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Great Lakes Christmas Ale | Great Lakes Brewing Co.

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very good
859 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

For Trade:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 859 | Ratings: 3,007
Photo of wailingwench
3.3/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Eye Candy: Dark amber with a off white colored carbonated bubbly head that quickly disappears. Transparent amber in the light, no lacing to speak of. Poured nicely, 2 finger bubbly head. Retained its edges for a min or so, died soon after, appears flat and lifeless. Thin lines of rising carbonation.

The Nose Knows: Sweet sugar cookies, rich honey, candied sweet fruit. The sweetness is almost overdone, borders on cloying.

Tongueland: Thick honey and candied ginger dance a jig on the tongue with Ruldolph throwing in a dash of cinnamon at the end. Dusty and dusty middle, touch of paper and tobacco. Transitions to a palate coating sweetness lingering till the plum faires dance.

Bender Factor: At 7.5, this brew can do some damage. The sweetness is best paired with a contrasting dish rich in nature ie chicken wellington.

ETC: like drinking a beehive without getting stung on the tongue. I would love to see some orange zest or a touch of hemlock hops at the end to cleanse the palate. All in all, one dimensional, but worth a try.

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Photo of MarkQ617
3.3/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Picked up a growler for our Christmas party, enjoyed out of a pint glass. The color was actually pretty nice, a good looking brownish amber with an off-white head. The flavor had the requisite spices, particularly cinnamon and nutmeg, but it was a bit weak for my liking.

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Photo of mpyle
3.3/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

App - Pale amber color, brilliantly clear. Pours a decent sized whitish head, but coarsely bubbled and without great retention.

Aroma - a bit malty, some cinnamon/mint types of spice, alcohol

Flav - A bit minty/mediciny, and with a strong cinnamon flavor. A good, sharp bitterness cuts off the sweet spiciness, and leaves a drier yet still cinammony finish.

MF - Medium to medium-full body, and moderate carbonation. Perhaps a tiny bit of alcohol warming. Spices impact the mouthfeel negatively - not quite astringent, but heading in that direction.

D'ability - spices are too overwhelming to be a very drinkable beer for me. Probably not out of line for a holiday beer, but the best ones are more subtle in the spiciness.

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Photo of giblet
3.3/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

another gem from GLB. the only reason this did not rate higher for me is the fact that it is not my favorite style of beer. color was nice. excellent carbonation and lace. nice flavor for a spiced beer. so far i am inexperienced in spiced beers and will likely stay that way. this was good just not my cup of tea...or beer.

suckem up and movem out!


i spoke with the guy that i buy most of my beer from about 3 weeks after having this beer. i mentioned to him that it was a bit spicy for my taste. he said to let it age a little. well i forgot that i had two bottles hiding in the back of my fridge until May 18. i pulled them out and drank them. Excellent. much better balance of the spice at this point. i likely did not need to wait this long but i will do this again in 08.

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Photo of MMOSNN
3.3/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Look - a clear deep orangish ruby with a small off-white head with little retention and basically no lacing.
Smell - not very strong, but you get some spiciness, sweet honey, and caramel and toasted bready malts.
Taste - pretty much follows the nose in that there's some vague spiciness, sweet notes but pretty undefined, and a slight malty backbone, but nothing really sticks.
Feel - low carbonation, medium body but bordering on the thinner side.
Overall, I don't know if I have a bad bottle, but this is very underwhelming. I'd like to try it again just to compare.

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Photo of PorterLambic
3.31/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Pours a really nice coppery-amber color with a light tan head. Retention is not so great, dropping to a faint ring quickly.
Smell is malty with a caramel note and a weird sweet floral note that is very hard to place specifically. No spice notes to be found though they were expected.
Taste is the same as the smell, malt, caramel, and that same odd sweet floral note. It isn't quite strong enough to be offputting but it isn't able to be overlooked, either. No real spice though a very faint pepper note does show eventually.
Solid medium-full body, somewhat warming, smooth-ish with light effervescence. Nothing great sadly. A decent beer, that's all.

