Two beer writers blind-taste local Christmas ales

By Rick Armon and Marc Bona
Beacon Journal beer writer Plain Dealer beer writer

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Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas Ale and Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Al. ((Allison Carey/The Plain Dealer)

A year ago, we sat down to taste Infinium, a holiday brew from Samuel Adams. This year, we blind-tasted a pair of popular local seasonal offerings — Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Christmas Ale and Thirsty Dog’s 12 Dogs of Christmas.

Both bottles were wrapped and labeled No. 1 and No. 2, and poured by an impartial observer.

Rick Armon: No. 1 is darker, and I am getting more spices in the aroma.

Marc Bona: I get no aroma out of No. 2.

R.A.: No. 2 aroma is very weak.

(Both taste.)

M.B.: I get a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon out of No. 1. And No. 2 is lighter in color. I will venture an early guess …

R.A.: … No. 2 is Thirsty Dog.

M.B.: And No. 1 is Great Lakes.

R.A.: No. 1 is obviously heavier on the spices, whether it’s nutmeg or honey or cinnamon or a combination of all three. No. 2 is just more subtle.

M.B.: No. 1 is more of a spice bomb to me.

R.A.: Right. I am getting more of an alcohol warming from No. 1. … I don’t like one more predominantly over the other. It depends on your mood, holiday spicy vs. subtle.

M.B.: They’re similar, but for No. 1 it’s like someone opened a spice rack and dumped it in. I agree with you though: Both are good. If I can put my taster’s hat on for a second, I’ll say No. 1 has a dryness on the finish. What do you think?

R.A.: Oh yeah, definitely.

M.B.: No. 2 is nice. Like you said, it depends on your mood.

R.A.: If you like traditional holiday spices up front you’re going to be into No. 1.

M.B.: And if you want your spices restrained, No. 2 is your ale. … OK, moment of truth.

(The tasting assistant pulls off the blinds, revealing No. 1 to be Thirsty Dog and No. 2 to be Great Lakes.)

R.A.: What the $#&!

M.B.: Holy $#&!

(Silence follows as the two stare in disbelief.)

R.A.: It just goes to show we’re both stupid. … I am shocked.

M.B.: “Shocked” doesn’t scratch the surface.

R.A.: I always thought Great Lakes was more pronounced with holiday spices.

M.B.: Exactly.

R.A.: When it comes down to it, people should go out and sample all the Christmas beers they can get their hands on.

M.B.: It’s the best time of the year for beer drinkers.

R.A.: Well, we learned a valuable holiday lesson today. We need to drink more Christmas beers.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or Read his blog at Marc Bona is an assistant entertainment editor at the Plain Dealer. He writes the Crack One Open column and can be reached at

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