Christmas Ale | Great Lakes Brewing Co.

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Christmas AleChristmas Ale
Very Good
3,176 Ratings
Christmas AleChristmas Ale

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

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Do not open ‘til Christmas? Whoever coined that phrase obviously hasn’t tasted Christmas Ale’s fresh honey, cinnamon, and ginger flavors.

A Yuletide’s worth of holiday spices and sweet honey to keep you a-wassailing all season long.

World Beer Championships 6-Time Medal Winner Since 1999 (Gold, Silver)

Added by OldFrothingSlosh on 11-16-2002

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,176 |  Reviews: 904
Photo of beerluvr
3.85/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer pours with a great light tan head, settling over clear light amber liquid. Light delicate spice in the nose, clean-smelling & not too heavy on malt flavors. The taste had hints of slight phenols with some cinnamon and fruit flavors followed by decent hop bitters. Finishes up dry with a bitter end. A decent Xmas beer, thanks to CRJMellor for the bottle.

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Photo of beergeek279
3.35/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Served on tap in a pint glass at DiMarco's. The color was copper, with a decent white head. The smell was very cinnamony. The taste was a very heavy cinnamon, with a bit of malt coming through. Mouthfeel was smooth. Drinkability-wise, the heavy cinnamon sweetness would not lead to having too many.

Though I certainly appreciate a good, spiced Christmas Ale, this seemed a little bit over the top. Maybe I was drinking it at a time I'd have preferred a more conventional beer rather than with chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but it just seemed out of place.

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Photo of Shiloh
3.88/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a very nice festive brew which I would consume more of except for the high ABV.
Beautiful and clear mid orange colour with a short top leaving limited evidence of foam.
Carbonation also is limited.
Aroma has a wlde array of spices.
Wildly spicy taste, predominantly ginger with a slight honey smoothness to aid in the mouthfeel.
I find no evidence of cinnamon as it must be well hidden or, does it arrive as the beverage warms?
Mouthfeel is dry.

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Photo of cokes
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Caramel-orange hued under a sandy film that quickly fades and relocates to the outermost edges.
Nose full of spiced caramel and piney hops. Cinnamon rolls appear as it warms.
The malt base is laid with hard toffee. Quickly the spicing grabs control. Lots of ginger. Lots of ginger. Lightly burnt and caramelized. Cinnamon too, to a lesser extent. Plenty of orange-rind, which is odd, since they don't use any. My problem here is with the honey. It builds in the middle, creating a faux-sweetness that segues into an vapid, lightly astringent, medicinal finish as it melds with the alcoholic vapors. There is a sense of poorly made (and even more poorly sweetened) green tea. Pine-sap hops close the deal, and partially right the wrongs.
Medium-bodied with sparce carbonation.
Brew this without the honey, then lets talk.
This is the absolute last Great Lakes brew I'd pull off the shelf.

And why the hell is the best before date on this Dec 23?
*rating 3.4

Now six months and a week past its expiration date.
This has changed slightly, but those changes have a dramatic effect on my opinion. This is full of maple syrup spiked with nutmeg and ginger. The maltiness now seems more complete and foundational. Plenty of caramel. Spicing is still aggressive, bordering on excessive. But, now, it works. Astringency is gone. Light piney herb hop bitters. Alcohol is cloaked too.
I like this a lot more than I did. It's still probably the last on my list of Great Lakes products. But that also pertains to a general dislike of overtly spiced beers. Of that particular style, this is a good bet, and my numbers have been adjusted accordingly.

As a caveat, I don't think I'd age this too much longer, as some peeks of oxidation are making themselves known. It seems about as good as it will get now, and will probably begin to fall apart after 1 year. Maybe not, though.

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Photo of granger10
3.35/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This one poured a light copper color with a small light tan head. The smell is strong in alcohol and spices. The taste is dominated by spices. The one spice that really comes out is ginger. Lots and lots of ginger. More ginger than I can handle. Tastes like gingersnaps. Get the point. Some honey flavor from the malts and an alcoholic kick in the end round out this beer. I can see how some people would love it but it's not my cup of tea.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
3.96/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Copper amber with a very nice caramel tone thicket of head, lacing forms a thck collar that continues to leave intersipping full rings. Aroma: Malty slightly toasted nuts but the spicing steals the show very festive, with cinnamon and tones of nutmeg some slightly floral hopping going on as well a bit one sided but who cares Great Lakes can do no wrong. Taste: Fluffy layer of creaminess blended with the spicy tones of ginger and a rich honey finish, and alcohol is very well hidden didn't know that this one was 7.5 % they are usually pretty conservative with their alcohol level at the GLBC, but hey 'tis the season, right? Mouthfeel: Medium body a bit sticky but not cloying in any way smooth mild carbonation, can't complain. Drinkability: On draft much more drinkable but the bottle just seems to concentrate the cinnamon and ginger spices just a bit much one though is a good experience to be had go out and find some while the Christmas beers are still here.

