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Monday, December 23, 2013

Great Lakes Brewing Co's 2013 Christmas Ale

  • Style: Holiday Ale
  • ABV: 7.50%
  • Season: Winter (late October/November/December)
  • Ease to locate: Brewed in Cleveland, OH.   Easy to find in liquor/bottle shops and some large grocery stores in IL, NY, NJ, VA, WV, KY, Washington DC
  • Color:Lightly golden brown with heavy copper and amber tones
  • Head: Two finger, light beige head with tight lacing
  • Aroma: Sweet caramel malts with spices that really open as it warms.  Scents of cloves, ginger and nutmeg.  A bit of resin on the back of the nose.
  • Mouthfeel: On the lighter side of medium with abundant carbonation
  • Finish: Medium with a resin hop tail
  • Food friendly?: Yes.  Hearty winter food that benefit from a bit of baking spices.  Not too spicy chili or Moroccan tagine.  Serve with sharp cheeses, like pecorino romano. 

Apple user link: This song always makes me think of my Dad. Traditions are important.

                                                                   On the 13th day I think we all just need a good drink.  That's a LOT of shopping after all.

Christmas is a time of traditions. Secular ones. (Important.  Black Friday frenzy anyone?) Family ones. (Very important.  They're the ones that buy you all the presents, after all.)  Drinking ones. (I'll let you decide on this one's place in the grand scheme of things.  I personally may have squealed a bit when I saw a certain seasonal offering in my local grocery store this year.)  For many of us (the Squealers) Christmas ales are a highly anticipated part of the holiday season.  And for me, the first sighting of those Great Lakes Brewing's bottles with the Christmas tree ship on them always evoke a warm, excited, seasonal response (did I mention the squeal?)  

My Great Lake's Christmas Ale poured a light golden brown with amber and copper tones warming the brew.  A solid, two finger head of light beige foam formed quickly, but took it's sugar cookie sweet time in settling.  Tight, spotty lacing rimmed the glass, creeping delicately up the sides.  The nose was slightly sweet with caramel and soft brown sugar scents layered on top of light holiday spices.  It wasn't a heavy aroma, but opened greatly as the beer warmed.  A note of bitter resin came out as the brew sat for a while as well.   Now, of course no one should be drinking their craft beer as cold as the Grinch's shrunken heart, but this was the sort of beer that got better and better the longer you waited to drink it.  Patience is apparently a holiday virtue (try telling that to the guy standing behind you in line while last minute shopping this year.  I triple dog dare you.)   There was a strong malt backbone, just as on the nose.  Lots of caramel malts and a bit of brown sugar sweetness off set by the spiciness of cloves, ginger and cinnamon.  As time when on, I discovered that the taste of honey and vanilla appeared as well.  The hoppy resin note worked extraordinarily well with the spiciness while still balancing out the sweetness.  I think it's pretty safe to say that this is one of the best balanced Christmas ales on the market right now.  The mouthfeel was on the lighter side of  moderate with a good amount of carbonation that helped to make this an easy to drink sort of beer.  The finish was also medium  with a very welcome hop trail on the very end of the sip.  All in all, this beer was just the perfect holiday bite of beer.  

When I first reviewed Great Lake's Christmas Ale last year,  I was pretty new to the whole seasonal ale scene.  But this beer quickly became a favorite holiday indulgence.  I would play off of the balanced sweetness and spiciness of this beer by serving it with a Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Honey and Apricots.  Or, alternatively, try it with a simple bowl of Beef Chili made with Beer and Coffee.  Cook with a richer beer such as, a Eugene Porter from Revolution or, oh, I don't know, Great Lake's Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and pour yourself a side pint of this delicious Christmas Ale.  Squealing is purely optional.