I went home to visit family at Thanksgiving, and the Flossmoor Pullman Brown I took was a big hit.  Thanks to my Mom I sat down with my Dad and brothers and we sampled several other beers side by side.  We had four beers that day.  Now I know you all assume Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale was on the list, and it was, but we also sampled a 2009 bottle aged Hoppin’ Frog Frosted Frog Christmas Ale, a 2010 Frosted Frog, and 12 Dog Days of Christmas from Thirsty Dog.  Here are my notes from this side by side tasting:

Great Lakes Christmas Ale:
Pours a copper color with a one finger head.  A strong malt nose with hints of spice.  Tastes similar to a gingerbread cookie with a side of honey.  Moderately carbonated and very drinkable.  Although weighing in at 7.5% ABV this is the lowest alcohol beer of the day.

Hoppin’ Frog Frosted Frog Christmas Ale (2010):

Brewery Fresh

Purchased from the brewery and kept refrigerated as suggested on the bottle label.  The 2010 poured a cider color with a slight head releasing a strong cinnamon aroma.  This beer also has a ginger cookie taste, but also a great deal of nutmeg and cinnamon with a slightly lingering aftertaste.  Frosted Frog only has 12 IBUs meaning almost no hop presence requiring the flavors to be driven by the added spices.  The flavor in this beer is much bolder than the Great Lakes almost as if it was concentrated somehow.  At 8.6%, although drinkable, a few of these will probably put you under the table.

Hoppin’ Frog Frosted Frog Christmas Ale (2009):

Aged Frosted Frog

This bottle was purchased direct from the brewery in 2010.  I am operating under the assumption that it was properly aged at their facility.  The 2009 poured with no head and much darker than the cider colored non-aged Frosted Frog.  There was no cinnamon smell, but a much stronger ginger presence in the aroma.  It went down very smooth with a bite, with a strong cinnamon flavor.  The aftertaste here lingered much longer than 2010 bottle.

12 Dog Days of Christmas by Thirsty Dog:
This beer poured an amber color with a light head.  The nose had malt, but a very weak aroma.  The flavors you expect to be there, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger were non-existent.  This was a very malty beer, but unfortunately did not match in flavor to the other beers on the table.

The Winner:
To be honest I went into this tasting with a front runner in my mind and I was personally surprised at the results.  I was the only one, of the tasting group, who cared for the 2009 Frosted Frog.  It had a definite aged taste to it that a less sophisticated drinker will probably not enjoy.  My brothers were huge fans of the Great Lakes Christmas Ale while my Dad and I preferred the Frosted Frog.  I had Bro and her wife try Great Lakes and Frosted Frog side by side and they split on preference.  I think if your a big fan of bold flavors then Frosted Frog is the winner with Great Lakes a close second.

Update: My cousin, who has been known to buy Great Lakes Christmas Ale by the case, preferred the Frosted Frog.  He agreed the Frosted Frog had a bolder flavor than Great Lakes.
Also, we had one Frosted Frog left from Thanksgiving, and my mother picked up several new bottles from the brewery a week before Christmas.  Dad and I poured the old bottle first.  Even though it was kept refrigerated we both thought the flavor was not as bold as we remembered and it reminded us of the aged version we previously tried.  We followed that up with a fresh bottle and it matched our recollections exactly.  Either we somehow got a bad bottle or Frosted Frog ages quickly.  I hesitate to use the word deteriorate, but it is clearly not the same beer it was just a month prior.  This confirms my suspicion that freshness is extremely important when it comes to Hoppin’ Frog.



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