Guest Video Review by Dave Coulter
You know, I’ve been to a lot of breweries in my day, and I’ve drunk a lot of beers. Still and all, through all this time, I count the Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio as one of my very favorites. Great Lakes beers have never been sold in my area (for the past 14 years, that’s been Georgia, the preceding 37, Rhode Island). I’ve managed to enjoy their beers from time to time all the same.
My one visit to the brewery was a stop in Cleveland on the way to Oldenberg’s Beer Camp back in the late 90s. It was a great time and I brought back lots of their beer. My good friend the legendary Red Rooster made many more trips there, and would often bring me back beers from Great Lakes. One of those beers was Great Lakes Christmas Ale.
Here are my tasting notes on that beer from January 4th, 1999:
Golden Brown in color with good carbonation and a spicy nose packed with
ginger and cinnamon. Both of those spices are apparent in the palate too,
where they meld with a toasty malt body and a rich, candyish mouthfeel (from
the honey?). A bit more hop bitterness than most spiced ales feature in the
finish. A nice seasonal beer.
Now, about 15 years later I’m enjoying Great Lakes Christmas Ale again (for the first time in all that time as well). This time I got a bottle from the very generous Dave Coulter, whose video review you can see above. My impressions to follow, but first here’s what Great Lakes has to say about the beer:
Style Origin: The tradition of holiday brews has its origins in the Middle Ages when spices were commonly used instead of hops to add flavor and medicinal qualities to beer. The style re-emerged in the early 1900s in the northern countries of Western Europe when local brewers began creating specialty holiday brews for their favored patrons. Today, most breweries make their holiday beers darker and more potent and often add spices like ginger and cinnamon for a more pronounced holiday flavor.
MALT Harrington 2-Row Base Malt, Wheat, Crystal 45, Special Roast, Roasted Barley
HOPS Mt. Hood, Cascade
SPICES Honey, Cinnamon, Fresh Ginger
Great Lakes Christmas Ale has an alcohol content of 7.5% by volume. The website says it has a shelf life of 126 days (not sure how they come with that figure), and my bottle says best by 3/01/15. I drank mine on March 9th, and it was wonderful. Had I another, I am sure it would be fine for Christmas in July. In his video, Dave says this beer retails for $12.99 a six-pack, and half star off my final rating for that. Still a beer I would buy at that price though, if I could.
Great Lakes Christmas Ale pours to a gorgeous light ruby color with a thick foamy head and an appetizing nose of cinnamon and ginger. Taking a sip, the beer has that same toasty malty base I remarked on 16 years ago plus a bit of caramel, very robust cinnamon hotball and pungent ginger notes and lots of the rich, slightly sweet honey notes to boot. It’s not as hoppy as I remarked, but there is a notable grassy hop finish to balance off the sweetness.
If you enjoy spice holiday beers (as I do), this one is certainly for you. What a wonderful beer it is, a true holiday treat to savor in the depths of a Cleveland winter. Or a cool Georgia March day, for that matter.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.