’Tis the season for beers spiked with cloves, orange peel, honey and spices. That’s right, just like the holiday season beginning earlier and earlier each year, the Christmas ales are already here. Everyone goes gaga for Great Lake Christmas Ale, making it both overexposed and hard to find, so here’s five other options you’ll also enjoy — dare I say more than the Great Lakes seasonal.
Southern Tier Brewing Co. 2XMAS (8.0 ABV)
Southern Tier’s first Christmas beer is crafted in the tradition of a Swedish Glogg and spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger root, figs and orange peel resulting in a slightly bitter, dark amber ale. If you’re a fan of Great Lakes Christmas Ale, this will be right up your alley. $10.99 for a six pack.
The Brew Kettle Winter Warmer (5.2 ABV)
This option from the Strongsville, Ohio brewery contains the usual holiday spices (cinnamon, ginger, orange & lemon peel), and a “sleigh load of honey,” as the label states. It’s by far the sweetest of these five, and the low alcohol content makes it a good option for Christmas beer rookies. $10.99 for a six pack.
Troegs Brewing Co. Mad Elf (11.0 ABV)
The cherries, honey and chocolate malts are more flavorful than the spices in the Troegs’ offering, but the truly dominant flavor is alcohol. It’s unfortunate the Mad Elf is so strong because the cherry and chocolate flavors — for the brief moment you can actually taste them — are a nice break from the common Christmas ale flavors. $15.99 for a six pack.
Bison Brewing Gingerbread Ale (6.0 ABV)
This porter — using all organic ingredients — is mildly spiced with ginger, nutmeg and a touch of cinnamon and isn’t much like a Christmas ale. I expected it to be sweeter (given the name), but the beer-cookie aroma gives way to a nicely-rounded beer full of chewy malts. Dark beer drinkers will surely enjoy. $8.99 for a six pack.
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (6.8 ABV)
Sage beer drinkers know Sierra Nevada is the pièce de résistance of holiday beers, not Great Lakes Chrstmas Ale. A couple years ago the phrase “fresh hop ale” was added to the label, but the recipe is the same it’s been since the early ’80s. Maybe it’s to clarify that this is one hopped-up brew with none of the familiar Christmas spices. The Celebration Ale also has some buttery malt flavors making it the most well-rounded and flavorful of the holiday brews. $8.99 for a six pack.