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)
Café Saint Ex
Bread and Brew
Hank’s Oyster Bar
Bourbon (Adams Morgan)