the allspice and nutmeg on the finish. The finish was dry, as you might expect from such a highly spiced beer. It was an interesting beer and a nice way to celebrate Christmas, but one was enough.

My original bottle review, dtd 11 July 2005, follows:

Another Xmas in July Beer, courtesy of Scoats.

This had a huge, foamy tan head above a deep caramel brown color. It had an odd nose of malt, but underlain with a vinegar sharpness. It had a light to medium mouthfeel. It ws very malty in the mouth, but with a spicy bite like cinnamon and nutmeg, and perhaps allspice. As the beer warmed, the spices became more prevalent, both in the mouth and on the finish. This was very reminiscent of a pumpkin ale, with all of the spices going on.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
3.97/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bocktown Beer and Grill draft offering and first appearance of this one I have seen in Pittsburgh so far...appears a ruby amber tone with a nice sized off white cream head dwindles at a moderate pace leaves behind specks of scattered lacing on my pint glass. Aroma comes off initially with subtle spicing nutmeg, cinnamon, mild wood character along with a pronounced caramel malt sweetness that is balanced by pine cone scented hoppy accents. Flavor...the spices liven up a bit especially as it warms a multitude of Christmas spices really scream festivities and there's a great piney bitterness going on here that goes great with that caramel cinnamon slightly herbal tone. Mouthfeel is medium bodied ale with moderate carbonation somewhat noticeable residual sugars giving a mild syrupy character to the texture, overall a smooth flowing Christmas ale. Drinkability goes down nicely very entertained by Sly Fox once again I'm sure I will be sampling this one again in the next few weeks. A note from the website that the draft is 5.5% abv compared to the bottled was good just like all of the Sly Fox stuff that has crossed my palate.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
3.91/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Winter warmers are not usually my favorite beer. This is my first one for this winter season and I have no plans on trying another. That being said this is a pretty decent beer. I would say the only problem is that the flavor profile is so thick it's almost too chewy and there are too many spices in the mix. Nose is really nice, but overall, a bit too heavy. Could be thinned out.

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Photo of Billolick
3.5/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce can, Best By 03/24/14 printed on the bottom of the can.

Pours darker amber, minor khaki head, leaving a smattering of fine bits of scattered lacing.

Cinnamon dominates the nose as well as the palate. Hints of ginger but mostly cinnamon and more cinnamon. Too much cinnamon. Meh, not my favorite winter warmer, over spiced and under malted.

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Photo of jwc215
3.85/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750 ml cork-caged bottle:

A huge head took over the glass at first (despite slow decanting). But, it did settle quickly to reveal a reddish copper body with plenty of clarity. The head sat atop the body for most of the duration before becoming a patch.

The smell is spicy - ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves - just as listed on label - some maltiness in the back.

The taste is very spicy, especially at first (same as in aroma). The spiciness settles to reveal an underlying carmelized sweet maltiness. The spices almost take turns standing out. Sweetness becomes more dominant as it progresses with a balanced spicy finish.

The body could be heftier for a winter ale, but it fits in neatly to medium-bodied. There is a touch of an odd effervescence to it. Smooth despite spiciness.

A nicely spiced, fairly complex winter ale that is not overdone. A fine winter sipper.

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Photo of ShanePB
3.24/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Served on Christmas Day at lunch, part of my tradition to open a 2-year old vintage of Sly Fox Christmas Ale. Poured the 750 ml corked and caged bottle into a pint glass.

A: Holy gusher. Instantly foamed out the bottle, all over the floor until I poured some in a glass to create enough space in the bottle. I vaguely remember this happening last year with the 2008, so I'm not sure if it's a prolonged aging repercussion or what (the newer vintages do not have this issue fresh). Dark brown with a huge foamy, bubbly and fizzy off-white head. Nice retention and lace, but damn did the foam over hurt things.

S: The spices are still going strong - cinnamon, clove, ginger and slight faint caramel malts towards the end. The nutmeg I think is overwhelming in fresh bottles seems to have disappeared, it's still spicy and definitely has a slight booziness towards the back.

T: Nice and mellow - lots of cinnamon, caramel and dark malts with some very ripe dark fruits. Some fig, prune and more clove towards the back end. The finish certainly has an alcohol twinge present but it doesn't detract from anything.

M: Way too carbonated as evidenced from the opening and pour. Really too much, overly fizzy and a bit too scrubbing. The bottle conditioning just drove this one crazy over the past two years - simply over the top.

Still nice at the two year mark as the spices have mellowed and blended nicely. Some may have fallen off but it's still flavorful enough to be enjoyable. Watch for the gushing!

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Photo of Gavage
3.29/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: hazy copper in color with a big fluffy 3"+ head that lasts quite a while. Some moderate lacing developed.

Smell: caramel and spices are a bit softer than expected.

Taste: caramel, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, red grapes, black plums, and a hearty bitterness make up a nicely spicy winter time ale.