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Photo of Ozzylizard
3.31/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Bottle dated 3/1/15 at 45 degrees into shaker
Aroma subdued, no hint of ginger, slightly sweet odor, probably vestiges of the honey
Head average (3 cm, aggressive pour), off white, frothy with large bubbles, rapidly diminishing to 2 mm ring and partial layer
Lacing – virtually none
Body medium orange, clear
Flavor begins sweet but not cloying, muddled spices with none standing out or even identifiable; no hops, no alcohol, no diacetyl
Palate medium, syrupy, soft carbonation

Appearance 3.5, Aroma 3, Flavor 3.5, Palate 3.25, Overall 3.25

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Photo of BHwks
3.32/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Poured into a duvel tulip glass.

A - Fairly typical slightly cloudy amber in color. 1/8 inch or so of head.

S - Very sweet, cinnamon and honey on the nose. Not as much spiciness as I remember. Less ginger this year?

T - Hmm...not what I remember Christmas Ale tasting like. I really hate playing the "this isn't as good as last year because..." game, but man, something isn't right. It's too sweet, without enough spiciness to balance it out. The bottle claims "honey, ginger, and cinnamon" so if I had to guess I'd say heavier on the honey, medium on the cinnamon, and light on the ginger. I'm just not getting that spicy note on the finish that I'm used to from Christmas ale.

M - mouthfeel is fine, nice, slick and round on the tongue.

D - Not all that great - the sweetness starts to overpower the palate as I continue to drink. Normally there was more spiciness to balance out the flavors, but not this year.

I really hate to dog this brew, as generally it's one of my absolute favorites, but I gotta say something isn't quite right this year. The sweetness overpowers the spicy character which I've grown to love from this beer, and it becomes really one dimensional as I continue to finish my glass. A friend of mine opened one of these about a week ago with me, and before reading any reviews or thoughts on BA, I told him the same thing - "it's missing the ginger!" Sure enough, I looked on here and saw others who felt the same way. Hopefully if Great Lakes releases a 2nd batch (which they normally do) it'll be from a different run of the beer, though I'm not sure if this is how they do it. If not, I'll probably stick with Anchor OSA as my go-to Christmas brew.

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Photo of nhindian
3.32/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12oz bottle poured into a Great Lakes snifter.

A - Pours a burnt, rust orange like burnished copper. It is essentially see-through with about 1.5-fingers of head. Retention is pretty good, and the lacing isn't bad either.

S - The nose brings full aromas of holiday spices, especially cinnamon and honey. A strong caramel malt backbone keeps everything balanced, and the back-end carries a hint of ginger spice.

T - The flavor seems to be a little more disjointed than the nose, with the flavors muddled and unclear. While easy to get the influence of the spices, ginger, and honey, they clash all at one point rather than having clear transitions. The sweetness tends to harm this beer as well, since there are two disjointed flavor profiles combating for top dog. It becomes a little better as it opens up, but it still isn't the most balanced.

M - Mouthfeel is medium-bodied with good carbonation. Slick and sweet, with a decently long finish with a spicy aftertaste.

D/O - Drinkability is moderate. I was hoping for a little more from this beer, but as it stands this is about a middle of the road Winter Warmer. A bit too sweet for me, and the spices and additional flavors just don't seem to play well together.

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Photo of jlindros
3.33/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Got this, another of the brewery that is constantly growing in my book, thanks to the 365 beers in 365 days himself, Mr. Noslenwerd.

A: A perfect pour just brings the head to the miniscus of the glass just stopped from overflowing on my overizes snifter tulip glass. A 3 finger head rises up but also fades quickly and leaves a slight lacing. It's a semi clear semi hazy reddish orange color.

N: Some malts and spices. Slight malty with a decent pale malt hit and some crystal and a little darker malts. With that is some spices, pumpkin beer reminiscent. A little cinnamon, toasty, bready, sweet candy aromas, just overall nice candy spiced Halloween/Pumpkin/Thanksgiving/Christmas ale like aromas. I also get a touch of honey and some sweet malts, and a slight hint of should be lager aroma despite this being an ale.

T: Similar to nose, with lots of spices. Some light malts, and toasty malts, very pumpkin or holiday spiced ale like. Touch of lager flavors with toasty malts, sweet malts, etc. Lots of spices, like tons! Cinnamon, allspice, pumpkin flavoring, grains of paradise, etc, and some of those other spices typically used in these style beers. A little malty sweetness.

