Great Lakes Christmas Ale | Great Lakes Brewing Co.

very good
876 Reviews
Great Lakes Christmas AleGreat Lakes Christmas Ale

Brewed by:
Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Ohio, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by OldFrothingSlosh on 11-16-2002

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Reviews: 876 | Ratings: 3,056
Photo of LeftonJackman
4.25/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Christmas comes early in Cleveland, OH! Great Lakes Brewery taps it's first keg of its storied Christmas Ale in October and I was there for the festivities!

Perhaps it is part anticipation, but the Christmas Ale is a sight to behold. A deep, warm amber appearance is a perfect prelude to the warm, seasonal taste. The off-white head is about a finger and melts perfectly to lace.

Drawing deeply I get cinnamon, ginger and a perfect amount of honey. The honey is present but not overpowering. It smells like a warm draft on a bitter Cleveland winter's night.

The taste is a good follow to the nose. Spicy and moderately sweet thanks to the honey. Aptly named as Christmas Ale, this is a cool weather beer.

With only a slight bitterness it awakens the tongue and does not batter the back of the mouth. Chin-up and catch the hints of bitterness in the back of the throat.

Lovely drinkability, but beware the ABV. It is stronger than your average beer and is to be celebrated, not consumed.

There is a very good reason that this beer is a back-to-back Gold Medal Winner.

On-tap is the way to go.

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Photo of Rhynes2
4.25/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A great holiday beer. It tastes like Christmas minus the turkey and such. Great with party foods. Had this with a Christmas roast and it was one of the greatest things ever. Nice foamy head and great color. Ginger was at the forefront of the taste. A great buy for anyone. Great lakes did a fantastic job with this one.

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Photo of MANix73
4.25/5  rDev +8.7%

I did a side-by-side this weekend with Thirst Dog's 12 Dogs of Christmas. GLBC was lighter in color, lighter on spices & hoppier. If you prefer hoppier, this is the Christmas Ale for you. I prefer the spice & therefore the 12 Dogs. Both are great holiday ales!

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Photo of malcontent
4.26/5  rDev +9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The 2006 incarnation of one of my favorite beers, I can't wait!

Deep amber liquid capped by a foamy head that holds together beautifully. Sticky lacing creeps down the side of the glass and holds its form perfectly.

Hops, grapefruit and cloves are just some of the key components of the scent although some soft malt and pepper aromas linger as well.

Not as hoppy as the smell would have led me to believe but tasty nonetheless. Very well-rounded malt sweetness with delecate use of spices and some wonderful tree fruit flavors. Totally tummy-tingling.

Not syrupy but not that crisp either. If there is a downfall for this brew it's just that it doesn't lend itself to all-night consuption. However, I would still try!

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Photo of 1Adam12
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a medium amber color. Lots of bubbles. Smells awesome. Smells like blended honey, gingerbread, and cinnamon. Loads of cinnamon. Tastes much of the same. Possibly some lemon in there as well. Has a bit of a ginger snap cookie to it as well. Very good. Mouthfeel is a bit over carbonated, but full. Very crisp. This is by far the best Christmas Ale I've had this year. Thanks to JohnPPutz for the extra.

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Photo of plfahey
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured into a tulip glass

Appearance-Reddish-Garnet-Copper color. Brilliant clarity. Moderate off white head with moderate retention.

Aroma-Whoa. Big blend of spices and sweet dark malt. Malt comes across as molasses like, with a hint of honey. Spices show ginger (but not hot), cinnamon, and almost a light clove note. No hops. Very light cherry-like fruit aroma. Smells like gingerbread cookies. Yum.

Flavor-Tastes like ginger-spiked cinnamon toast crunch. Malt still has some molasses character though the honey shows through more here, and some graininess surfaces in the finish. Spice notes are ginger and cinnamon, though the ginger is a bit lighter here than in the aroma. Some earthy hop flavor appears in the moderately sweet finish, along with a light alcohol flavor.

Mouthfeel- Medium light body, medium low carbonation. Smooth with no astringency from the spices. Light alcohol warmth.

This beer is delicious. Definitely an interesting example from a category that's quite open to interpretation. As holiday spiced beers go, this is one of my favorites. Due to the high spice content, I dont think I could drink a ton of these, but it's very very good.

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Photo of u2carew
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

(A) Light reddish brown. Pours with a nice head, that settles quickly to the outside of the glass.
(S) Mild aroma with notes of toffee and a dash of floral / citrus tones.
(T) Bold cinnamon with caramel sweetness.
(M) Crisp carbonation, medium body, fairly smooth.
(D) A delicious brew. The spice flavorings make this beer a fantastic yuletide drink.

