Whether it's a traditional Christmas ale brewed with honey, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, like Great Lakes Brewing Company's well-known original — bottled for the first time in 1992, and what many think of when they think of winter beer in Cleveland — or something a little more edgy, like Buckeye Brewing Company's Christmas Girl Belgian Blond, there is something for everyone's taste in this year's bumper crop of local seasonal creations.
Great Lakes Brewing Company (2516 Market Ave., 216-771-4404, greatlakesbrewing.com) Christmas Ale: With more championships than LeBron (it's a six-time medal winner since 1999), GLBC's Christmas Ale is the original King of Cleveland. Every year people wait for the ceremonial release date, tasting for subtle differences from year to year. You'll always find honey from the Great Lakes region, which contributes sweetness, strength and subtle floral notes; 7.5 percent ABV, and 30 IBU. Available in six-packs anywhere craft beer is sold, as well as on draft throughout Cleveland and beyond.
Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. (529 Grant St., Akron, 330-252-2739, thirstydog.com) 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale: Filled with seasonal flavors including toasted caramel malts, honey, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, this was the classic seasonal in competition with GLBC, delivering a slightly sweeter and more richly spiced ale throughout the years; 8.3 percent ABV, 21.5 IBU. Available in six-packs anywhere craft beer is sold as well as on draft throughout Cleveland and Akron.
Fat Head's Brewery (18741 Sheldon Rd., 216-898-0242, fatheadsbeer.com) Holly Jolly Christmas Ale: Fat Head's utilizes a rich amount of malts for this one including Pale, Munich, Special Roast, Victory, CaraMunich I & II, CaraAroma, Cara-Pils, and Chocolate in addition to local Ohio honey, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and coriander; 7.5 percent ABV, 28 IBU. Available in six-packs anywhere craft beer is sold as well as on draft throughout Cleveland and beyond.
Pimp My Sleigh Christmas Ale: The new Christmas beer on the block from Fat Head's, this complex Belgian-style Christmas ale has more fruity overtones and dark fruit and malt flavors including raisins, figs, anise, and spicy phenols; 10.5 percent ABV, 30 IBU. Available in six-packs anywhere craft beer is sold as well as on draft throughout Cleveland and beyond.
Platform Beer Co. (4125 Lorain Ave., 216-202-1386, platformbeerco.com) Esther Belgian Christmas Ale: A dark ruby ale tasting full of honey, toffee and dark cherries, with a sweet honey aftertaste balanced by the Belgian yeast; 8 percent ABV. Available on draft at select bars, and in cans at local groceries and other places where craft beer is sold.
Goldhorn Brewery (1361 East 55th St., goldhornbrewery.com) St. Clairsmas Stout: A malty holiday beer that takes the flavor profiles of a traditional Christmas ale but pairs them with a smooth and chocolaty stout as a base instead; 7.2 percent ABV. Only available on draft at Goldhorn Brewery.
The Brew Kettle (8377 Pearl Rd., 440-239-8788, thebrewkettle.com) Winter Warmer: Traditional spiced Christmas ale loaded with cinnamon, ginger, orange and lemon peel. The microbrewery has been open since 1995 making specialty seasonals on premise; 8 percent ABV, 24 IBU. Available on draft at select locations, as well as in bottles in limited supply.
Sibling Revelry Brewery (29305 Clemens Rd., 440-471-8589, siblingrevelrybrewing.com) Winter Ale: Sweet raisin and plum flavors with a dry warming finish. This seasonal taproom exclusive is brewed with Pilsner, Munich, Crystal, and Chocolate malt, and includes Magnum and Saaz hops; 7.8 percent ABV, 25 IBU. Available on draft in their taproom and in growlers; select local bars may carry it.
Buckeye Brewing Company (9941 Walford Ave., 216-860-1434, buckeyebrewing.com) Christmas Girl Belgian Blonde Ale: A big twist on a Christmas ale, this beer is going to be light in color and taste with no spices added. All floral and spice notes here come from the strains of yeast used during brewing. It's the "snow" counterpart to all of those amber gingerbread cookie-inspired beers you'll be indulging in this season; 8 percent ABV. Sold in 22-ounce bottles, on draft at Buckeye Beer Engine and Buckeye Brewing Co. only. (They will fill half growlers.)
Butcher and the Brewer (2043 East Fourth St., 216-331-0805, butcherandthebrewer.com) Spice Spice Baby: Deep amber ale with notes of caramel, Christmas spices and toffee. You can sing its name to the tune of the classic MC Hammer song as you drink; 7 percent ABV. Available only at Butcher and the Brewer or poured into a growler to go.
Market Garden Brewery (1947 West 25th St., 216-621-4000, marketgardenbrewery.com) Festivus Ale: An American holiday ale that's smooth, spicy and malty with a caramel, brown sugar and nutmeg finish. Named for the secular holiday made popular by Seinfeld, this is the perfect beer to enjoy before the annual Airing of Grievances but after the Feats of Strength; 7.5 percent ABV. Available on draft and in bottles at area bars and restaurants. MGB also makes a Malt Train Winter Warmer and a Winter Porter that will knock your socks off!
Forest City Brewery (2135 Columbus Rd., forestcitybrewery.com) Shinny Spiced Belgian Quad Holiday Ale: Shinny was a popular street hockey game in 19th century Cleveland, according to FCB's Facebook page. This Belgian ale is brewed with nutmeg and allspice. "Quad" refers to it's quadrupel style full of flavor, heavy, and dark compared to other Belgians; 9.5 percent ABV, 24 IBU. Available only on draft at Forest City Brewery.
Euclid Brewing Company (21950 Lakeshore Blvd., facebook.com/EuclidBrewingCompany) Cherry Christmas Ale: Instead of replicating what everyone else was up to this year, Euclid Brewing Company decided to go with something a little simpler for the first batch of holiday cheer to be brewed in their new location: a stout with deep cherry flavors; 4.8 percent ABV. Only on draft in their taproom or in growlers to go.