Winter Seasonal Beer Holly (Christmas Ale)

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jmo88

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Recipe Type
All Grain
Yeast
Safale-05
Yeast Starter
Nah
Batch Size (Gallons)
5
Original Gravity
1.077
Final Gravity
1.015
Boiling Time (Minutes)
60
IBU
36
Color
17
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp)
3 weeks
Tasting Notes
Complex malt and nicely blended spices and hop aroma
Mash Efficiency: 75.0 %
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

Fermentables
US 2-Row Malt 13lb 0oz (84.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Medium Crystal 8.00 oz (3.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
Belgian Special B 8.00 oz (3.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Wheat Malt 4.00 oz (1.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Chocolate Malt (350L) 3.20 oz (1.3 %) In Mash/Steeped
Sugar - Honey 1lb 0oz (6.5 %) End Of Boil

Hops
US Centennial (9.4 % alpha) 1.00 oz Bagged Whole Hops used 60 Min From End
US Centennial (9.4 % alpha) 0.50 oz Bagged Whole Hops used 30 Min From End
US Centennial (9.4 % alpha) 0.50 oz Bagged Whole Hops used 5 Min From End

Other Ingredients
Irish Moss 0.01 oz used In Boil
Vanilla Beans 1
Orange Peel, Bitter 1 Tbs
Cinnamon Stick 1
Ginger Root 1Tbs (dehydrated or fresh)

Single Step Infusion (67C/152F)

Recipe Notes
Make a tea prior to bottling by boiling a quart of the beer with the above spices and priming sugar for about a minute to combine. Add the mixture to a french press and let sit for 15 minutes. Then add to bottling Bucket.

This is everyone's favorite beer around Christmas time. Seriously, people rave about this all year long. The malt is quite complex and the hops blend in a heavenly way with the spices to create an amazing aroma.
 

ReeseAllen

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Strongly considering brewing this recipe this weekend... I've decided I need to brew a very high quality winter/christmas ale to mark the end of this year and celebrate my glorious entry into the world of homebrewing. I'm going to brew one batch soon to make sure I can pull it off, then make any necessary adjustments and brew it again in early December so that it'll be ready in time for Christmas and New Year's.
 
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jmo88

jmo88

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Strongly considering brewing this recipe this weekend... I've decided I need to brew a very high quality winter/christmas ale to mark the end of this year and celebrate my glorious entry into the world of homebrewing. I'm going to brew one batch soon to make sure I can pull it off, then make any necessary adjustments and brew it again in early December so that it'll be ready in time for Christmas and New Year's.
Let me know how it goes for you. Despite the spices and alcohol content, grain -to-glass time is fairly short. Definitely use a whole vanilla bean, split and scraped. The extract really doesn't cut it. You won't be disappointed.
 

ReeseAllen

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Let me know how it goes for you. Despite the spices and alcohol content, grain -to-glass time is fairly short. Definitely use a whole vanilla bean, split and scraped. The extract really doesn't cut it. You won't be disappointed.
I see you're a fellow Seattleite. I'm in Greenwood. Where did you buy the whole vanilla bean?
 
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jmo88

jmo88

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Strongly considering brewing this recipe this weekend... I've decided I need to brew a very high quality winter/christmas ale to mark the end of this year and celebrate my glorious entry into the world of homebrewing. I'm going to brew one batch soon to make sure I can pull it off, then make any necessary adjustments and brew it again in early December so that it'll be ready in time for Christmas and New Year's.
I'm on cap hill. I bought it at QFC, in the bulk spice section. Whole foods should have it too.
 

ReeseAllen

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I brewed it last night. I ended up at 1.069 SG. I think I sparged too quickly, and also I spilled like a liter of the first runnings on the floor (hose malfunction). Still, it smells great, looking forward to tasting it next month.
 
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jmo88

jmo88

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I'm sure it'll turn out fine. One time I brewed this I came up short on the OG and added an additional .5lb of honey. It added to the aroma nicely but it thinned out the mouthfeel and I should have just left it alone. That said, I think a lower OG will still turn out a great beer.
 