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Photo of TommyBuckeye
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Copper beer with off-wite auburn head.
S: Smells of cinnamon, honey, ginger and pine
T: Very nice taste of honey, malt, cinnamon and hops
M: Nice moutfeel with slight after-burn
D: One of the best winter warmers or holiday spice beers out there. For me - it's not Christmas unless I have a Great Lakes Christmas Ale on Christmas Eve!

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Photo of PEBKAC
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

JohnGalt1 comes through with long-awaited seasonal for my slurping pleasure. My first Great Lakes brew.

I rode around town today trying to stock up for the beer apocalypse, with 50mph gusts going up-hill in first gear, on one of the deadliest boulevards in the country. I honestly almost feel like boiling this one first, but I'll reserve that idea for another time.

The beer pours out pure copper, about 10 degrees off my prescription, I can read the monitor just fine through these beer goggles. No head to speak of, but the bubbles underneath speak for themselves. The smell coming off this glass is engaging. Let's focus on that.

It almost smells like a heather ale. Spices are very soft & floral. Something like lavender, gale, & an oddly soothing mix of caramel & pine oil. A faint trace of alcohol lifts off the top. Slightly muted overall in scent, but much better then so many over the top winter spiced beers that are more like over-saturated potpourri then anything else. Comparable to the medicinal smell of Fantome Strange Ghost in my opinion, just not as intense.

Taste has a light nutmeg character upfront, with an intense pumpernickel sweetness. It moves into an extra toasty(but not roasted) crust, & brings along a mild lettuce-like bitterness to close things out.

Dry & a little low on carbonation, it still flows really easy. Low in the hop department almost always equal in me having another. There's a reason it's available in six packs. :) Alcohol really is all to quiet. Why did I only get one?! :P

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Photo of Jonnystorm777
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 4.5

Wow, this beer is a Christmas delight. I opened the bottle to a surprisingly delightful aroma. The smell of Pine, gingerbread and cinnamon punched me right in the schnozz! Pours tenderly at a 50 degree angle and leaves an enticing bold 1/2 inch head. The rush of this beer ran smooth and crashed into my uvula with endless delight. It has a really full and baritone taste and feels more like a bark cider than an Ale. Santa should be proud to drink this and deliver presents. It really packs a punch.

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Photo of sjccmd
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Apricot, honey and spices. Caramel with some spicy herbal hops. Sweet but not particularly strong smelling. Some dark fruits, cinnamon.

Clear amber/copper. Off-white head with ok retention and lacing.

Toasted bread and apricots upfront in the flavor. Pleasantly sweet without being cloying. Gingerbread cookies and pie crust. Finish is dry with some balancing hop bitterness.

Medium body with medium low carbonation. Mouthfilling without being sticky. Fairly clean finish with residual spices and sweet malts.

Clean and easy drinking for the style. Satisfying amount of spices and malt without being cloying.

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Photo of doc10house
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Given to me by my greatest friend. I tried not to let that bias my view.

A: Exactly what I'd expect from a beer branded "winter," or "Christmas." Murky, caramel-colored. Nice swirls in this one as I poured it, since it had developed some tiny ice crystals fresh snowfall; light flakes in a wind. Beautiful, frothy head when poured into my Perfect Pint glass. Dissipates a little more quickly than I'd like. I love a little more lacing and notching of the glass as I drink.

S: Nearly perfect. Christmas in a glass. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, a hint of alcohol that warms the nose. This is definitely still beer. As suggested to me, try rimming your glass with a bit of cinnamon before the pour. Doesn't do much for the taste, but the smell is just intoxicating. Purists, forgive me.

T: Smooth, but still spicy, if that makes any sense. As complex as I'd hoped, without being overly so and risking pretentiousness. No discernible alcohol burn on the tongue, even though the nose suggested there might have been. Fruit, cloves, ginger, and all the cinnamon that the smell promised. Although the alcohol is masked well in the taste, it "warms" the soft palate and the chest as it goes down the back of the throat, just like the style's name advertises.

M: It's an ale; what's to say? Thinner than a stout or heavy strong Belgian, but appropriately chewy for a winter brew. Feels substantial enough. When it gets cold outside as the seasons change, one stays warm by donning more/thicker layers. Moving from summer ales to Oktoberfests to this winter warmer is no different, and this offers the ramp-up from those early-season styles that it should.

