Young and Hungry

The Great Christmas Ale Is Coming

Great Lakes Christmas Ale, that is. And it's already here. Great Lakes Brewing Company's holiday ale is only available in November and December each year. Yet the 7.5% ABV spiced brew is the Cleveland brewery's second top selling beer annually, after Dortmunder Gold which is available year round. Christmas Ale is in such high demand that Great Lakes brewers work extra shifts to make it and the brewery gets calls about it all year long. Fans of the beer are so zealous that they wait in lines to drink it and pay homage to it in creative ways.

Eighty percent of the 40,000 kegs of Christmas Ale that were made this year will be distributed and sold in Ohio, where it was released on November 1. But the brewery sends the beer, which is brewed with honey and spiced with fresh ginger and cinnamon, to about 12 other states...including the Distrcit of Columbia.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale has hype, but does the beer's flavor stand up? Signs point to yes. Christmas Ale has been awarded a Gold Medal at the World Beer Championships four out of the last five years. On Monday The Big Hunt, where Great Lakes officially launched its line of beers in the area last January, tapped the District's first keg. And it only lasted three hours.

But you can decide for yourself. Tonight both ChurchKey and The Black Squirrel will be pouring some of their reserves of the beer. The Black Squirrel will be tapping their keg at 5:00pm.  ChurchKey kicks off Christmas at 6:00pm and will also be featuring Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale, an Irish dry stout named after the grandfather of Patrick and Daniel Conway, the brewery's founders. Then on Wednesday at 5:30pm, The Big Hunt will tap another keg of Christmas Ale.

If you just can't get yourself in the mood for a Christmas Ale yet, there is a good reason to wait. On Friday, December 3, The Black Squirrel is having a Christmas Ale and Cookies event where they will be pouring Great Lakes Christmas Ale and giving out Christmas cookies all night. Chef Gene Sohn will also make holiday desserts that pair with the beer, including a Christmas Ale bread pudding and a Christmas Ale eggnog custard. For those feeling crafty, there will be a holiday cookie decorating in the upstairs lounge. Now that sounds like Christmas!

We are interested in hearing what D.C. drinkers think of Great Lakes Christmas Ale. How does this year's Christmas Ale compared to other holiday brews? Will the beer so inspire you that you will find yourself writing songs about it and posting them to the internet?

UPDATE: Below are some spots to look for Christmas Ale on draft, according to local Great Lakes sales representative Bernie Van Order. Check out the comments section for where to find Christmas Ale in stores.

The Big Hunt
Pizza Paradiso (Dupont Circle)
Logan Tavern
Commonwealth Gastropub
Meridian Pint
Justin's Café
Café Saint Ex
Bread and Brew
Rustik Tavern
Nanny O'Brians
Hank's Oyster Bar
Bourbon (Adams Morgan)

  • Jim

    It will knock your socks off.

  • Nikki

    That cookie party sounds freakin awesome!!!

  • Andrew B

    I have had it several times, but it never stood out to me as a beer that would inspire a cult like following. I am surprised it is their second biggest seller, I much prefer the Nosforatu or Burning River, but hey, to each their own.

  • Andrew B

    PS - the Conway's is also friggin' awesome.

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  • Wassup

    Finally, the best kept secret in Cleveland comes East!
    This stuff makes "THE BEST" quicky Christmas gift because you don't have to wrap it, the packaging is so good.

  • Rob

    I've been on the lookout all month - still trying to get my hands on a six-pack.

  • Kim

    I went to Churchkey last night...The Christmas Ale didn't last long there, either.

    Rob, it didn't hit D.C. stores until the 15th, so it might be easier to find a 6-pack now.

    I love Christmas Ale, although, I'll admit, part of the hype/general love for it is obviously due to the fact that it's only available for 2 months (or less, as most places other than the actual Brewpub tend to run out toward the end of December). And, since GLBC doesn't use preservatives, you can't just buy a whole bunch and save it to enjoy year-round.

  • HP

    it's available in stores????
    where? it's amazing stuff--was able to get some at big hunt last night before they ran out. It was the first time I got the urge to move back to Cleveland

  • Kim

    I was lucky enough to find it at my corner market. The Beer Finder on the GLBS website will let you know where it's available that's close to you:

    A quick search using 20001 shows that it's not available at a ton of stores, but it looks like it's available at at least three locations.

  • Chris

    Call me the Grinch, but I picked up a sixer of this over the weekend (that liquor store across from the Safeway on Columbia Road with the surprisingly good beer selection has it at $14) and thought it was cloying and not very drinkable. I was glad to unload it on some friends that came over Friday night.

  • Buzz

    The Magruder's way up on Connecticut Ave. has it.

  • jdirt2005

    "Best served at 55degreesF"

    That's no joke; if you're lucky/quick enough to get your hands on a 6-pack of Christmas Ale, trust what the purveyor is telling you.

    The taste is rather affected by this peculiarity, so admit that the brewing company knows their beer better than you do. This is not meant to compete with "ice-cold" coors light or budweiser.

    Christmas Ale rocks. Try it once and you will buy twice as much next Christmas.

  • Ryan

    Anyone know where you can buy bottles?