M: Med to lighter body with decent but a little lower carbonation.

F: Some sweetness but mostly dry with lots of lingering pumpkin beer like flavors, lots of lingering spices, creamy gourd fruit flavors, fluffy slightly, a little sticky sweetness. It dries off the tongue a lot actually.

Overall a very bleh beer. Probably the least tasty from Great Lakes so far. I'm not big on spiced beers, and this just goes over the top with spices. Pretty hard to get down the gullet with all the spices. Thanks Drew, but this is the first GL beer that is not my cup of tea or cup of spice I should say.

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Photo of Amalak
3.35/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I had out of a 12 ounce bottle. It had a huge foamy head, brown, with a very, very slight cloudiness. Some spicy hops to smell.

It's a mild, pumpkin taste, but not like a Pumpkin ale or Oktoberfest, either. A nutty aftertaste. Slight bite. Good, but for an XMas/Winter Warmer, I want more flavor.

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Photo of dciBA
3.35/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Poured amber into a pint glass. No head or lacing whatsoever. Smells of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Quite a spicy, flavorful beer. A nice balance of holiday/baking spices when cold, but ginger takes over when warm. The ginger flavor stays on the palate for several minutes. The body and mouthfeel are where this beer shines. Very smooth, almost creamy as it goes down. The strong, almost overpowering amount of ginger keep the drinkability score low. This is a solid, good tasting beer, but I'd only ever want to drink one at a time.

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Photo of granger10
3.35/5  rDev -14.3%
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 beergeek279
3.35/5  rDev -14.3%
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 drpimento
3.35/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

hmmm. The bottle I'm having seems to be way different than the descrptions that most others describe. Mine has: some head and lace; dark, very hazy brown color; aroma of lots of malt, a bit of hops, bare hints of spices. Flavor is very dry malt, not much fruityiness, hardly any spice, dark fruits. Ok beer, nothing special. A bit rich for a session beer. ok finish.

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Photo of beerwolf77
3.37/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I pours a reddish brown color with about a half inch of head. Leaves a tiny bit of lace after disipating. The smell is very inviting. Spices abound into my nose. Cinnamon is the main character. The taste is spicy and malty. I'm getting a peppery orange hint. It actually reminds me of christmas. This beer light on the palate not heavy at all which I did not expect with a winter warmer. Not bad. I might start humming some christmas tunes. In July.

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Photo of smakawhat
3.38/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured on tap at Jose Andres' America Eats Tavern into a pilsner style glass.

No foam or head presented. Clear dark orange body with some slow rising carbonation coming up. Since there is only the body to describe there's not much else to say.

Nose is pretty muted. There's faint dry malt, and some mild nutmeg. But really it's a pretty closed nose.

Taste is mild bread dough, mixing with not clove spices. Sweetness comes on the aftertaste more so, even some fruity cherry sensations. Mouthfeel has some sticky like quality but it's also a bit wet, carbonation seems a little fizzy but tolerable.

Overall, not sure how much this was opened up on the pour, but it seems like I am preferring Great Lakes out of the bottle than on tap based on my experience.

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Photo of NODAK
3.38/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Aroma here is of thick caramel, spice and some booze as well. The 7.5% ABV shows here. A very rich winter warmer.

Pours a nice amber color with a decent, dissipating head to it. Decent lacing.

Taste has a nice sweetness to it that I'm guessing is from the honey advertised on the bottle. Certainly not too strong, it's decent. The spice note, of which I mostly get ginger, melds with a somewhat surprising cocoa component going along with it. Hops are pretty much voting absentee in this one.

I don't find this to be anything special as far as other winter beers that are out there. Of any I've had, this one probably packs the biggest punch. Maybe I expected more based on the hype.

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Photo of Frozensoul327
3.38/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Brownish honey color with a short lived head of white foam. Lots of lace, and a medium low level of carbonation.

S: Spices and bready malts. Some sweet notes of dried fruit.

T: Not bad. Rich malt, a sweet yet not over the top honey appeal, with notes of nutmeg and roasted earth.

M: Slightly smooth, but otherwise nominal, with little carbonation on the palate.

