12/28/22: Great Lakes Brewing Co.'s Barrel Aged Christmas Ale (a Late Christmas Post)

4:15 PM

Here's hoping you had a Merry Christmas! The holiday was a whirlwind for Michelle and me--the roads to and from our holiday destination were fraught with peril (due entirely to Winter Storm Elliot). Yet, we made it there and back again all the same.

Great Lakes Barrel Aged Christmas Ale in front of a Christmas countdown.

Now that things are finally settling down, we're posted up at home and dealing with all the lingering pre-Christmas to-dos that are left. On this break from them, I'm taking time, at last, to get out my Christmas '22 post: Great Lakes' Barrel Aged Christmas Ale.

Great Lakes (this link heads to their "About" page), founded in 1988 by Daniel and Patrick Conway, has the claim of being Ohio's first craft brewery.  They've grown quite a bit over the last three-and-a-half decades, making some stellar, award-winning beer, including some of my favorite offerings.

They also make perennial favorite Christmas Ale. Now, that's a favorite I can't claim, as long-time readers may well know.  But my finding the base ale to be slightly below average didn't dissuade me from grabbing a can of Barrel Aged Christmas Ale when I found it on store shelves. Sure, it's just the base ale (with its honey, cinnamon, and ginger flavors) aged in bourbon barrels, but that's really all it took to pique my interest. Add in the mildly beefy 8% ABV and you have a recipe for a beer John might just really enjoy.

My first waft provides hearty, biscuity malts, cranberry, and, of course, some honey. The ginger and cinnamon aren't noticeably present, neither is (surprisingly) anything showing off the barrel aged quality; I can't find any warm oak or vanilla notes, nor any significant booze. Sure, there's some molasses about the ale, but, without the vanilla or overt Christmas spices, it really doesn't make me think Christmas. Purrl, with her three whiffs, seems to agree with me.

Purrl the cat sniffing a can of Great Lakes Barrel Aged Christmas Ale.

BA Christmas Ale's flavor profile has a certain lightness to it. There's the cranberry (which I'm beginning to think is a product of the honey and the ginger), honey, and molasses, and I'm finding cherry and caramel, too. Behind all this, finally, I find the vanilla and oak, swirling into the quick finish with a touch of boozy warmth. I don't know. I just expected more oomph from this, something more definitely Christmasy.

The mouthfeel on ale hits the mark. It's crisp. It's a little bubbly. This aspect is perfect.

This beer reminds me of the second part of Christmas day. The morning's gone by in a blink. Now, you wander away from the tree and the family with your new gadgets and gizmos. Maybe you got a new album, a book, a video game, or a toy. You spend the afternoon letting it grow on you. You might spin it a time or two and begin to learn the lyrics, you might read the first few chapters, beat the first few levels, or transform it a time or two. That's actually my favorite part of the day.

I have to say, I like this beer more than I thought I would going into it. That barrel aging worked some magic on the base beer, bolstering Christmas Ale to new heights. I'm giving Great Lakes' Barrel Aged Christmas Ale an 8.0/10. While not my favorite Christmas beer, it's definitely something I'd pick up again. There's quite a bit to enjoy here, despite the way it leaves me wanting more from it.

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