Local Breweries Have a Holiday Flavor

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Holy cannoli! There sure are a lot of holiday beers on tap this year.

Everything from Door Busters Stout to Airing of Grievances Festivus Ale is being poured at brewpubs in the region. In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, the seasonal brews are festive and flavorful.

A few of them – like Penguin City’s Holy Cannoli Stout – are over the top.

Holy Cannoli (5.8% ABV) is named for the cookie created by One Hot Cookie, which is based on the cream-filled Italian pastry.

Penguin City teamed up with the Boardman-based One Hot Cookie chain to create the recipe.

The brew was introduced last year and it sold so well that the collaborators decided to bring it back. It’s available on tap and in cans.

“Holy Cannoli is one of [One Hot Cookie’s] top selling cookies,” says Aspasia Lyras Bernacki, co-owner of Penguin City. “It’s very Youngstown, and it’s very Christmas.”

Holy Cannoli is a milk stout that uses vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate – the same ingredients as the cookie.

“It complements the cookie,” says Lyras Bernacki. “It pairs well with it.”

To prove it, One Hot Cookie will have its Holy Cannoli cookie for sale at the brewery this month.

Also available for purchase will be a limited-edition Holy Cannoli 10-ounce, gold-rimmed snifter glass.

Penguin City also sells gelato, the rich Italian ice cream, and a scoop occasionally gets plopped into a mug of ale.

For a Holy Cannoli beer float, Lyras Bernacki recommends the vanilla bean gelato.

In keeping with the theme, a community cookie exchange will take place at Penguin City on Dec. 17.

Each registered attendee will make six dozen of their favorite cookie (just one flavor). Two dozen will be available for sampling by attendees; the other four dozen will be left for attendees to take home. Tickets can be purchased at OneHotCookie.com.

The event will also include a last-minute gift market.


Birdfish Brewing of Columbiana has been making its holiday seasonal, The Grynch, every year since before the brewery opened.

“We have made it annually since 2010,” says co-owner Josh Dunn.

Birdfish Brewing in Columbiana has been making The Grynch since the company opened. The brewery had a limited run of mugs made this year.

Birdfish Brewing Co. opened in 2015, and The Grynch was among the beers it offered to the public that year.

“The recipe has remained unchanged,” Dunn says.

The Grynch is an imperial amber ale made with clove, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and honey. It packs a whopping 8.5% ABV and is sold on tap and in cans.

Noble Creature Wild Ales and Lagers in Youngstown has several seasonal beers this year.

First up is the Petrushka, a Russian imperial stout with a powerful 9.0% ABV.

“We do that one every year,” says owner and head brewer Ira Gerhart.

Also available for the season is a French Belgian bier de garde brew. “It’s a bigger lager beer,” he says.

Blast Beets, a tart beer made with ginger and lemon, is also just coming out of the brew tanks at Noble Creature.

Brew 32 at Nova Winery in Pulaski, Pa., released its Cinnabonds right after Thanksgiving.

Cinnabonds is a brown ale with a 6.2% ABV. “It’s conditioned on cinnamon and the result is cinnamon roll delight,” says Jonathan Wright, operations manager at Nova. “Ask for the cinnamon sugar rim to complete the experience,” he adds.

Everything at Paladin Brewing in Austintown carries out the King Arthur theme, and its Christmas season beer is no different.

Paladin Holy Knight Christmas Ale comes in cans that reflect the Austintown brewery’s King Arthur theme. It tastes like apple pie.

Dubbed Holy Knight brown ale (6.8% ABV), it has the flavor of apple pie.

“It’s crisp and sweet,” says Abby Chandler, marketing director for Paladin. “Each sip brings you back to Christmas dessert at Grandma’s.”

Even though it’s a Christmas seasonal, Holy Knight has been available in cans and on tap at Paladin and in restaurants and bars throughout the region since October. That’s because of demand.

