12th Beer of Christmas – AleSmith’s Yule Smith Holiday Ale

Brewery: AleSmith Brewing Company
City: San Diego, CA
Beer: Yule Smith Holiday Ale
Style: American Strong Ale – Imperial Red Ale
ABV: 9.5%
Notes: Piney, Hoppy, Butter-Scotch, Roasty

AleSmith Yule Smith Holiday Ale

AleSmith Yule Smith Holiday Ale

Is there a better name for a brewery than AleSmith? The title is so clever and immediately portrays an image of hard-working, artisan brewers. Alesmith was founded in San Diego in 1995, but since 2002 has been owned and operated by Peter Zien, a renown homebrewer turned pro. Zien is also one of only 33 Grand Master Judges (as recognized by the BJCP) in the U.S. and the only one currently presiding in San Diego.

Alesmith takes homebrewing’s creative passion and scales it to offer some of the best beer around. Their beers are known for being big and bold and are generally highly regarded. In 2008, the brewery won the GABF Small Brewery of the Year and Small Brewer of the Year awards.

The Beer

During the summer, YuleSmith is transformed into a big, hoppy, Double IPA. The enormous load of hops requires a substantial malt background to create just the right balance for a Double IPA. Lighter in color, summer YuleSmith is available around the 4th of July and is packaged in a red, white, and blue bottle. After enjoying this beer in July, I was excited to try its Imperial Red Ale bretheren. Winter YuleSmith is packaged in traditional holiday red and green.
Original Gravity 1.085, Alcohol by volume 9.5%


The color of this beer is a stark redish amber. The beer also contains dark shades of orange. Generally, it looks strongly carbonated and maintains very small bubbles. The head is creamy and thick and was retained throughout the entire glass.


In this particular bottle, the aroma was rather straight forward. The smell has IPA written all over it. The beer reeked of strong piney hops that really bit and a malty sweetness that could be a caramel or toffee flavor. The hops also smelled slightly of citrus. The alcohol was quite present as well, offering a sterile smell that wasn’t all that appetizing.


I’ve loved every beer that AleSmith produces. Each beer is so creatively delicious and takes me some place new. However, I was particularly underwhelmed by this beer and that might have to do with two things. First, I actually found this bottle while home on the East Coast and I wonder if it was an older make (last year) or if the beer simply didn’t travel right. Second, my expectations are very high for AleSmith and I may have psyched myself up too much for this beer. Either way, it is quite unfortunate as this beer was the 12th Beer of Christmas.

Anyway, the beer had an initial sharp carbonation that was spiked by a piney and earthy hop flavor. The beer was very bitter and lacked much of a malt character to balance this massive brew. The malt that was present tasted like butter scotch. The beer’s carbonation tasted a bit soapy. Finally, the beer washed down with a resinous tasting of hops and a roasted bitter flavor.

Where can I find this beer?

This beer can be found strictly in your specialty beer store. AleSmith maintains very tight distribution and focuses on Southern California. But you should be able to find this beer at Healthy Spirits and City Beer Store in San Francisco, CA.

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