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Photo of GreatPondBrewer
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Solid spiced beer and perfect for the season. Was a pretty standard amber color with a styrofoam white head. Smell was a 50/50 split between malts and spices. Malts were biscuity and there was a small hint of alcohol that was masked by nice clean notes of cinnamon. Taste was full-bodied with the ginger playing a bigger role complementing the juicy malts. Mouthfeel was good as well. Just an all around solid beer.

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Photo of SheepNutz
3.97/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz. bottle poured into a tulip-style glass. It pours a clear medium red color with one finger of head. There is just a tiny bit of lacing. The smell is dominant with cinammon, but also has hints of nutmeg and cherry to it. The taste has lots of cinammon and honey sweetness that is just a tad cloying. A good bite of hops on the finish. The mouthfeel is just a little light for this style. The drinkability is very very good though for a 7.5% brew. Enjoyable as a dessert beer, and I might even try mulling it.

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Photo of aaronh
4.35/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This slightly hazy copper colored ale pours with a beige head that fades quickly, but still leaves a faint lace on the glass. The aroma is faint and hard to pinpoint. Malt and a hint of spice is noticable, but not overpowering. The taste is malty with a touch of cinnamon and citrus, with little bitterness on the rather clean finish. A hint of alcohol sweetness lingers on the finish. The beer feels full on the tongue, with a touch of carbonation effervesence. A moderate ABV with the good, basic flavor profile makes this a very drinkable winter ale, as long as you don't need to go anwhere anytime soon. Another solid offering from Great Lakes.

This is even more enjoyable on tap! Better balance, smoother mouthfeel, and just oiverall better flavor (or perhaps it's just this year's edition.) On tap at Sapphire's in WashCo.

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Photo of irishmoss
4.35/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Great seasonal ale that is winter, that is Christmas. Nice and fresh, just arrived today. It was served a little cold, so I got another one to allow it to come down to temperature.

Nice dark copper copper with a great light tan head that clings to the sides of the glass leaving excellent lacing. It smells of cinnamon and ginger, with hints of all spice. The tastes were similar with roasted barley and a little sweetness. The spiceyness or the higher alcohol content were not overpowering. I really like this one and look forward to it every year.

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Photo of Jon
4.22/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep ruby color with a fluffy head. Laces nicely down the glass while the head retention is outstanding. Nose is a blend of Christmas with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and perhaps some additional spices. Taste features more of the same, with the main emphasis on cinnamon and allspice with mild traces of honey. As the beer reaches room temperature, a malty profile presents itself, keeping this winter warmer in balance. Mouthfeel is quite clean with active bubbles creating a tingling sensation. This beer drinks very well, but due to the spiciness it possesses (not to mention the abv), I would reserve this one for a nightcap by the fire, with a slice of pumpkin cheesecake, or something similar. A really nice holiday ale with a great deal of character.

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Photo of smitty1080
4.17/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Northeast Ohio is dropping below freezing, but as long as the x-mas ale comes out at the same time I don't mind the cold weather so much.

Pours out golden copper with a creamy head. Smells like Christmas in a glass, hence the name. All warming aromas of honey, cinnamon, and ginger. The taste adds on to the aroma with malty tones and a slight warming from the ABV. I think I know what will accompany my turkey this Thanksgiving.

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Photo of moulefrite
3.75/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Quite an attractive pour-golden caramel set beneath a mound of off white head that settles down easily yet never vanishes. Wonderful seasonal quality to the nose with all the spices chiming in-cinnamon and nutmeg first then a tease of ginger enveloped in sweet malt. In the mouth the beer comes off very aggresive in the way of alcohol. The cinnamon is a tad too aggresive as well, and comes off as overtly hot/spicy. The finish is of those red cinnamon balls your Grandmother used to pawn of on you when you were young. This beer tastes as if it might be an Elliot Ness in an all spiced up holiday package. A decent holiday treat from a great brewery. This would go well with some bread pudding perhaps.

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Photo of jcalabre
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Originally sampled on 3 December 2002.
Appearance: This has a clear copper color with a long lasting off white head.
Flavors: great cinnamon/nutmeg flavors. very different, very enjoyable
It's medium bodied and what I liked is that it didn't overpower me with the cinnamon/spicey winter beer thing. Good job

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Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
4.3/5  rDev +8.9%
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 AtLagerHeads
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Mmm mmm good. Surprisingly on tap in April, this seasonal brew still had plenty of snap and talked back with some serious gusto. The look is great with a dark red amber hue, adequate head retention and some fair lacing. Lots of spice in the nose and taste, though to be honest, the flavors are all quite subtle and understated. The alcohol doesn't show through, perhaps because of the spice overlay, and this is very drinkable, but for the high ABV. GLBC just keeps on keeping on.