“Restaurants were asking for it,” Chandler says. “Our taproom guests are fine with waiting for it, but restaurants want it much sooner.”

Croaker’s Brewing, which opened last summer in downtown Sharon, Pa., has at least two holiday seasonals this December.

One will be “nontraditional,” says co-owner Mara Palipchak. The other is Winter Warmer, which she describes as “a dark ale with winter spices, a cold weather drink.”

A variety of stouts are also being prepared for the season, including Winter Solstice Spiced Ale. “It has a rich body, a warming finish, with spices, nutmeg, molasses, dark candy sugar and orange peel,” she says. “It has a warm rich flavor and not too hoppy, more like an imperial stout.”

Ill Will Brewing of Columbiana has an ornery streak – albeit in good fun – and its winter offerings reflect it.

For example, there is the Airing of Grievances Festivus Ale.

The brew is named for the faux holiday invented by a character on the “Seinfeld” sitcom, says co-owner and brewer Brian G. Lalama.

This is the second year for Airing of Grievances. It’s based on Scottish ale, which tends to have a holiday-season flavor. Ill Will added ginger, cinnamon and honey to create the 7% ABV beverage.

Ill Will has also created Gall (6.5% ABV), a Belgian style dubbel. It uses barley imported from Belgium. For extra authenticity, Ill Will uses reverse osmosis to give the water the same profile as what is used in the brewery at the Abbey of St. Sixtus in Belgium.

Other Ill Will seasonals include Chronic (7.8% ABV). A twist on the brewery’s hazy IPA, it is fermented dry to accentuate certain characteristics that make it reminiscent of a Douglas fir or blue spruce tree, Lalama says.

Finally, there is Woodland Critter Christmas (5.5% ABV), a smoothie that uses melted candy canes and vanilla ice cream. “It would seem to be a Christmas-oriented title,” Lalama says. “But anyone who knows the ‘South Park’ episode it references will know that it’s not.”

Neshannock Creek Brewing in New Castle, Pa., has a couple of holiday seasonals on tap, made by owner-brewer Eric Fulkerson.

The Door Busters Imperial Chocolate Oatmeal Stout (9% ABV) was released – appropriately – on Black Friday.

Also available is Sugar Plum Fairy, a Belgian dark ale that is fermented with plums.

Lake Milton Brewing has brought back its Merry Merry Milton Christmas Ale. The brewery, owned by Donny and Lori Loveless, has been open for three years and has made the popular seasonal each of those years.

“It’s not in-your-face spicy,” says Lori Loveless. “It has molasses and is a really good Christmas ale.”

It’s proven popular among Lake Milton’s regulars. “We went through two and a half kegs the weekend it was released,” Loveless says.

Merry Merry Milton is available only on tap in the brewery’s tasting room. But those who don’t get a chance to stop in and enjoy a glass before it’s all gone can take heart.

“We usually hold a keg or two for Christmas in July,” Loveless says, referring to the event that’s celebrated every summer at Lake Milton’s bars.

Kexmas Christmas Ale is a tradition at Modern Methods Brewing in Warren.

At Modern Methods Brewing in Warren, brewer-owner Adam Keck has been offering his Kexmas Christmas Ale every holiday season since the brewpub opened in 2018.

“I make the same beer every year and I get a lot of ‘It tastes great,’” Keck says. “The batch-to-batch consistency each year is pretty good.”

Keck started making the ale in 2015, when he was still a home brewer.

Kexmas is an amber ale balanced with Czech noble hops and flavored with nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cinnamon sticks. Residual sugars resulting from a high mash temperature and fermentation control give the brew the sweetness of a holiday cookie, Keck says.

Kexmas started as a Keck family tradition, and it still is.

The art on the can features a depiction of a beat-up 1986 Chevy van that was Modern Methods’ first delivery vehicle.

Pictured at top: Chris and Mara Palipchak greet guests at Croaker’s Brewing Co. in Sharon, Pa.