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Great Lakes Christmas Ale is top craft in Ohio

By Rick Armon Published: January 29, 2013

christmas-ale-logoGreat Lakes Christmas Ale cleaned up in sales last year. The popular holiday beer — sold only eight weeks out of the year — was the top craft beer brand in dollar sales at grocery stores in Ohio last year and finished ninth overall in the U.S. for the final 13 weeks of the year, according to market research firm SymphonyIRI Group.

Considering its limited release and lack of nationwide distribution, Christmas Ale just might be the most popular craft beer in the country, Great Lakes Brewing co-owner Patrick Conway said Tuesday.

The brewery released the SymphonyIRI data for the beer this week. The firm couldn’t be reached for comment.

The demand for Christmas Ale continues to grow each year and the beer has overtaken Dortmunder Gold as the brewery’s best-seller, Conway said. He noted that Christmas Ale sold out in early December in outlying markets such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

“It’s going to be a challenge to keep up with demand because it’s one of those few products that has a cult following,” he said.

The Cleveland brewery, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and is the oldest craft brewery in Ohio, has been making Christmas Ale for about 20 years. Made with honey, ginger and cinnamon, it’s 7.5 percent alcohol by volume.

The brewery produced 359 batches last year, using more than 215,000 pounds of honey (almost $500,000 worth) and 7,000 pounds each of fresh ginger and cinnamon. Great Lakes also partnered with Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream to create Christmas Ale Ginger Snap ice cream.

The stories about obsessed Christmas Ale fans are legendary.

For example, Conway said, a man was sitting at the Great Lakes pub at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport last year sampling all the beers when the bartender mentioned he could buy six-packs to go. The man then disappeared. A little while later, he showed up with an empty suitcase and proceeded to stuff it full of Christmas Ale.

“That’s a true story and it happens all the time,” Conway said.

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