My wife loves Christmas, it is her absolute favorite time of year. I’ve never been a big seasonal decorator, but our apartment now has a large and fully decorated tree, stockings and a host of other festive Christmas ornamentation. My wife is also a craft beer drinker with a very respectable palate, she loves IPAs and most Belgian beers. One of her all-time favorite beers is Gritty McDuff’s Christmas Ale, you can usually find some in our fridge in November and December. I think the tie-in to Christmas helps, but this is also a very solid beer on its own merits. Gritty McDuff’s Christmas Ale is an ESB, a British style that balances medium colored and flavorful malts with a solid hop bitterness. Christmas Ale uses crystal malt and roasted barley for the deep color and malty flavor, followed by four varieties of hops to add bitterness, flavor and balance. While many Christmas ales are spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and other seasonal flavorings, Gritty’s Christmas Ale is brewed without any adjuncts.
Gritty McDuff’s Christmas Ale pours a clear and dark reddish/brown with a small white head. The smell is malt forward, brown sugar, toasted bread and a touch of raisin. The taste starts malty, with notes of toffee, biscuit and molasses. The hops provide nice balance to the flavor, there is a solid hop flavor of pine, earth and spice. The bitterness from the hops is in balance with the dark malt sweetness. There is a touch of warming alcohol in the finish, at 6.2% ABV it isn’t an overly heavy beer, but you get a touch in the flavor. Despite the alcohol the beer goes down pretty easy, it has a medium to full body but it is delicious to sip. The aftertaste is a good mix of malt sweetness and some hop bitterness. Overall this is a very well executed version of an English style ESB, with an even balance of malt and hops. Grab a six pack and enjoy a few with your Christmas dinner or leave it under the tree for someone special! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.