Imitation Christmas Ale Recipe

(If my calculations are correct, the Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale has 242 calories per 12 fluid ounces. I have noticed that quite a few people are coming to this page in search of that information, so I performed some calculations to estimate the number of calories in Christmas Ale.)

Every beer loving person in Northeastern Ohio loves the Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale, myself included. But, as I said before, the price for a six-pack this year is up to a whopping $11. Don’t get me wrong, the craftsmanship and taste make it worth the price, but the recession is forcing me to be a little more frugal this year. So, being an amateur brewer, I decided that I should attempt to emulate this great beer. You can be sure that I will still have Christmas Ale in the refrigerator this holiday season, but there will be less there and it will be sharing shelf space with my homebrew.

I did some research on Christmas Ale and gathered the key specifications in order to reverse engineer the formula. I then picked up all the required supplies at the local brewing supply store. And, if all goes well, I will put some into the fermentor over Thanksgiving weekend.

Below is the recipe that I intend to follow for all those who are interested. But, it will be almost a month before I have some results back on the taste.


  • 6 gallons (for 5 gallon yield)


  • 3.3# Light Malt Extract Syrup
  • 3# Dried Malt Extract
  • 1# Crystal 20L
  • 1# Honey Malt
  • 1# Honey


  • .5oz Cascade Pellet (leftovers)
  • 2oz Willamette Leaf
  • 1oz Willamette Leaf


  • Wyeast American Ale (1056)


  • .5oz Cinnamon Stick
  • .25oz Dried Ginger Root
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss
  • 2 whole cloves

A day ahead of time I will prepare the yeast. The brew plan is to put all the malt, half the honey, the Cascade Hops, and 2oz of the Willamette hops into the boil for 45 minutes. I’ll put the whole grains and hops in a steeping bag to hopefully make things a little easier. Then, I will add the rest of the honey, hops, and adjuncts for 15 minutes. Again I will use a steeping bag. I’ll use my chiller to transfer it into the fermentor and let it go until I get to the expected final gravity. After a week or so, when it gets close to the final gravity, I will drain the yeast off of the bottom of the fermentor. If weather permits, once I reach the desired final gravity I will shock cool it for a day to drop the remaining yeast out. I will reserve some of the yeast just in case the shock chilling works too well. Finally, I will prime and bottle. Below are the desired specifications.

  • Original Gravity: 1.068
  • Final Gravity: 1.017
  • Color: 10 degrees SRM
  • Bitterness: 40.8 IBU (12.6 HBU)
  • Alcohol (by volume): 6.8%
  • Alcohol (by weight): 5.3%
  • Calories: 225 / 12fl. oz.

Update (2008-11-30): I ended up making 6.5 gallons with a original gravity of 1.052. I added extra water as if I were brewing a full grain batched, which isn’t really necessary for extract brewing. I also forgot about the half gallon that I used to get the yeast started, so I ended up with extra wort. So, I will have more beer, just with a little lower alcohol content.

Update (2008-12-06): The primary fermentation has ended and my gravity is now 1.014. The math shows that the alcohol content by volume should be around 5.2% (with the alcohol by weight being around 4%), and the vinometer shows the alcohol by volume to be 6%. One of my measurements must be off somewhere, so I will split the difference and call it 5.6% alcohol by volume. This works out to about 185 calories per 12 fluid ounces. The taste is good, clean, but with an understandably still yeasty (hefeweizen) taste. I drained some yeast, skimmed off the pancake, and will give it a couple days for secondary fermentation. Afterwords, I will shock chill it to precipitate out much of the yeast.

Update (2008-12-14): I have bottled this brew, which I have named Odinzale. It is not as bitter as I would have liked, as spicy as I would have liked, nor as dark as I would have liked. But, I think that this is due to the extra water that I used. The next time I make it I will only make 5 1/2 gallons. If that doesn’t give me the proper results then I will double the amount of ginger and cinnamon, and use crystal 40L rather than crystal 20L.

Comments (newest first)

Christopher Stoll
I think it was similar (needed more hops and spices), but this post is from 3 years ago, so I don't remember exactly. Also, I think GLBC's recipes vary slightly from year to year depending upon availability and cost of raw materials, so you are shooting at a moving target.
Did it taste close to GLBCs?
Published: 2008-11-23