Did a side by side taste test with Great Lakes Xmas ale. A friend from the Chicago area sent me a few bottles (they don't distribute Great Lakes in the KC, MO area). Looking at the photo, the glass on the right hand side of the photo is the xmas ale I brewed. The glass on the left is Great Lakes. Really, they look identical. The one I brewed has a better head. From an aroma standpoint, the one I brewed has a more pronounced ginger aroma. Great Lakes came across more malty/biscuity aroma. From a taste perspective, both had similar traits. The xmas ale I brewed had a more subdued palate feel that was smoother/silkier in body and the Great Lakes was brighter on the palate and more lively in carbonation (if i do this beer again, I am adding more corn sugar for priming or kegging). The taste on the xmas ale I brewed had more of a melon flavor, which I think comes from the honey and larger dose of ginger. Great Lakes was more about the cinnamon coming through (but still mild) and the malt being complimented by the ginger. The finish on the xmas ale I brewed had more of a residual sweetness that lingered and you can pick up the vanilla hints at the end which is interesting and gives it a spiced rum liqour finish feel. I think this is a major + on the one I brewed and makes it very Holiday-esque. Great Lakes had more of a dry ginger finish. Both are good beers and I have to say I'm envious of the bright palate feel and finish the Great Lakes beer has...I really didn't capture that. But, on a favorable note, I really think the honey and ginger shine through on the one I brewed. If I was to do this again, I'd double the amount of cinnamon used in the boil and in the secondary and I'd probably forget the lactose sugar. I'll for sure try this again for xmas 2013...but was thinking maybe rosemary instead of ginger for an odd twist. Who knows. Hope you find this useful.