Beyond Christmas Ale: Try Hard Ciders, Belgium and Pumpkin Beers

Local craft beer aficionados share their holiday favorites to help you expand your beer palate. And you can get them close to home.

Rozi's Wine & Liquor House Inc.
14900 Detroit Ave. 

Rozi's Manager Bill Barak gave us the rundown between the two general classifications of Christmas-time beers, Christmas or spiced and winter warmers. “Winter warmers are scotch ales or strong ales. Basically they are heavier more malty. They warm your belly. They are thick and thus take longer to get through.

“Then you have your Christmas beers which are spice beers. The actual classification is spice or vegetable beers is the broad style.” In his opinion Ohio is the leader of the spice beers as far as Christmas ales go. There really aren't other areas that produce it or produce it as well as we do, he said.

Winter warmer craft beer selection: Breckenridge Christmas Ale, Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale, Great Divide Hibernation Ale, St. Bernardus Christmas Ale from Belgium.
Spice holiday beer selection: First and foremost is Great Lakes Christmas Ale; Fathead North Olmsted has Holly Jolly Christmas Ale, and Brew Kettle in Strongsville, which is actually called a winter warmer but he classifies it as a spice beer. Southern Tier 2XMAS, and 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale produced in Akron.

Favorite holiday beer: “Mine of the spice beers is Fat Heads Holly Jolly. It is not over spiced, so I prefer it as I am not generally the biggest spice beer fan. As far as winter warmers my personal favorite is St. Bernardus Christmas Ale from Belgium. If it has any spice it is light, it's chewy gnarly. It takes a while to get through so you can sip it.”

Special Beer Tasting Event: Rozi's Wine & Liquor House Inc. will host a beer tasting Dec. 7, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. On tap will be at least eight different beers of the holiday season, and Richard Read of Griffin Cider Works in Westlake will offer tastings of his spiced mulling cider.

Warehouse Beverage
4364 Mayfield Road
South Euclid

Co-owner Paul Speyer is transitioning to Christmas themed beers from the autumn beers. At the moment Warehouse Beverage, which he owns with his brothers Mike and Al, has more than 30 Christmas beers. He expects to get at least 70 craft beer labels representing holiday brews once the season gets in full swing. Check out their Facebook page for updates on new arrivals and detailed characteristics of current products.

Fall craft beer selection: Limited quantities of Rogue Chatoe Pumpkin Patch Ale, Hoppin' Frog Double Pumpkin, and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin from New England.

Christmas craft beer selection: Great Lakes Christmas Ale, North Coast Winter Time Ale, Brooklyn Winter Ale. The hot ones of the moment are Fat Head's Holly Jolly Christmas Ale, Southern Tier 2XMAS and Tröegs The Mad Elf Holiday Ale. New arrivals include Innis & Gunn Winter Beer from Scotland and Bell's Christmas Ale.

Favorite holiday beer: “My favorite beer is an open beer,”  he joked. “But seriously I like the winter ales which are fuller bodied heartier beer. I like the spiced beers too, but to drink on a regular basis I prefer the more maltier beer. For me it is more about the beer than the spice when it comes to Christmas beers. The experience of drinking craft beer is fun and knowing what's what or who's who.”

Buckeye Beer Engine
15315 Madison Ave. 

Come mid-December Buckeye Beer Engine will be overflowing with Belgium Christmas beers. “Belgium beers are brewed from centuries old recipes, passed down through generations of families and businesses. They are known throughout the world for their high quality. These recipes have proved the test of time,” said General Manager Mike Frohlich. Domestic drafts will be on hand too.

Christmas craft beer selection: From Belgium Scaldis Brewery, Noel,  Delirium's Noel, Brasserie Dupont's Avec Le Bons, and a Christmas beer from Brasserie De La Senne. Domestic drafts include Anchor Steam from Anchor Brewing of San Francisco, and Ommegang Adoration Special Winter Ale from New York. Their parent company, Buckeye Brewing Co. will introduce their holiday-themed Christmas Girl on Dec. 1.

Favorite holiday beer: “My favorite I would have to stay with a Belgium beer. I think Delirium Noel could possible be one of my favorites, it is usually one of the best ranked beers in the world. The brewery itself has a phenomenal world-wide recognition,” said Frohlich. “It's darker in color, but will pick up tastes of caramel, cherries, bubble gum, usually has a lot carbonation to it.”

The Brew Kettle Taproom and Smokehouse
8377 Pearl Rd. 

“For a successful holiday beer season, the hope is to sell your last glass on Christmas Eve,” said Chris McKim, owner of the Brew Kettle Production Works and The Brew Kettle Taproom and Smokehouse. To stay on point, they will be brewing the seasonal drink throughout the month of December. 

Their in-house Winter Warmer straddles the line of pint glass beer and specialty glass beer. “But I think it is more of a pint glass beer,” said McKim. The light amber ale was made with local honey, sweet orange peel, a touch of sweet lemon peel, cinnamon and ginger. “It doesn't overwhelm the pallet with spice. So we make sure it is a very drinkable beer.”

Winter Warmer is on draft at The Brew Kettle and available in exclusive beer bars and stores in Ohio, including Heinen's, Giant Eagle, Winking Lizard Tavern and Melt Bar and Grilled.

Griffin Cider Works
24945 Detroit Rd.

Is cider beer? “Cider is made like wine, but the way you drink it is beer,” said Richard Read, owner of Griffin Cider Works. Originally from the United Kingdom the classification of cider depends on where you're from and how you drink it, he said.

His festive holiday cider, Smoking Burley, is an apple-based version of an English country-side recipe his family has used for several generations to make wine. His cider adaptation was inspired by the  celebratory libation, Smoking Bishop, drunk by the main characters in the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.” Traditionally made with wine, his dry English-style cider version is mulled with a special spice blend and infused with oranges. The high-end craft cider can be made with Burley Man or Griffin original. “This holiday drink is for the cider enthusiasts.,” said Griffin as it includes at-home instructions for infusing the spice blend and baked oranges. So turn on the oven and fire up fruit.

Griffin Cider Works products are available Heinen's, Buehler's Fresh Foods, Whole Foods, Giant Eagle, Earth Fare, and Mustard Seed.

joe November 14, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Ok, I am lost why are we doing stories on places in Lakewood, Strongsville and etc. from the Cleveland area in the Falls Patch??????????
Tom Brennan November 15, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Joe, I'm from Strongsville and I also was under the impression that the Patch was supposed to be local. I initially was very pleased with the emphasis on local stories, but as the election ramped up, I was disappointed in the emphasis on national politics. After all, there are thousands of sites out there where people can argue those issues. I contacted the Strongsville editor a few months ago asking why the Patch had lost its' "local content", and she told me that it was the result of a corporate decision in NYC. Disappointing, but not surprising.
Susan Ruiz Patton November 15, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Calm down everybody. This post includes beers that everybody can buy at Heinen's, Giant Eagle, and Mustard Seed as well as restaurants and bars throughout the region. Just because there isn't a brewery in your town doesn't mean you're not allowed to go out of town to get your favorite beer. We're pretty sure people might be willing to cross the border of their city boundary to buy something they think is special.
Debbie Palmer November 15, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Tom, I hope I didn't imply there was a decision for Patch to shift its focus away from local news -- there wasn't. There was a company-wide decision to cover the elections closely, especially with so many Presidential candidate appearances in northeast Ohio, which did generate a LOT of debate in our Comments section. But you'll find each Patch site is still dedicated to covering local news and events.


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