Mouthfeel: a bit too crisp for my liking for the style. Medium bodied. Spicy aftertaste is short-lived.

Drinkability: the bubbly / crisp mouthfeel was a bit of a turnoff for me as I wanted a more smoother mouthfeel with a hearty malt profile. Not a bad beer flavorwise, but one bottle was more than enough in a session.

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Photo of Gobzilla
3.58/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: poured an amber brown in color with orange highlights and had a finger worth of head leaving plenty of frothy lacing sticking to the glass.

S: the ginger was very noticeable upfront on the nose but had nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and various grain notes.

T: the ginger character also dominated the taste alongside allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon accents and had a touch of underlying clove as well.

M: the brew was medium in body with a moderate amount of carbonation which had a sweet, spice, and grainy finish.

D: it drank good and was a decent christmas brew for the holidays.

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Photo of Wasatch
4.13/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5


Thanks goes out to jwc215 for this brew.

Poured into a tulip a nice reddish color, very nice carbonation, huge two-finger creamy tannish head, lots of nice thick sticky lacing follows. The nose is malty, with some slight yeast tones, nice touch of spices (nutmeg, cinimmon, ginger, cloves), with some caramel. The taste is sweet, malty/yeasty, nice touch of nutmeg/cinimmon/ginger/cloves, and caramel. Medium body. The alcohol is hidden very well. Drinkable, this is a very tasty winter warmer.

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Photo of liamt07
3.72/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle shared by Steve, 750ml into a tulip. Best before date of November 11, 2013.

Poured a dark reddish brown, with big bubbles forming a tan head. Nose is malty and spicy, lots of clove and allspice prominent (so they should be, they're on the label!). A bit of brown sugar too. Taste is lightly nutty and malty, caramel and toasty grains/biscuit. Spices are about the same as the nose, a bit of cinnamon there too. Medium light body but a bit too watery for my full liking. Pleasant and simple, I could certainly revisit this - I found this somewhat akin to GI's Christmas Ale which was nice.

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Photo of tempest
3.78/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had a $4 pint at Liberty St Tavern. Overall, I though it was a nice American-leaning take on the style. The flavors are cleaner than your typical British WW, and the beer seemed to finish with juicy citrus hops. Up from there's a mix of cinnamon and all-spice-like spices (I won't claim to know exactly which) with a very mellow cocoa bread malt backbone. The body was smooth with a medium weight and a mild hop bite at the end.

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Photo of tone77
3.65/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz. can. Has a caramel color with a 1 inch head. Smell is full of spices, mainly cinnamon. Taste is also a lot of spice, some malt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Good job of capturing holiday flavors. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is a solid beer.

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Photo of WesWes
3.53/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a ruby red color with a thick frothy offwhite head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is decent. It has a mild mlat scent that boasts of crystal and roasted malts along with a moderate dose of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The taste is decent as well. It has a dry, cinnamon and ginger flavor that's balanced with crystal and roasted malts. The spicing is a bit much for me. It has almost a medicinal feel to it. The mouthfeel is above average. It is a full bodied beer with too much CO2. I'm burping after every sip. This is a pretty good brew. I would like to see some more warmth and malt complexity with just a hint of spices. Not bad.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Decanted into a 22oz glass. Pours a clear amber color with a soapy white head. Aroma of cinnamon and spice. In the taste, doughy malts, cinnamon, ginger and clove. Has a semi sweet caramel malty ness and a dry spice. Medium bodied with a dry finish. Overall, a really nice cellar treat. Delicious.

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Photo of BARFLYB
4.04/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A CAN into a plain pint glass. Scooped this up as a single.

Blood orange with some light brown tints woven in, Sly Fox Christmas comes off with an inch of off tan colored foam that fades and leaves no stick. A ring around the glass is all that remains on the way down. Smell is big on cinnamon and ginger. Smells like it will come off sweet. There is a whole lot of spice that blends with some caramel from the malt. Not really picking up any hops in here. Smells like a big winter warmer. Taste wise spice rules, I get a lot of ginger and cinnamon, a small hint of cocco, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I am not a fan of ginger in beer, but the other ingredients mutes it a bit. Body is dead on medium with a light hit of carb on the tounge. The aftertaste is spice filled but does not stick on the tounge long, which makes this easier to take as the malt brings a sweetness towards the end. An enjoyable Winter Warmer, full of spice, full of flavor, not hard to drink at all.

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Photo of biegaman
3.88/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks for spreading the Christmas cheer with this kind present Dr.Jay!
Pours with a HUGE, bountiful head. A copper ruby colour. A light and warming aroma. A lot of orangy flavour, nutmeg, and general spices. Very high carbonation. A taste of cake, cinnamon, and plenty of nutmeg on the aftertaste. A lot of gingerbread. Spices strong, but it works still. I'd say the flavours could use some mellowing but blend very well now. A great draft of a seasonal offering.

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Christmas Ale from Sly Fox Brewing Company
3.75 out of 5 based on 418 ratings.
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