D: All day. All month. All season, I could. Enough alcohol so you know it's beer, but not so much I couldn't have four or five of an evening. Thank goodness. Now, if only it were more readily available here...

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Photo of cagocubs
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Got a bottle of this from a friend. Good Stuff. Will buy a sixer.

A: Cider color. Quickly dissapating white head with good lacing.

S: Great. Spice aroma (ginger, cinnamon), Sweet honey. Hops.

T: Spice powered taste. The ginger and cinnamon in this beer made it unique and delicious. Good hops with an excellent honey finish and aftertaste. Interesting.

M: Smooth, creamy, great carbonation.

D: High for a winter warmer.

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Photo of beerfish68
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I have this beer on tap now. I think 12 dogs is a bit better but it ranks pretty high on my Christmas Ale list.

A- Good color and my draft pulls a nice head at 6 psi. It holds fairly will an the lacing is okay. It does not stick to the glass as you might expect

S- I like the smell of this beer althoug I think it tastes better than it smells

T- The taste is great except for the bit of excess alcohol taste that you get. I cannot decide if it is good or bad. I kind of like this taste as it makes if different from other Christmas Ales.

M- Good complex feel in the mouth

O- I really like this beer - better on draft than in the bottle. I know some think it is over rated but it has a unigue sweet taste that I can't deny is great

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Photo of K-Dog
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Look forward to this every year. Hands down my favorite holiday beer. Taste of cinnamon and nutmeg. My second favorite great lakes beer next to blackout stout. This is very underrated. Perfect on a cold fall evening and great for the holidays.

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Photo of sliverX
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Happened to be in town on release day this year. Not much head on the pints but laced nicely. Smelled of cinnamon and hops which mixed for a ginger like taste. was a nice copper/brown color .It went down so nice I had a second and even went to buy a case but they had run out of bottles by that point... will certainly be looking for this in the store for the holidays

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Photo of neorunner
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- Poured into an Imperial pint glass. Quarter inch of thin white head and medium red/amber color.

S- Nutmeg and clove and spice aroma.

T- Cloves and cinnamon mixed with malt flavors and a subtle bitterness in the finish.

M- Smooth and wet with a creamy finish.

D- My top winter warmer, goes down easy and will make you merry in short measure.

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Photo of alexgash
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I was lucky enough to find some of this over at Chicone's in Hudson, while I was home for the xolidays. Pours an orange-amber with an off-white head. Smells of sweet fruitcake malts, lots of spices (cinnamon, ginger, honey, orange?). Very interesting. Taste is rum/fruit cake sweetened malts, followed by the spice rack mentioned above. I'm not always crazy about overly spiced ales, but this one works very well. Finish is slightly bitter with lingering cinnamon and vanilla. Merry Christmas Great Lakes!
"and the people of Cleveland who've suffered for so many years..."
- Dave Berman (off of Silver Jew's The Natural Bridge)

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Photo of veinless
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Shoutout to my main man AwYeh for this.

Appears an awesome dark reddish orange that makes you feel warm before you even drink it.

Aroma is of cinnamon and ginger, a bit of pumpkin.

Tastes STRONGLY of spices, namely cinnamon and sweet ginger, and has a nice honey sweetness.

Clean mouthfeel, although not as dry a finish as I would have liked for a beer like this. Fantastic seasonal beer, the amount of initial spice taste set this one apart.

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Photo of Daniellobo
4.27/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Nice fruity Christmas ale with a surprising sweet balance.

Presentation: 12 oz capped brown bottle. Black design with white lettering and an image of toy train wagon carrying Christmas tree ornaments. Side narrative notes commitment to excellence, main characteristics, inspiration, and main ingredients. Neck label notes repeats funny festive sense. Notes freshness date (02/18/11), and Alc. by Vol. (7.5%) Served in a tulip glass.

A - Clear medium amber with a somewhat tamed bubbly head, moderate to low retention, some surface memory, minimal lacing.

S - Fruity and lightly medicinal nose. Honey, and ginger with a very shy cinnamon touch. Rather nice.

T - Flavor expands with dexterity the nose, nothing overwhelming but the range is rich. Same fruity sense, with the ginger and honey melding with the dash of spice. Touch of caramel malt and hint of resinous hops.

M - Medium body and medium-low carbonation, but actually the body matches the rhythm of the brew rather well. It works.