D: Not bad. I'm not usually one for the winter warmer style, but I could have a few of these and not complain. Good example of the style.

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Photo of riversider76
3.38/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours golden with a hint of orange color. Head quickly goes into a decent lace. Light spice/honey flavor with lots of carbonation. Hoppy, with a bit of a bite at the finish. I'm not a huge fan of the bitter edge in some Ale , but this was better than expected. Give it a try.

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Photo of cooncat
3.38/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Serving from a 12 oz. bottle, with a best by date of 1/27/07, so my sample was in date (review on 1/11/07).

On a vigorous pour into a 16 oz. glass, I got a small, creamy head, which was not particularly long lasting. The nose is light and hoppy, with just a hint of spice ... perhaps anise or cloves? The color is a very nice deep copper. I've been drinking this offering from Great Lakes for many years, and it seems to vary in quality from year to year. Its always best on tap at their brewpub in Cleveland. This year's offering isn't quite as good as some past years. Nevertheless, it is well balanced, and offers a clean and refreshing taste, clear to the bottom of the glass, which finishes more on a sweet/malty note. The 7.5% abv is not evident while drinking, so be advised that this is not a beer to guzzle. Enjoy a few with friends. Since it's a seasonal, it will soon be disappearing from store shelves. If you happen to find some, check the date on lower right side of the label.


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Photo of sidetracked
3.38/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep amber with a sand-colored off-white head.

Smells very floral and of ginger and pine.

Tastes of nutmeg, ginger, and other baking spices. The flavor is a bit woodsy with hints of honey. There's a little bitterness to it too.

Light body that makes it easy to drink, but it's a bit too much ginger flavor for me.

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Photo of BrewUSA
3.39/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Look 7/10
Smell 14/20
Taste 31/40
Feel 8/10
Drinkability 15/20

Overall 75/100

Easily the most overrated craft beer in my opinion, While its not bad. I am totally at a loss as to why the hype machine gets fired up the way it does over this beer. It doesn't seem to have any one thing that stands out as a beer worth seeking out. I suppose its less about how bad this beer is, and more about how many other amazing Christmas Ales and craft beers are out there~

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Photo of macrosmatic
3.39/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Thanks to dogdoc for this one. Poured from 12 oz. bottle into a CCB pint glass.

A: Pours a clear gold, visible carbonation on the low side, and forms a 1/2 finger white head.

S: Sweet & caramel malts with lots of spices (nutmeg, allspice, ginger).

T: Follows the nose, with the spices very prominent. Overall is quite sweet with a bit of bitterness (hops?) at the end.

M: Light body, minimal alcohol presence, and low carbonation sensation.

O: Just not my style of beer. I can't find any off flavors, but the spices just came through too heavy-handed for my taste. That said, I feel like the brewers at least put an effort into making the sweetness & spices work into the body of the beer, rather than just giving your sinuses a Christmas kick. Better than many of the spiced Christmas beers.

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Photo of CHickman
3.4/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Pours a crystal clear amber copper color with a 2 finger foamy off white head that had lots of bubbles in it and faded very slowly, leaving very good foamy lacing coating the sides.

Smells of spices up front, like cinnamon, clove, ginger and allspice, followed by honey, flowers, toasted grains and caramel. Borders on too spicy for my liking, but it’s soft enough for me to tolerate for this style and the brewer’s design.

Tastes like it smells, with spices up front including cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger and nutmeg, followed by honey, flowers, herbs, toasted grains, hay or dry grass, yeast and caramel. As much as I try, I just don’t dig all the spices and the cinnamon and ginger are very strong so this was not my cup of tea. It is very complex, and like a fruitcake soaked in water for a month, but just not my favorite style. It is what it is, so I’ll plow through it.

Mouthfeel is creamy and slick, with a buttery feel, a medium chewy body, nice carbonation that was just lighter than average, but then came the spices that lingered in the aftertaste.

I would not seek this out again and did not enjoy this beer, but being subjective I’d say that fans of this spice filled style will thoroughly enjoy this beer; too bad I’m not one of those fans.

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Great Lakes Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Co.
3.91 out of 5 based on 3,007 ratings.
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