ReeseAllen

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Probably gonna bottle it tonight. Need to check the SG and make sure it hasn't changed from earlier this week first.

I got all the ingredients for the priming tea. Whole vanilla bean took awhile to find, it actually was at the first store I checked but I overlooked it because I was expecting a little white bean (like the shape of a pinto bean) and not a big long skinny black thing. Also, the ginger root powder does not smell like something I want in my beer. But, I'll add it anyway.

edit: Finished at 1.014
 
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jmo88

jmo88

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I've used fresh grated, dehydrated chunks (found those at Madison market), and the powder. The powder was by far the most subtle, so you'll be fine. I prefer the dehydrated chunks as a nice middleground. Out of all the spices, the vanilla comes through the most.
 

ReeseAllen

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I'm boiling up the tea now. Bottles are sanitized and drying on the dishwasher rack, and the carboy is rigged for racking into the bottling bucket.

edit: The tea smells like christmas
 

ReeseAllen

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Here's a photo of the tea as it was steeping. I strained this in 3 portions through a small french press and into the empty, sanitized bottling bucket. Then I racked on top of it and bottled 43.5 bottles.

I think this is one brew that I'm going to actually leave for 2 weeks in the bottle for the first taste.

2009-12-06 tea.jpg
 
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jmo88

jmo88

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Here's a photo of the tea as it was steeping. I strained this in 3 portions through a small french press and into the empty, sanitized bottling bucket. Then I racked on top of it and bottled 43.5 bottles.

I think this is one brew that I'm going to actually leave for 2 weeks in the bottle for the first taste.
Mmmmm. Looks terrific. I can almost smell it. I found that two weeks in the bottle will put some heavy vanilla notes in the foreground. It's pretty balanced at 3 weeks, but in its prime at 2-3 months. Its really odd what a week can do to spices in beer.
 

philrose

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I see you're a fellow Seattleite. I'm in Greenwood. Where did you buy the whole vanilla bean?
semi-useless bump considering the problem's already solved....

PCC sells vanilla beans by the ounce. Since they weigh close to nothing, you can get them much cheaper than the ones that come in the cigar tubes.
 

ReeseAllen

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PCC sells vanilla beans by the ounce. Since they weigh close to nothing, you can get them much cheaper than the ones that come in the cigar tubes.
Yeah, that's where I got mine. It ended up being like a buck.

So tonight I am sampling a bottle; it's been exactly 2 weeks. The cinnamon flavor is pretty overpowering but other than that, it tastes damn good! Very christmasy. I wonder if the cinnamon will mellow out over the next few weeks; that's my only complaint at this point.
 
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jmo88

jmo88

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Yeah, two weeks isn't very long. I am very surprised the cinnamon is the strongest. It's always been the most subtle for me. You didn't break up, grate, or extensively boil the cinnamon did you? Either way, you'll be really surprised what a week or two does to spices in beer. Have you done a spiced beer before?
 

ReeseAllen

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Yeah, two weeks isn't very long. I am very surprised the cinnamon is the strongest. It's always been the most subtle for me. You didn't break up, grate, or extensively boil the cinnamon did you? Either way, you'll be really surprised what a week or two does to spices in beer. Have you done a spiced beer before?
This is my first spiced beer. I just dropped in one whole cinnamon stick, it was about 2" long, and boiled with everything else for about 15 min. I can definitely taste the vanilla, but the cinnamon is front and center.
 
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jmo88

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I usually boil for about a minute, just to combine the sugar. I'll update the recipe.

I'd say as long as the cinnamon doesn't burn your mouth or isn't so strong that you can't taste anything else, it'll mellow.
 

ReeseAllen

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I usually boil for about a minute, just to combine the sugar. I'll update the recipe.

I'd say as long as the cinnamon doesn't burn your mouth or isn't so strong that you can't taste anything else, it'll mellow.
It certainly isn't mouth-burningly strong, but it's really crowding out a lot of the other flavors. With that said, those flavors that I can taste through it, are damn good. This would be a solid beer (maybe a porter?) even without the spice additions.
 

