Gritty McDuff's Christmas Ale | Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company

very good
124 Reviews
Gritty McDuff's Christmas AleGritty McDuff's Christmas Ale

Brewed by:
Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company
Maine, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.20%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
If it looks like Ed just got merrier, you're right. Every November heralds the return of our holiday seasonal, Christmas Ale – available on draft and in six-packs. Our Christmas Ale is a robust E.S.B. (Extra Special Bitter) full of holiday cheer. Christmas Ale has a lovely, dark red/amber color and a rich, full-bodied, malty taste with a slightly roasted undertone. We brew our Christmas Ale to an original gravity of 1064 (about 6.2% alcohol by volume) using only the finest English Pale and Crystal Malts, with a touch of Roasted Barley as well. A blend of Clusters, Styrian Goldings, Saaz and Yakima Goldings leaf hops round out this hearty brew. Gritty's Christmas Ale has no additives, fruits or spices. It's just a good honest ale, perfect for the season. And to top it all off, it's already gift-wrapped! Happy Holidays!

28.5 IBU

Added by Bierman9 on 01-11-2002

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Reviews: 124 | Ratings: 195
Photo of CheckMate
5/5  rDev +31.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

12oz brown bottle obtained at McKinnon's in Salem, NH. pours a ruby red with a half inch of off white head that slowly dissipated. nutty, fruity and chocolatey scents with a touch of diacetyl and hops. tastes of chocolate, fruity and nuttiness, a touch of earthiness from the hops, and a slight alcohol bite. clean finish, moderate carbonation. great beer a bit of a sipper but the first sip invites another.


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Photo of flanmedic51
4.87/5  rDev +28.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Received a glass from cask at the Gritty's Pub in Freeport, ME. According to the server, it's at cellar temp, just above 40F.

Appearance is dark red with 1" white head that laces the glass nicely while drinking.

MMMM...the smell...It's like smelling a bouquet of flowers. Very floral with a hint of alcohol.

The taste was almost as good as the smell. Malty deliciousness with pear & fig notes and a subtle spiciness. Some diacetyl.

Very smooth mouthfeel, low carbonation, with a slight bitter finish. The great deep malty/fruity flavor lingers on the tongue.

I was absolutely blown away by this seasonal having it off cask. It was an awesome experience, a total flavor explosion that cannot be re-created via a bottle from a 6 pack, although still delicious. When I say it smelled like a bouquet of flowers...dammit, I'm telling you it did!! Always a huge fan of this Gritty's seasonal and probably my favorite with the Halloween Ale a close 2nd.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.7/5  rDev +23.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

There was only a trace of foam laying across the top of the beer when it was brought to me. Color was a deep amber with NE-quality clarity and ruby highlights. Nose was much spicier than I anticipated. I liked the intermingling of the cinnamon with some sort of mint, spearmint, perhaps. Definitely not peppermint. Mouthfeel was full with a taste like a chocolate candy cane. Maybe I was wrong about it not being peppermint. It had a minty flavor on the tongue, at any rate. Finish had a breathtakingly minty quality. Damn, was this tasty! Do they bottle this one? Or better yet, put it in a CAN? Very refreshing, in a minty sort of way.

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Photo of BillyBrew
4.45/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Gritty's casked this treat up in the middle of July, much to my benefit. Great sunny-brown colour with an giant, sudsy-looking head that retains big the whole pint. The scent is enormously sweet and sugary with supporting citrus-tones. The taste was heavily sweet with smooth malts and citrusy hops. Full flavor throughout with a big range from sugary sweet to striking cirtrus-bitterness. The body was a tremedously smooth, medium body without any rough biting.

This Gritty's brew is a full-sensory stimulant, makes you love the complexity and intricacies of beer. This onslaught on the senses does wear on you, but must be enjoyed whenever available. Cheers!

