With it being the most wonderful time of the year, let's take a look at the best Cleveland Christmas beers of all time.
The results were a little surprising in that we found that any possible research into what would be classified as a Cleveland-specific Christmas craft beer could only go back to 1988, as that is when Great Lakes Brewery was established and is recognized as the oldest craft brewery in Ohio.
Now, nearly 40 years of Christmas beer history is still a pretty good body of work on local Christmas beers, so before we get into what we might consider some of Cleveland’s best Christmas beer offerings, lets start with just what exactly qualifies as a Christmas beer.
What Makes a Christmas Beer?
A Christmas (or winter) ale will range in ABV from the high 5s to as high as 12-14%. Dark flavored malts, fruit, and spices are staples of most recipes and today these highly anticipated ales have evolved to include honey, nutmeg, and ginger. While Cleveland’s history with Christmas ale offerings may only date back to Great Lakes Christmas Ale's debut in 1992, the origins of the style itself go as far back as the medieval times.
Having been in the beer business myself, for more years than I care to remember at times, I feel pretty well-qualified to share my opinion on the various offerings that over the last several years have started hitting shelves in stores and the taps in bars around mid-October. So, let's take a look at one person’s opinion of what might be considered four of Cleveland’s best recent Christmas ales in no particular order. Some may still be around; others you may have missed out on.
The Best Christmas Beers in Cleveland
Made popular by the classic Seinfeld episode where George and his family celebrate Festivus, Market Garden’s Festivus Ale is a personal favorite, primarily because of the smoother taste profile that has the right blend of spices, complemented nicely with the addition of brown sugar. So, grab a six-pack for your holiday get-together and enjoy it during the airing of grievances or the feats of strength.
Three Hos from Saucy Brew Works was unique to me because of its use of a red ale combined with a wider variety of traditional typical holiday spices, as well as caramel and dark cherry to create a unique flavor profile.
If you are looking for a winter-ale-style Christmas beer that packs a bit of punch, then Avon Brewery Company’s Christmas MiraCLE might be in your wheelhouse. I was a little worried when trying it that I might be overwhelmed by all that it had to offer in how it is made, but what impressed me was the smoothness of how it went down. Just be careful, at 9.4 ABV, smooth can be dangerous.
Our fourth selection, Pimp My Sleigh from Fat Head's Brewery, has a holiday red tint to its presentation through a combination of its blend of fig and fruit; it also has an ABV on the higher side at 10.4. I prefer this to their other holiday offering, Holly Jolly Ale, mostly because unique is what grabs my attention this time of year. So Holly Jolly would be a great go-to for a holiday gathering, while Pimp might be the one you keep all to yourself.
Whichever Christmas or winter ale turns out to be your favorite, please be sure to enjoy it responsibly. Cheers!