As you know - I don’t pregame my seasons, unless we’re talking beer. Last Thursday, Great Lakes Brewing Company held their First Pour Party for what’s become a Cleveland holiday staple, Christmas Ale. New this year is the addition of their Cookie Exchange Milk Stout, which many of us couldn’t wait to try, and lo and behold, I got my thirsty hands on a six pack.
There’s something to be said about anticipation being so high that it dwarfs the experience you’re looking forward to, and that’s what happened with my first sip of Cookie Exchange. The promised notes of Caramel Vanilla Shortbread (or Speculoos) are most definitely present in the aroma. It’s a lighter stout with only a 5.5% ABV. I can definitely confirm that it’s very smooth and malty and seemed to have a clean finish. Those are the positives. For me, it lacked depth and fell a little short of my expectations. The flavors are more subtle than other dessert beers I’ve enjoyed, and it fell just a little flat.
By no means am I saying to pass on it - it’s still a good beer, it’s just not as good as I wanted it to be. It also could be because my senses still aren’t 100% back due to recently having covid and my sense of smell and taste did vanish and has been slow to completely return, so I’m not fully trusting my first impression of the GLBC Stout, although I did look into other reviews of the brew in question. No one has actually written anything about it yet, but it has been rated on a 5 star system. I consistently saw 4 stars and even 3.5 star ratings for it. I have to agree, although, I intend to “re-try” Cookie Exchange in a couple more weeks when my senses are (hopefully) even more recovered. You can pretty much get the full family of holiday brews from Great Lakes just about anywhere in the Cleveland area right now, including the Classic Christmas Ale and my favorite, their Bourbon Barrel Aged Christmas Ale.