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Photo of UnionMade
4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours a dark mahogany brown, topped with a half inch of almond head. The head dies out to a thick film after sitting for a couple minutes. Excellent clarity, shining red through light. The head thins to a thick ring around the glass, with a couple sparse blobs of lace.
The aroma is richly malty, with toasty, biscuity malt. Some caramel, with some chocolate malt and estery apple, plum and a hint of pear. Mild british hops bolster and balance the malt, providing an earthy herbal tone. Some light butterscotch. Very pleasant.
Solid malt starts out the flavor, with a bicuity, toasty malt right up front, traveling into a toffee sweetness with a hint of grainy chocolate malt. Some estery pear and plum come through the middle, coupling with some roasted malt bitterness and a mild herbal hopping. Light diacetyl butterscotch is apparent in the finish, with some biscuity malt and herbal hops lingering in the aftertaste. Very smooth and rich, with a full bodied feel on the tongue. Lightly carbonationed, very much in the british style all the way around. Sweetish and robust, with excellent balance. Just the barest wisp of alcohol is evident in the swallow.
A very hearty, warming ESB. This is fantastic. I love beer in this style, and this is a great example. Plenty of fruitiness, with a lovely malt character and terrific hop balance. My only complaint is that I only have two bottles. I'm very happy with this beer.

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Photo of bigkahunas4
4.4/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a tuilp.

Came out of the bottle a caramel color, however, turned to jet black once it was settling in the glass. A nice, one finger, sandy head emerged. Retention was medium, lacing was adequate. Medium strong nose, some buttery figs and sweet candy notes.

Very smooth and well balanced brew. Flavors being with a sweet nuttiness, moving to some woody bitterness, before finishing with some mild honey. Really complex and flavorful for a relatively low ABV (Wait did I just catch a kick of Brett?). Brew is smooth, tingly, with some nice stickiness.

Heck yes! My girlfriend got this for me along with some other random singles - and I probably never would've ever bought this. This is incredibly drinkable, and is extremely sessionable. If you're looking for a nice candied warmer to drink a few of - reach for this!

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Photo of Jason
4.35/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 22oz brown bomber with no freshness date.

Appearance: Slightly chill hazed reddish brown with a varied sized bubbly lace that sticks everywhere.

Smell: Buttery diacetyl, neighboring butterscotch in aroma. Candied fruit with a light malt sweetness and a touch of earthy hop.

Taste: Medium bodied with a crisp malty mouth feel, bordering dry though a pinch of residual sweetness is noticeable. Carbonation helps with the crisp malt and mild hop bitterness, chocolaty character is a bit dominant soon followed by an earthy / minty hop flavour with a musty buttery diacetyl flavour from the yeast. Alcohol is present with its light warming feature. Fruity middle to end with hints of melon and pear.

Notes: Sizeable and hearty ESB … full to capacity of malt, yeast and hop flavours. One of the best Gritty brews I have had to date and a great brew to end of the night with.

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Photo of oriolesfan4
4.31/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I had their Halloween Ale so I tried this one as well.. seems like they skipped Thanksgiving Ale but maybe they'll have it next year.

This a beautiful beer.. pours a deep red with a nice head to it. Taste is somehow subtle, yet present all the way through the drinking in a good way. No overly abundant tastes that stand out but juts lots of hops and malts shining through making for a great tasting beer. A unique beer and I'm glad I got to try it out.. super drinkable.

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Photo of jtierney89
4.3/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Brown color with good clarity. 1 finger of off white head. Very faint nose, not a lot going, a bit of spice and pale malt.

Pretty robust beer. I forgot this was an ESB. A really big ESB at that. Prickly carbonation. Nice pale and caramel malts, big nice caramel malts, toffee, sugared biscuit balanced by big earthy hop presence. A really great brew.

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Photo of bob3701
4.3/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into an imperial pint glass. Pours a clear dark amber with reddish highlights with a small thick head that slowly goes into a film with very good lacing. Buttery toffee aroma. Slight malty sweetness mixed with a little citrus with a mild hoppy bitterness finish. Really enjoyed this brew. Could drink a few of these in a sitting.

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Photo of beernut7
4.3/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Another quality seasonal from Gritty's. Copper color with a foamy lace around the glass. The taste is clean and full with a nice bitterness and a spicy hop profile. Very well brewed and tasty.

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Photo of jwc215
4.27/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Best by Nov. '08:

Pours rubyish brown with a thin tan head. A trace amount of lacing sticks.

The smell is toffeeish, earthy, lightly minty. Fairly mild, esp. at first, but pleasant.

The taste is toffeeish with an earthy, minty hop background. Near full-bodied, it is a tasty, well-balanced, very easy drinking ale. The alcohol is just enough to give it a nice warming touch without interfering in the taste or drinkability.

