Christmas Ale Smackdown
by Monsieur Anton
Everybody in Northeast Ohio knows Great Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale. Tales of it are legendary. You can hardly hoist a pint in a local bar without some barfly telling a story of how they walked into a door or doing a header into the pavement in front of a joint selling the potent brew. While Great Lakes produces one of the most popular versions of the holiday favorite, most breweries big and small offer up some variety of the seasonal brew. One competitor to Great Lakes’ crown comes from about thirty mile south from Thirsty Dog Brewery in Akron with their 12 Dogs brew. Let’s take a look at our contenders for the Christmas Ale Crown.
Tale of the Tape
Christmas Ale 12 Dogs
Alcohol by Volume 7.5% 8.3%
IBU (International Bitters Unit) 40 21 Price $10.99/6 pack $10.99/6 pack
Great Lakes Christmas Ale: A dark copper colored beer with a thick head. There is a slightly fruity aroma with ginger and cinnamon. This is medium to full bodied beer with a sharp ginger taste and a bitter hoppy finish that is accentuated by the alcohol. There is a lot going on with this full flavored beer. It has great depth of flavor and is a fine brew, worthy of the rabid following it has on the North Coast.
12 Dogs: The challenger has a nose of spiced honey and ginger. It pours with a moderate head and a medium brown color. It is not nearly as dark as the Great Lakes offering. This beer tastes like liquid ginger bread with pronounced nutmeg and honey. Medium bodied, it drinks quite easily with ample caramel malt to balance the bitter hops, and no hint of the high alcohol content. This one goes down almost too easy.
And the winner is…It is definitely close. Both beers are wonderful winter warmers that stand up to the best brews anywhere in the country. I hate to go against conventional wisdom, where in Cleveland Christmas Ale is legend and sells out quickly, but at the end of the day it comes down to Budweiser’s made up word “drinkability.” 12 Dogs goes down much easier and is less filling than Christmas Ale making it a better beer to make an evening out of. The Christmas Ale is just too darn hard to drink more than two of, and perhaps that is a good thing given the high alcohol level. It’s heresy in Cleveland to say any beer is better than Christmas Ale, but in this case the winner comes from the Land of LeBron. All hail the new king…Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs.
Chef Gusteau says: Dear Anton, how you suffer for us all. You save us money with your sage advice…but in the end, the only thing that went down easier than the 12 Dogs, was you head on the pillow after you finished both six-packs during your testing. Happy Holidays Anton from us all.