2013 Christmas Ale (Great Lakes Brewing Company)

Style: Winter Warmer

7.5% ABV

30 IBU’s

17˚P

From: Cleveland, OH

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Brewer’s Note: “This one’s for the annual gift exchange. For warm, crowded living rooms and steamy kitchen windows. For roasts in the oven, long meandering toasts, and longer dining room tables. For a safe homecoming. For keeping Santa secret. For horrible sweaters and footie pajamas. For wrapping paper fights, snowball fights, and the peace that comes from watching the snow fall from a cozy chair. Christmas Ale is our tradition, and we’re thankful for everyone who’s made it a part of theirs.”

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The beer label is full of Christmas cheer, but lacks any interesting font. Great Lakes’ bland font is takes away from the pretty simplicity of the label, but other than that I like the festive graphic and the lack of clutter. The label could be considered for scrapbooking.

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The beer pours a candied red/amber, almost like a dark fruit punch. It forms a soda-like head of spritzy white bubbles that fade into a scrim. In body the beer is thin and crystal clear, with only a bit of haze coming from its darker coloring. On the nose, the beer smells of soft, warm spices and an indiscriminately fruity malt. The spices are hard to pinpoint, but could contain nutmeg… The smell is softly spicy and festive, but not overwhelmingly pleasing. On the tongue, the beer tastes sweet and spicy. The spice tends far more towards the “Christmas spice” realm than towards the kick of pepper. The sweet malt almost tastes like fruit juice, and is balanced out by the spice which moves in on the middle and finish of the sip. Soft bitterness and light acidity accompany the spice for added balance. In flavor, the beer begins as sweet fruit juice, somewhere between generic fruit punch and apple juice. In the middle of the sip, the winter spices bowl onto the palate, giving hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and generic spice. The finish is of strong winter spices with a touch of grassy bitterness. The fruit juice flavors give a touch of cranberry juice in the finish, which is festive and odd. In the mouth, the beer feels on the light side of medium, practically light, with an oddly watery mouthfeel and a soft carbonation. The mouth is left with a light spice burn, some dryness, and some saliva in the cheeks. Overall, I’m a bit underwhelmed by this iteration. It has some nice winter spice, but the malt character is oddly like fruit juice, which I don’t much care for. This is an interesting beer, but I want more bread and caramel malt flavors and less fruit juice. The spicing is nice, if a bit too much on the end. Not a bad winter warmer, but not my favorite.

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3.5/5

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