D - Great seasonal, if one digs the spicy ginger-honey and somewhat medicinal edge this is a very pleasing ale.

Notes: Hmm, maybe not worthy of the "under the shelve" limited quantities sense that I´ve seen in some places. But short of the hype this is a truly worthy Christmas ale with a great balance and sense of stimulation.

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Photo of neenerzig
4.28/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Got a pint of this on tap at Becky's, a pub on East 18th Street near the CSU campus where I go to grad school. To celebrate our last day of classes on Wednesday, some of my classmates and myself went to Becky's for lunch and drinks between classes. First time I ever went to class with an alcohol buzz, and it wasn't intentional either. This is perhaps even slighly better on tap then out of the bottle. Mine had a nice foamy head about an inch thick before settling. Aromas of cinammon, ginger, a bit of hops, nutmeg, and honey are all present. This beer has a bitter yet sweet taste with flavors of malt, hops, cinnamon, a dash of honey, perhaps some caramel, and some other spices. Extremely well balanced taste. Has a nice creamy and crisp mouthfeel with light to moderate carbonation. Quite easy to drink indeed. A kick ass beer. Get some before it is gone until next year!


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Photo of C20Percent
4.29/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a clear, clean amber-orange with a white head of foam on top. Some bubbles going on in the body. Pretty but nothing crazy special here.

S: Big time honey and spice aroma. Nutmeg and cloves and cinnamon -- smells like Christmas cookies. Very solid aroma.

T: Taste just like it smells. The honey and spice really come through in the flavor. Not only that but it's surprisingly refreshing for a Christmas Ale. I do think this is the best honey brewed beer I've probably ever had. Highly recommended!

M: Impressive carbonation.Medium body. Some chewiness that really brings out the spice. Beer isn't especially smooth to me, but it doesn't cut that hard. And, again I really do appreciate the carbonation and the warmness of the brew.

O: Really enjoy this brew. Maybe the best Christmas Ale I've had. I great offering from GLBC!

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Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
4.3/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 12oz. amber bottle with typical GLBC-looking label. Scores personal points for the railroad car with the Christmas tree decorations in it. The label also states that "For freshest taste, please enjoy by 5Feb03."

Appearance: Pours a very cloudy amber color. Billowing off-white head coats the glass. Lots of chunky yeasties are suspended in the beer.

Smell: Spicy...with cinnamon and ginger (as per the bottle) most noticeable. A bit of the honey used in the preparation is also evident.

Taste: Beers like this are the reason all of us need to try the GLBC beers before we die. A very flavorful, well-balanced beer. Despite the fact that there's a lot going on in the flavor, none of it is out-of-sync with the other flavors. There's the spicy input from the cinnamon and ginger, the sweetness of the honey on the tail-end, a malty sweetness that dances a duet with the slightest bittering from the hops. I can't believe this is 7.5% ABV.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and a creamy finish make for a great mouthfeel.

Drinkability: Man, this is one fine beer. I would love to try this on-tap. No alcohol taste, the delicate balance of spices, honey, malt, and hops, and the just barely present aftertaste make for a wonderful seasonal beer. I think this is my favorite seasonal. Get some if you can.

Kudos to fellow BA PhantomVoDoo for trading some of this to me.

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Photo of prototypic
4.3/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: It's a transparent, light copper-amber color. Head was a very thick two fingers, but disappeared pretty quickly. Lacing was average.

Smell: A little light on the nose. Smells predominantly malty. Herbal spices are notable (cinnamon and a little clove). Perhaps a slight banana aroma. Very, very light hop presence is noted.

Taste: Nice and spicy. Cinnamon, pumpkin, ginger, and a slight clove presence are a nice combo. Caramel-toffee malts provide a nice, sweet taste. Hops are noticeable, but it's far from bitter. Slight yeasty or bread-like taste on the tail.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: Light bodied leaning toward medium. Carbonation is excellent. 7.5% is perfect for this one. Goes down very smooth and very drinkable. Overall, it's a very good Christmas ale. Certainly recommended.

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Photo of ledemie
4.3/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

S: nice and malty no spices to smell,

V: nice Garnet color little bit of a head, nice and clear.

M: nice and smooth good medium to full body, reminded me of a Biere de Garde

T: mellow maltiness and I can see the honey, but cannot taste it.

D; I wish they had this one all year long a very nice winter warmer, I said that before but it reminded me of a Jenlain Ambre ( Biere de Garde)

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Great Lakes Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Co.
3.91 out of 5 based on 3,056 ratings.
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