ReeseAllen

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My friends and I drank a quite a few of these on New Year's and it got unanimously positive reviews. I still have two or three six-packs left, one of which has been placed inside the long-term beer storage closet. It's been a month in the bottle now and while the cinnamon is still front and center, it's mellowed out a LOT and the other spices and flavors have really come out in the process.
 

pj_rage

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I guess this thread is a bit out dated, but I'm new to brewing and decided that with Christmas just around the corner, I wanted a Christmas ale ready in time. So I decided to try this recipe as my first full boil and first all grain, heck, first "real" brew day. I did the Mr Beer kit a couple times and though it was fun, the beer was only "OK" to me. So I decided to step it right up. Maybe a bit ambitious but I did a ton of research first and felt pretty comfortable trying it.

Anyway, brew day went as easy and smooth as my first could go. I planned on lower efficiency because I was doing stove stop all grain brewing in a grain bag (Deathbrewer's technique), so I bumped up the ingredients by a tiny bit to compensate, planning on a 65% or so efficiency, figuring I wouldn't hit all that great of an efficiency on my first try. I wound up with a ~70% efficiency and an OG of 1.086. I think I could have watered it down a bit to hit the 1.077, but decided to just leave it. I pitched about a pack and a half of US-05 (tried to hit around 15g which was what I calculated I would need), but didn't rehydrate (probably should have).

It's been fermenting between 62-65F, except for about 2 hours it hit 72-74 when fermentation was hitting it's stride. I quickly cooled it and kept it in the mid to low 60s after that, though.

It's been 6 days, and today I decided to take a sample to check how the gravity is doing, since the airlock has really slowed down, and the krausen has sank. It's at 1.019 now, and most importantly, is unbelievably delicious. I have to say, I expected it to be good, but damn, it's really, really good. Gonna give it the full 21 days, can't wait to see how it turns out then.

Also can't wait to spice it up, but I have to say, I like it a lot just like it is now. I'm thinking I might just bottle a few without the spices just for kicks. I'm also a little worried about the cinnamon being overpowering as Reese had found. I'll definitely only boil for about a minute or so, but I might still use only 3/4 or 1/2 a stick of cinnamon. What do you think?

Anyway, thanks for a great recipe, even without the spices that make it holiday-y, it's very tasty. Just for my own clarification, what style would you call this one (with/without the spices)?
 
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jmo88

jmo88

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Awesome work pj and welcome to the forum. Sounds like you did a great job for your first AG. Reese misunderstood the spicing directions and boiled the tea for 15 minutes as opposed to bringing some beer to a boil and then adding the spices to combine it and removing it from the heat and letting it steep for 15 minutes. Following my steps won't overpower the beer. Anyway, it is a great beer. I'm sure you'll enjoy the base beer almost as much as the spiced version. I't doesn't really fit any style but if I had to pigeonhole it I'd call it an imperial honey brown. 'Holly' just sounds so much better, doesn't it?
 

ReeseAllen

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What's left of my batch has been bottle conditioning for almost a year now, only a couple bottles are left. On Halloween, we opened the first bottle of it in about six months and about eight of us got to give it a taste. Overwhelmingly positive reviews. The spiciness has mellowed out substantially by now, and I now find myself wishing I'd saved a lot more of it last winter.
 

pj_rage

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Yeah, I'm pretty excited! I'll use the full spicing and follow your directions to make sure not to overpower it.

Holly does sound good, very seasonal :)

Can't wait to taste the spiced version and bottle it up. I'm so tempted to just start taking pints from the carboy as is lol.
 

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How ironic, I brewed this a few weeks ago, just transferred it to the secondary and figured I would drop in to revive this thread only to find pj beat me to it. Even more ironic is the fact that this was my first AG as well. Only thing I messed up is I underestimated how much wort the grain would suck up (probably didn't let it drain long enough either) and came up a full gallon short of the 5 I was shooting for. I still started at 1.077 and the gravity reading I just took was 1.012. Took a sip and I have to say for a flat beer it was delicious, now I'm really looking forward to the finished product. I'd consider it a winter warmer since it seems perfect for the season and that seems to be a pretty broad category anyway.
 