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Photo of fattyre
3.82/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours a slightly hazy slightly dark brownish red color with a moderate tan head. The mouthfeel is moderate. The smell is spice mostly ginger and cinnamon. The taste is strong ginger and spice in front with mild malty cinnamony finish. A good spicy holiday season ale with a very deceptive alcohol content.

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Photo of Bunnyhop
3.97/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A slightly hazy, slightly dark brownish-red Spiced Winter Ale with a moderate, tan head. I smell cinnamon, ginger, and other spices. I taste many flavors, honey, ginger, and cinnamon, along with a maltiness, and a slight bitterness as it finishes. The cinnamon and ginger linger in my throat. The body is medium in my mouth. Overall, an enjoyable "cinnamon" Seasonal Ale (I emphasize the cinnamon because I almost would like less of its flavor, but just a bit).

(source: PremierGourmet; Buffalo, NY)

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Photo of ZAP
4.67/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Now this is what Christmas Ae should taste like....beautifull work with the spicing....cinamin and ginger on the nose along with almost a pumkin pie like smell.....copper in color...super clean and clear looking (and this is an ale?)...Is medium bodied...a tich of sweetness, but not first it felt like a "bock" in the mouth and I guess it still does...some sweet maltiness, and that great spice flavor..that pumkin pie subtle flavor is there on the taste buds too...I've had spice beers that went too far...this is about perfect...what a treat...I love this Brewery...One of my top 2 along with Stone.

*.I rate the drinkability high for a seasonal sipping beer....not for as if you'd want to drink 12 of these in a sitting...rather if you gave me my choice of several holiday beers I'd rather drink this one than most..

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Photo of aracauna
3.52/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Not dark enough for mahogany, the red isn't backed up enough by the brown for that. The head is wimpy. The aroma reminded me of black cherries, sweet but without the sourness. Nice but really big malt along with the mild spicing makes it seem a bit cake-like. The black cherries carry through into the flavor. Nice beer but not outstanding.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.47/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Hazy reddish-brown body with a thin creamy tan head. The head holds OK, drops to a creamy collar and thin surface covering, and leaves some spotty lace. The aroma expresses soft dark fruit, sweet toffee, a touch of cocoa and some mild spice. Very nice! The full body combines with a very fine carbonation from bottle conditioning to give a smooth and creamy mouthfeel.
The flavor offers a very nice blend of softly sweet malt with a touch of honey and chocolate, and mild spice (cinnamon, ginger). It finishes semi-dry with a lingering sweet malt, some clear cinnamon flavor, and a drying spiciness. The alcohol is almost completely hidden! Very well-balanced with just enough spice to keep it interesting throughout the glass, but not overwhelm the palate. Definitely a seasonal to look forward to!

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Photo of Bighuge
4.35/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hazy scarlet red in color. Thin creamy, yet bubbly, tan head. This beer smells like Christmas: Cinamon, spice and everything nice. The beer tastes like Christmas joy as well. The cinamon is the main player of the spices, but the orange contributions are notable and enjoyable as well. Nice little biscuity malt backbone and some alcohol notes to give a little umph to this beer. Carbonated nicely. Medium body. One of the more enjoyable spiced winter offerings I have come across. Thank you PhantomVoodoo for the sample.

I have now sampled 6 Great Lakes beverages. I can't comment on their consistency as I don't have consistent access to them, but the quality of the brews I've had is extremely high. One of the best in the US in my opinion. I've doled out 4.5s to the Elliot Ness, Burning River and Dortmuder Gold. I've rated the Edmund Fitzgerald a 4.6, the X-mas ale a 4.4 and the Loctender Lager a 4.25. My new top 3 would include K-ZOO, Stone and Great Lakes.

I'd love to see what they could do with a Barleywine, Imperial Stout or IPA.

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Photo of Dogbrick
3.68/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found on draught at the Grid Iron Brewpub. As with most beers this has more character from the tap. Poured a rich dark orange/red with a foamy light beige head. Pleasantly spiced aroma. Flavor of spices (ginger and cinnamon) with some malt made it a nice winter warmer. Slight hops finish. Good to have at this time of year.

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Photo of PhantomVodoo
4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Brown glass bottle with hard to read dating, but looks like it says enjoy by 15 FEB 03. Pours a slightly hazy reddish copper with a light tan head. Aroma is faint, but I detect malt and honey. Flavors explode from several directions. Big malt flavor from one, honey and cinnamon from another. Well balanced, flavor is slightly sweet. Finishes very well except for one aftertaste I don't like that creeps in and lingers. Not sure, but it seems to be an alcohol aftertaste. Of course the solution to this is simply to take another drink because up to that point this beer is great. Another very good Great Lakes.

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Photo of Wildman
4.03/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer poured a reddish amber color and formed an amazing off white foamy head that left some circular lace as it subsided. It had an aroma of malt and cinammon. The flavor was of malt, cinammon and touch of ginger. A good beer from Great Lakes, but a bit pricey.

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Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 3.95 out of 5 with 3,176 ratings