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Photo of sraimondi
4.2/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured into a pint glass.

Two finger beige foamy head which lasts throughout the drink, although it shrinks to a film. Very good sheet lacing. A very pretty medium to deep copper color.

Smell is of bread/malt. Surprisingly I don't pick up any real hops notes.

Taste is very good. The thing that hits you is how balanced this beer is, with a very slight hop bitterness in the finish. The other thing that is interesting is that there seems to be a bit of a bourbon flavor at the start?

The mouthfeel is quite good and on style, as very low carbonation lends itself to a soft roundness.

This one is very drinkable, despite the higher than normal ABV. Definitely sessionable.

This is a quality brew! I also think it is alot better than the Halloween Ale, which is the other ESB Gritty's produces. This one is so balanced and smooth. If you like ESBs or balanced brews, definitely pick this one up. One of the best offerings from Gritty McDuff's. I'm hoping my local store has some more, as this will be a case purchase for me.


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Photo of beer2day
4.2/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a medium reddish brown with thin head. Moderate lacing.

Nose is slighty sweet, with malt dominating hops. Maybe a hint of cinnamon.

I guess this is winter warmer meets esb. Robustly bitter at the end with hints of the spice of a winter warmer. Initial hit is nicely balanced with the malt predominating the taste in the middle. Then the bitters kick in, like a good esb.

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Photo of IronLover
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Deep red in color with a brownish hue and excellent clarity. Poured with a short white foam that quickly reduced to a wispy cap. Sweet toasted malt aroma with dark malt and buttery notes and touch of floral hops as it warmed. Medium bodied with pleasant carbonation and a dry finish. Toasted malt flavors up front quickly followed by dark malt with chocolate notes. Earthy floral hop flavors emerge through the middle to the end with buttery and toasted malt character. Finished crisp and dry with light hop bitterness. This was excellent. It reminded me how much I enjoy this style.

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Photo of Risser09
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a mexican tulip - Fridge temp - 2008

Appearance: Pours a garnet red and brown color with a nice 4" tall head. It shows great retention. The head is light tan and lasts and lasts. Stringy lace remains behind.

Smell: Brown sugar, caramel malt, caramel. Sugary sweet with some nutmeg and almond. Sweet.

Taste: Earthy and roasty. Dark pretzels, roasted barley, fig and a small amount of citrus. Very nice for a christmas ale. Rice aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Slick, smooth, sweet and spicy. Coats the mouth and swallows easy. Mild alcohol presence.

Drinkability: Very good. I usually don't like winter ales but this one is quite drinkable. Pretty complex and smooth. A beer worth drinking in multiples.

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Photo of puboflyons
4.13/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From the 12 fl. oz. bottle marked November 2010. Sampled on December 10, 2009. The pour is an attractive ruby red with excellent clarity and ab out a quarter inch light tan head that fizzles after a couple moments. The aroma is moderately hopped with a variety of bitter scents along with caramel malts. A mouthfeel that can be characterized as medium to heavy and maybe a tad creamy. The taste is more like a stong ale and less like a spicy Christmas ale but it is likeable. Gritty McDuff's makes a decent bitter ale and this is a slightly more pungent variation on their most recognized recipe.

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Photo of Estarrio
4.13/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Fittingly enough, this is my Christmas day '07 review...

A - Ruddy brown with ruby notes and a big, persistent tan head. This is a fine looking ESB.

S - Sweet malt, caramel, toffee, dark fruit, tart cherry and bread. Also a bit of butter (diacytel) in the nose, lending to a hint of nuttiness.

T - Caramel malt with toffee and vanilla. Dark fruit esters with hints of plum and cherry. The sweetness is well balanced by a bitter hop aftertaste. There is also a subtle spice profile; nutmeg, allspice, cinamin...but fortunately not overdone.

M - Moderate carbonation and a medium body create just the right mouthfeel for the style.

D - This is a highly sessionable brew

I've been impressed with the few offerings that I've tried from Gritty McDuff's. Their Halloween Ale renewed my interest in ESB's and prompted my renewed interest in balance over extreme. Not being a huge fan of winter warmers, I'm very pleased to see them stick with the ESB style that they do so well.