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I'm planning to try this recipe as my first All Grain as well. Hopefully it will just be ready in time for New Years.
 
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jmo88

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Wow, all these first time AG'ers trying the recipe. Be sure to check back and give it a review.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to make this in time this year. Next year I am going to use a different strain on this, perhaps wlp007.
 

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Just brewed this over the weekend- I adjusted it to be a Partial Mash, using 2.5lbs of 2 row and 6.6lbs of Briess Light LME. My OG was about 1.069, probably due to a fast sparge but I'm ok with that. Pitched a pack of S04 into it and am actually fermenting this in a 5gallon corny in my soon to be kegerator. Its holding at about 57 degrees right now (external temp from my digital thermo taped to the side of the keg). I'm hoping that the +10 degree rule here applies which would mean I'm at about 67 degrees for fermenting.

Has anyone kegged this? This is my first kegging venture and I'm curious how long I should give it to condition. I was thinking about 2-3 weeks in primary depending on my gravity readings, then transferring it into a serving vessel where I would add the spice tea and maybe giving it another week to condition.

Thoughts?

Cant wait to try this!
 

pj_rage

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Bottled mine on Friday night. The tea smelled great when making it. I had one mishap... my first time boiling wort and adding priming sugar... I was an idiot and dumped the entire 3oz corn sugar straight into the boiling wort and had an instant boilover. I didn't care so much about the stove or lost wort, but more about wondering how much of the sugar came out in that boilover (since it happened right away) and if enough remained to carb it up. I added an extra tsp or two just in case. For the tea, I did just as instructed in the recipe, boiled the wort, then added the spices and sugar, boiled for about a minute, and then transferred to a french press for 15 min, cooled it in a bucket of water a bit, added it to the bottling bucket, and racked on top of it. I did stir slowly with a big spoon once racked to make sure it was well mixed.

I tried one right after bottling and then again on saturday with friends just to sample it in its stages. Obviously both times were pretty flat and sweet from the sugar. You can really taste the spices, especially vanilla at this point. Can't wait until it carbs up and isn't so sweet. Fingers crossed, maybe it will be carbed just enough to drink some this coming weekend around Thanksgiving, although I know it's a long shot.

Mine had an FG of 1.017, and with my OG of 1.086, that's 9.0% abv. Pretty strong! It hides it really well at this point though, with the spices you would never know it. My hydro sample before bottling was definitely a little dry, though.

I'll definitely report back in a couple weeks once it has fully carbed and conditioned a little bit.
 
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jmo88

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Has anyone kegged this? This is my first kegging venture and I'm curious how long I should give it to condition. I was thinking about 2-3 weeks in primary depending on my gravity readings, then transferring it into a serving vessel where I would add the spice tea and maybe giving it another week to condition.

Thoughts?

Cant wait to try this!
This is the reason I didn't get a chance to make it this year– my new kegerator. You could prime in the keg if you wanted. That would give it plenty of conditioning time. If you add just the spice tea to the keg, I would think it would need more time than just one week. The vanilla will be in the foreground too much after just one week, I'd think. I found 3 weeks at room temp to be enough time to start to enjoy this one.

Let us know how it turns out.
 
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jmo88

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I've done it with both dehydrated diced Ginger and grated fresh. If you're using fresh I'd peel and grate it.
 
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pj_rage

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Been a week and a half since bottling. I know it's too early, but being my first beer, I'm sampling it along the way just for my own knowledge.

For anyone who is wondering...

Tried a couple on thanksgiving, 6 days after bottling. Carb was light but coming along. The vanilla was very forward. Tasted a little sweet still. Tried again on Saturday, I couldn't believe how much the spices had mellowed just in those 2 more days. The vanilla was still the forerunner, but it was getting a lot more balanced. Just tried one again last night, and the spices have really settled. They are getting a very nice balance now and have faded into the background a bit (in a good way). The only thing I'm not liking is a bit of an alcohol taste that is coming through, similar to the taste I was getting right before bottling (the spices + priming sugar seemed to mask it initially after bottling). It basically just tastes like it has a high alcohol content (which it does). I know they say big beers take a while to carb/condition, so I'm not worried about it yet, it will probably get better over time. Overall though, even with the slight taste of alcohol, I'm really digging it.
 

fermenteverything

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I really like the vanilla taste in my christmas ale, I wonder how much would be too much.
2 beans, 3? 4? Maybe it would jsut get better...
 

