Great Lakes Christmas Ale Clone Tasting Notes

December 2, 2012 at 8:10 pm

After some delay I was finally able to track down a bottle of the 2012 Great Lakes Christmas Ale at a local bottle shop in Philly.  Unfortunetly Great Lakes, along with many other fine Midwestern craft brewers do not distribute to New Jersey, but thats a topic for another post.

For this set of tasting notes I will be comparing the Great Lakes Christmas Ale Clone (clone) to the original Great Lakes Christmas Ale (GLCA) and highlighting the biggest perceived differences between the two.  After tasting the first sips of the original in close to a year I quickly remembered why this has become one of my favorite Christmas beers and I decided to brew a 10 gallon clone batch in the first place.

Tasting Notes Comparison:

Appearance: GLCA pours a dark orange, copper with a swiftly dissipating white head.  Clone pours a deeper shade of orange, bordering on brown with a much thicker head that dissipates just as quickly.

Biggest difference:  GLCA pours much lighter and has a subtle head that lasts well after the initial pour while the clone appears at least two shades darker and the head is non existant after a few minutes.

Smell: GLCA: swift pungent aroma of sweet malt and honey dominate.  Clone: subdued honey notes mixed with mild caramel and malt undertones.

Biggest difference: Depth of flavors, the GLCA is much more pungent most likely because it is fresher than my clone.

Taste: GLCA: Starts thin with a bready malt notes.  Finishes sweet with lasting notes of honey.  No hop flavors or bitterness present, mild carb bite.  Extremely sweet.  Clone:  Starts much thicker, strong malt backbone dominates initial sip, English malt notes are evident.  Carb bite about the same as the original with restrained  honey flavor lingering on the palate after the finish.

Biggest difference:  GLCA is much, much, sweeter with a malt profile that is much more defined and bready.  When the clone was younger the sweetness was much more defined but I do not think it ever reached the level of the original.  I prefer the clone in this regards as the GLCA is so sweet it boarders on being cloying.

Mouthfeel: GLCA:  Moderate carbonation, thin mouthfeel extremely sweet finish.  Clone:  Moderate carbonation, much maltier, much less residual sweetness.

Biggest Difference:  Mouthfeel and sweetness

Drinkability & Notes:  Both beers are extremely enjoyable and drinkable and they do a great job of masking the 7.5%-8.2% alcohol content.  I think the clone recipe is pretty close to the original, the substitutions I made to the original clone recipe are part of the reason some of the differences in my opinion, specifically the addition of the Golden Promise malt.  Furthermore the honey and spice flavors of the clone have faded over time and are much less than they were originally at the time of this tasting and comparison.  Overall I think the clone is very close to the original, especially if consumed fresh, as I remember the honey and spice being much more pronounced when fresh as they are in the original.

Biggest Difference:  GLCA is brewed by a top notch professional brewery, however because of that it also is quite pricey.  While the clone recipe has its short comings it still produced a hell of a beer that I have thoroughly enjoyed drinking over the past few weeks.  When you take into consideration the fact that you can brew a 10 gallon batch for the price of a case of the original, if you can find it that is, the clone becomes that much more attractive in my mind.


Great Lakes Christmas Ale Clone

October 15, 2012 at 7:52 pm

One of the things I enjoy most about homebrewing is the exchange of ideas and information between fellow brewers, both in person and on online forums dedicated to the hobby.  I personally have taken advantage of fellow brewers willingness to help out on several occasions, whether it be troubleshooting problems, facilitating group buys, or sharing tried and true recipes.  This willingness to share doesn’t always stop at with the amateurs, in fact often times the pros offer advice and more importantly their recipes to some of our favorite beers commercial beers.

This was the case when Luke Purcell, brewer and field quality specialist for Great Lakes Brewing Company, confirmed the recipe for their highly touted Christmas Ale.  I made a few slight alterations to the original recipe which can be found here, based upon what I had at hand.  I added the Golden Promise to round out the 2-Row and used Styrian Goldings as a substitute for Hallertauer and Columbus for the Cascades called for in the orignial recipe.

Batch Size: 11 Gallons
Original Gravity: 1.077
Est. Final Gravity: 1.015
Est. ABV: 8.3%
IBU: 37.1
Color: 12.7 SRM
Boil Time: 60 Min

66.6% 2-Row
11.3% Golden Promise
7.5% Crystal 45
7.5% Wheat Malt
1.9% Special Roast
.1% Roasted Barley

3 Oz Styrian Goldings (5.5% AA) at 60 min
1 Oz Columbus (12.8% AA) at 10 min
1 Oz Columbus (12.8% AA) at 15 min
6 Cinnamon Sticks at 5 min
2 Oz Fresh Ginger (peeled, cubed, and crushed) at 5 min
2 lbs 12 Oz Clover Honey at 5 min

3.94 L Starter of Wyeast 1028 London Ale Yeast

Mash at 154 for 60 minutes raise to 165 for 10 min mashout.

Kate the Great Clone

July 1, 2012 at 12:14 am

Batch Size: 6 Gallons
Estimated Original Gravity: 1.105
Estimated Final Gravity: 1.021
Estimated ABV: 11.2%
IBU: 64.3
Color: 69.6 SRM
Boil Time: 90 Min

65.6% Pale Malt (2 Row)
10.5% Dark Traditional DME
3.7% Special B Malt
3.7% Wheat Malt
3.5% Roasted Barley
3% Carafa III
2.6% Aromatic Malt
2.1% Crystal 40
2.1% Flaked Barley
1.1% Crystal 120
1.1% Chocolate Malt
1% Black Patent Malt

1.41 Oz Magnum (10% AA) at 75 min
.7 Oz Styrian Goldings (5.5% AA) at 75 min
.45 oz Columbus (12.8% AA) at 75 min
.15 oz Columbus (12.8% AA) at 15 min
1.25 Oz Styrian Goldings (5.5% AA) at 1 min
1.25 Oz Willamette (4.7% AA) at 1 min
.5 Oz Citra (13.4% AA) at 1 min
.5 Oz Summit (15.9% AA) at 1 min

5 L Starter of White Labs 028 Edinburgh Ale Yeast

Mash at 149 for 60 min

Pull 2 gallons first runnings then add 2 gallons from Hot Liqour tank and sparge in full.

Add 1.25 oz Port soaked oak cubes to secondary.  Oak for 3-5 months until the desired balance is achieved.

Ranked the #2 beer in the world, I decided to brew a clone of this bad boy from a recipe provided by the head brewer Todd Mott himself. Check out the video for a look into the beer and the event that is Kate the Great day at Portsmouth Brewing.