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Photo of Jwale73
4.13/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in a standard pint glass. Poured a dark amber color. Voluminous off-white head, settled to a quarter inch and ending in a thin layer of foam. Sticky lacing adhered to side of glass during the tasting. Scent of hops and something sweet; I would have to reiterate the burnt toffee described in previous reviews. Taste similar to nose with perhaps a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon. Very pleasant mouthfeel - a bit of carbonation, but also a smooth, full-bodied feeling. I really like this offering from Gritty's and would definitely consider this an excellent seasonal session brew.

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Photo of JayNH
4.13/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- Pours a clear deep copper to burgundy color with a large foamy head.

S- Sweet, notes of caramel and toffee, an earthy tea-like hoppiness...

T- Sweet and a bit fruity, biscuity malt, well balanced with a tea-like hoppiness. This brew really feels like a sweet black tea.

M- Lightly carbonated, medium bodied, a bit creamy and pleasant.

D- Pleasant, easy to drink, a nice example of an American ESB. There's a tug of war between the tea-like hoppiness and the sweet malt.

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Photo of bum732
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a copper red, decent creamy head that dissipates slightly. Smells of caramel and toffee sweetness, some dark fruits, earthy hops, touch of butterscotch. Tastes of sweet caramel malt, some dark fruits on the backbone. Hints of pear and touch of biscuit. A nice earthy and almost grassy bitterness balances the sweetness nicely. Finishes fairly sweet with more caramel and earthiness. Nice medium to full body, carbonation appropriate.

A really nice beer. Heavy on the caramel for an ESB, but the hops provide a nice balance. Not sure if i love the dark fruits, presumably from high lovibond crystal, but overall a solid beer.

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Photo of Gusler
4.1/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The beer pours from the 22 oz. bomber a limpid deep ruby color with the head mountainous in size and semi-creamy in texture, the color a beautiful light tan with the lace a thick and glutinous sheet to meld with the glass. Sweet malt dominates the nose, citrus like crispness with hints of green apples, light floral hop aroma present, start is thickly malt and sweet, top is moderate to full in feel. Finish is quite hop spicy and the carbonation brisk, very dry and the hops stay with you till the very end, quite a quaffable tis’ true, another great brew from a favorite brewery, I thank the grand old man of Maine bennybrew for this bottle.

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Photo of gcamparone
4.09/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass. Purchased in Wakefield, RI.

A- Pours a deep amber, clear body with an off white head that reduces to a film of white foam.

S- Caramel, toffee, bread, some hops in the background.

T- Vanilla, caramel, slight bourbon notes, sweet burnt sugar. Quite delicious and dessert like.

M- Medium body, medium carbonation.

I was pleasantly surprised by this beer. I will be trying more from this company.

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Photo of kelticblood
4.09/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Great roasted malt with a bitter grainy aroma. Hints of sweet bread-like and slight raisin smell. Has a nice dark clear copper color. Head started off great but fizzled out to almost nothing with half a minute. No real lacing present. Has the typical Gritty's signature of a fizzy carbonation. The taste isn't really bitter but the after-taste has a lingering bitterness in the throat. This is somewhat drinkable, although I probally wouldnt buy it again. It is very average and just about straight 4's. A bit watery on the mouthfeel and looks thicker than it is. Has a very light fizzy texture in the mouth and goes down smooth. The 6.20ABV is well-hidden and might sneek up on you. Overall it is average, but worth a try. I expected something stronger from a winter Christmas Ale.

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Photo of Loki
4.07/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sampled from a 22oz bomber thanks to bennybrew. To little info on the bottle, but smaller Maine producer so we'll let that slide.

Appearance: Great mahogany color that produces a small light beige head thats fades almost immediately. Maybe, due to the fact I sampled at near room temperature. (Sat it out to warm from the fridge and got side tracked.)

Smell: Roasted malt, spices of maybe nutmeg and allspice and something I can't quite place. Hints of roasted coffee in the back.

Taste: Roasted malt, toffee, nutmeg, and a mild coffee bitterness. The coffee taste was too much for my wife, and I thought it quite mild, but I drink very dark, strong coffee (usually serves itself). Quite enjoyable.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light carbonation, clean, and crisp. Finishes very nicely.

Drinkability: Very good. Nice and flavorful with a good malt backbone and enough hops to clean the sweetness. Overall a very solid ale.

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Gritty McDuff's Christmas Ale from Gritty McDuff's Brewing Company
3.8 out of 5 based on 195 ratings.
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