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Holiday Spice Ale – Ready in a month

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

A lot of breweries sell a “winter beer” or “Christmas beer”, and they’re typically high-gravity, with complex flavors. Our brewing group wanted something that was exactly the opposite: a low-gravity, easy-to-drink beer that would complement our turkey with cranberry sauce. This is pretty similar to most “holiday spice beer” recipes you’ll find, with one nice difference. Most of those recipes call for cinnamon sticks to be ground and cloves to be crushed, and generally have you doing a lot of work to get your aroma & flavor right. We use allspice; it lets you get those cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg flavors & aromas without having to work at it. The other charm of this beer is its speed. Two weeks in the carboy, two weeks in the bottle, and it’s ready to go. It’s easy to drink, goes well with a meal, and makes a great gift.

Holiday Spice Ale (all grain)

Style: American Ale
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.013
ABV: 4.6%
IBU: 19
Volume: 5.5 gallons

Grain Bill:
5.5 lbs Pale Malt (adjust to suit your efficiency factor)
1 lb Belgian Aromatic
1 lb Honey Malt

1 lb Honey
1/8th pound Molasses

Bittering Hops: 1.5 oz Fuggle (60 minutes)
Flavor Hops: .5 oz Fuggle (10 minutes)

Yeast: Wyeast 1028 London Ale

Extras: 2 tablespoons ground Allspice, added to the last 10 minutes of the boil.

  1. 15 Responses to “Holiday Spice Ale – Ready in a month”

  2. So is this one you’ve drank? I’ve tried the holiday beer thing, the spices come out too strong or not strong enough. Be interested in knowing how this one tastes.

    By Scott on Nov 4, 2009

  3. If you’re genuinely sensitive to spice flavors, you could walk the amount back all the way to 1 Teaspoon in the boil, and cut it down to the last 5 minutes instead of 10. That should push your spice flavor down to mostly aroma.

    I’m the submitter for this recipe, and yes, I’ve drank this one. I’ve got about 5 gallons for personal consumption & gifting on-hand this year, and our brewing club has made about 30 gallons of it in the last month and a half.

    The charm of the Allspice is that its a balanced spice; it has the flavor of cloves, but it’s not as strong or concentrated as pure cloves. It has the flavor of cinnamon, but it’s not as sharp as pure cinnamon. It’s tough to have an “overpowering” allspice flavor, because allspice is it’s own spice that merely tastes like a blend of several spices. It’s far easier to add too much molasses and skew the flavor that way.

    The spices are present in the middle of the flavor profile, fading at the finish, and nicely present in the aroma. The amount of carbonation will have a strong influence on the degree of spice aroma, but again, the nature of the allspice makes it hard to go “too far”. It tastes like a brown ale with hints of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg, but it DOES taste like a brown ale first, with spices second.

    My experience with this beer over two years and about 60 gallons has been nothing but positive; it’s a very good beer to serve with meals, and it tastes incredible with turkey or duck or chicken, with the spices complimenting the light meat nicely. It’s also a great beer to drink by itself; the low gravity and light taste make it a guzzler.

    By Chris Doggett on Nov 4, 2009

  4. What is the SRM? I have thought along the same lines about spicing a Southern English Brown in the same way. What do you think?

    By EricCSU on Nov 5, 2009

  5. According to the SRM calculator at this site: the SRM is ~9

    By admin on Nov 5, 2009

  6. Thanks for the info Chris. You’ve answered all my questions. I think this will be a great recipe to try for next year. I already have 10 gallons of hard apple cider and Holiday Chocolate Stout for this year, so I’m all stocked up with Holiday type beer.


    By EricCSU on Nov 6, 2009

  7. It does sound good and is on my “to brew” list. Thanks!

    By Scott on Nov 9, 2009

  8. Are the honey and molasses just added at the beginning of the boil? What temp did you mash at? Thanks.

    By JT on Nov 9, 2009

  9. The honey and molasses are added at the beginning of the boil, yes. For the honey, I buy it in 16 oz. jars, so I use the hot wort to rinse the jar.

    I mass in an insulated mash tun, adding 180 degree water to room-temperature grains for a mash temperature between 140 and 160, mashing for 90 minutes before sparging. Because it’s a lower-gravity recipe with a simple grain bill, a protein rest isn’t really necessary as compared to a big Belgian or an Imperial Stout.

    By Chris Doggett on Nov 11, 2009

  10. Brewed this about 9 weeks ago, 2 weeks in fermenter, 2 in bottles, and it is indeed drinkable.
    5 more weeks in the bottle, and I’m finding it hard to slow down — it goes down quite well, with a delicious spice hint and molasses character.

    I strongly recommend it to anyone with space in next winter’s brewing schedule!


    By Matthew on Feb 26, 2010

  11. We’re going to do this one as a group project on September 12th. We’ll brew up 10 gallons and dilute it out to four 5 gallon batches, 1 for each brewer. We went with mini-mash due to the amount of grains and trying to fit it in the mash tun. Here is our converted recipe:

    Holiday Spice Ale (all grain)
    Style: American Ale
    OG: 1.049
    FG: 1.013
    ABV: 4.74%
    IBU: 19.5

    Final Volume: 20 gallons
    Boil Volume: 12 gallons

    Grain Bill:
    17 lbs Briess Munich Liquid Extract
    4 lb Belgian Aromatic
    4 lb Honey Malt

    4 lb Honey
    1/2 pound Molasses

    Bittering Hops: 6.75 oz Fuggle (60 minutes)
    Flavor Hops: 2.25 oz Fuggle (10 minutes)

    Yeast: Brewer’s Choice

    Extras: 8 tablespoons ground Allspice, added to the last 10 minutes of the boil.

    What do you think?

    By Scott on Aug 29, 2010

  12. Looks like an awesome way to make 20 gallons of brew, in time for Thanksgiving. Have fun!

    By Larry on Sep 4, 2010

  13. Very successful group brew, thanks Larry!

    By Scott on Sep 12, 2010

    Pictures from our event if you are interested. Cellar smells like someone is baking cookies down there!

    By Scott on Sep 14, 2010

  15. Brewing it a bit late for the official ‘holiday’ season, but winter’s a season, and this’ll warm me up (figuratively) in January….

    By Matthew on Dec 28, 2010

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