Great Lakes Brewing Company's Christmas Ale
Winter Warmer - 7.5% ABV
Purchased at: Weiland's
From: Cleveland, OH
Ah, is one month after Christmas too late to review this annual favorite? I meant to do this a while ago, but I've been busy drinking too many other good beers.
Most people that know Great Lakes from outside of Ohio seem to know it for either the Christmas Ale or the Blackout Stout . Over the next few days (hours), I'll do a review of both and you'll see what the hype is all about (or not about).
Winter warmers are one of my favorite styles to drink, because a nice strong beer is what you sometimes need in the winter to relieve the stress of seeing monotonous overcast skies daily. Or, just an excuse to drink when it's 60 degrees in January (this is Ohio, after all).
This Christmas Ale pours a crystal-clear amber, with lots of carbonation quite visible. A relatively thin head forms and stays on this beer as you drink it. I inhale deeply to glean as much information about the contents of the glass as I can. I smell, predominantly, ginger and other spices. The "other spices" include: honey, cinnamon, sweeter caramel malts, and a hint of hops.
The taste is more balanced. I first get cinnamon and honey, with ginger following closely behind. A good base of bready malts solidifies the foundation of this beer. Nutmeg and allspice also make appearances, but play more background roles (which is good, because those are stronger spices). The finish is sweet with honey but balanced by some bitter noble German hops, and a light wave of heat coats your throat on the way down. A very nice way to round out a delicious beer.
It's hyped for a good reason.
Hop/malt balance: 3.5/4
Mouth feel: 3/3
Here are some other opinions on this winter specialty:
Booze and Other Nonsense
Dave's Man Cave
Professional Beer Reviews [video]