Q2XL

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I really like the vanilla taste in my christmas ale, I wonder how much would be too much.
2 beans, 3? 4? Maybe it would jsut get better...
Mine is still in the bottle so I don't know how it tastes yet. But I think putting less in is always best. If you put too much in it, it may be overpowering.

If you add 2 beans and that is not enought then you add 3 the next time you brew it until you get the taste that you like.
 

Q2XL

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Mmmmmm, mmmmmm, mmmmmmm.....I gave this a taste 13 days into carbonation and it tastes great!!!! Could still use a bit more carbing up, but it was outstanding. A nice hint of all the spices. It should taste even better as time goes by.

Thanks for the tasty recipe.
 
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jmo88

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Mmmmmm, mmmmmm, mmmmmmm.....I gave this a taste 13 days into carbonation and it tastes great!!!! Could still use a bit more carbing up, but it was outstanding. A nice hint of all the spices. It should taste even better as time goes by.

Thanks for the tasty recipe.
I'm glad it turned out well for you. It certainly ages well. I've found the vanilla to dominate for 3 weeks or so and after that the other spices become more noticeable. It's a great beer at 3 weeks, but an awesome beer at 2 months.
 

pj_rage

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It's been 3.5 weeks or so since I bottled mine and it's really pretty damn delicious at this point! One of my favorite Christmas ales I've ever had for sure. After only 1.5 weeks, I thought the vanilla was too forward, they hadn't really carbed up fully yet, and had a hot alcohol taste. But now, man, they are tasty! The spices are way more balanced and the carb is about right for the style. The hot alcohol taste is gone. And for finishing at 9.0% abv, the alcohol is hidden dangerously well!

Being my first all grain, and first with spices too, I am definitely surprised what a couple weeks in the bottle can do for the beer. I read so much that said not to worry, so I didn't, I just sampled along the way for education. Everyone is totally right when they say it just needs time, and especially jmo when you say that spices really act strange in beers and need time to mellow, it really surprised me just how quickly the spices started to fall into line and how much they changed on basically a daily basis.

I'm very happy with this recipe, and I think it's going to be a staple for Christmas now! In fact, I'm sure they will be even more delicious come Christmas time in another week and half, and you bet your ass I'll be drinking a few on Christmas :) Also going to be saving a few to try them after another month and again in a few months, just to see how early to brew this baby next year.

Thanks a lot jmo for sharing your great recipe, and Happy Holidays!
 
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It was an adventure doing my first all grain brew (mostly due to making a shoddy mashtun), but this was an awesome recipe to get started. I bottled on Sunday, so I'll give it about another week before I try it. But I can't wait! The samples I've had while testing specific gravity were great and the spice tea smelled awesome. I'm planning on using it for a New Years Day homebrew paired dinner. I've got a hoppy barleywine and this one. I'm not sure which will be for dessert and which will be for the main course (Other courses- jalapeno-peach hefe with quesadillas > SWMBO belgian blonde with seasonal salad > scotch ale and beef beer stew > Main Course? > Bananas Foster with ? > Mead afterdinner drink).
 

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Just bottled up my batch of this beer. I made the tea and racked on top of it. Towards the end of bottling (about 7 bottles from the end) I pulled a sample to check the gravity. It was spot on. I tasted the sample out of the tube and it was nasty tasting. I tasted some out of the fermentor last week and it was really good. I realized i had some star san in the bottom of the bucket when I dumped the tea in, but can a little star san sour out 4.5 gallons of brew? It's hard to describe the taste, but it was harsh and stingy. (if that makes sense) Is this normal for this beer until it mellows out? Has anyone else experienced this?
 
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