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Great Lakes Brewing Co. Spices Up Christmas Ale Release with New Cans, Artwork

Great Lakes Brewing 2020 Christmas Ale
Taylor Laabs

One thing that has remained consistent this year in the world of craft beer is the tried and true cadence of much-anticipated seasonal beer releases. While spring, summer and fall releases might be more frequent, a few special beers are released in the build up leading up to Christmas. Great Lakes Brewing Co‘s Christmas Ale, from the OG out of Cleveland, is one of those beers.

An easy-drinker with equal elements of sweet and spice, this Christmas Ale holds a special place in the hearts of many. Every November, when it starts to pop up on shelves, it’s a steady go-to, and the 2020 version arrived with even greater fanfarethanks to new label artwork and a new format: 12oz cans. Here’s what you need to know. 

Photo Credit: Great Lakes Brewing Company

While Christmas Ale might not be Great Lake Brewing Company’s (GLBC) best-seller, it frequently generates the buzz, fanfare and line lengths usually reserved for hyped-up barrel-aged releases and hazy IPAs. And while the annual “First Pour” release parties and festivities have been minimized and streamlined thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, GLBC was still able to inject some needed excitement and anticipation into their revered seasonal release, thanks to its debut in 12oz cans for the first time since 1992, when the beer first hit the market. 

According to GLBC’s Marissa DeSantis, the expansion of Christmas Ale’s packaging lineup comes as a direct result of their recent expansion in Strongsville, Ohio, where they added a new, 67,000 square foot canning and warehouse facility. Now up and running at full speed, the new facility is able to realize GLBC’s larger packaging shift from bottles to cans. Joining Christmas Ale in their aluminum packaged portfolio are cans of Commodore Perry IPA, Burning River Pale Ale, Dortmunder Gold Lager, Great Lakes IPA, and their well-received Hazecraft IPA debutant. 

According to DeSantis, the new facility in Strongsville helps GLBC act upon a vision that the growing brewery has been working on for years. “We’ve known…that we need to be in cans–it’s what our customers want, and where our competitors are growing,” said DeSantis. “Our Ohio City production facility simply didn’t have the space to install a canning line, so we spent a long time searching for the right solution and space.”

As the new canning and warehouse facility isn’t a one-stop-shop for brewing and packaging (the beer is still brewed in Ohio City before being sent in tankers to Strongsville for canning), this expansion has created much buzz for GLBC and GLBC fans alike. The trial run for cans began with their Dortmunder Gold Lager, which arrived earlier this year and drew considerable excitement. The latest release of Christmas Ale has generated similar emotions for beer lovers. “Christmas Ale tends to be a beer people really connect to on a personal level, so the excitement is palpable,” said DeSantis. 

Two ways to celebrate First Pour: from the brewpub or from home. Photo Credit: Great Lakes Brewing Company

Why is Christmas Ale such a popular beer for Ohioans and beer lovers across the country? For starters, the unique blend of local honey, fresh cinnamon sticks, and fresh ginger hand cut by GLBC brewers creates a delightfully festive beer perfect for sipping by an open fire or at a socially-distanced bar top in your favorite Christmas sweater. And while having it on-draft is always a treat, the experience of buying this beer in stores and seeing the familiarly rosey and warm Christmas Ale artwork is also part of this beer’s experience. 

That customary Christmas-time artwork is also changing this year to better adapt to the new dimensions of the 12oz can. Created by Sam Hadley, the new art evokes a festive feeling and warm camaraderie that’s been enjoyed a local (and national) favorite of beer drinkers since 1992. 

To ensure the new artwork paid homage to the past while embracing the present, the GLBC creative team worked with co-owners Pat and Dan Conway to ensure the legacy imagery of Christmas Ale was retained, but with a dash of added spice. “We wanted the can to have a decorative, collectible feel with a little more visual depth and sense of place,” DeSantis explained. “We looked to vintage Christmas cards for inspiration, and Sam created this beautiful windowsill view of a quiet snow-covered town. The train car maintains its shiny red ornaments, but suddenly you’re immersed in a cozy, warm scene. With the unique full wraparound illustration, the can feels especially celebratory.” 

A Christmas Ale 12-pack. Photo Credit: Great Lakes Brewing Company

The result is art that honors the legacy of the Christmas Ale brand and the pride that Ohioans have for this beer. The addition of new design elements help the brand better standout against its myriad canned counterparts. Additionally, the cardboard packaging for the 12-pack includes a special, festive font that’s meant to draw attention and invite the seasonal spirit. For those stingy about sipping this spiced ale from the traditional bottle, fear not, as those will remain too, complete with their specialty red bottle cap crowns. 

Christmas Ale 12-pack’s of 12oz cans, alongside 6-packs and 12-packs of 12oz bottles, are now available across GLBC’s entire distribution footprint. Cheers! 

Feature image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing Company

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