Tradition! Around the holidays, this word takes on dazzling significance. We all have them. For some, it might be baking and swapping cookies together with friends. For others, it could be playing games around the fire. And for still others, it’s eagerly waiting for the release of your favorite holiday beer—like Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig.

A cult favorite in Sam Adams’ arsenal, Old Fezziwig has a history as reverent as Ebenezer Scrooge. In fact, if you think, as I did, that Old Fezziwig sounds like something out of a Charles Dickens novel…

Well, you’d be right.

A character from the seminal “A Christmas Carol,” Fezziwig, shows up in Scrooge’s past as the generous employer who invites the young accountant to a lively party on Christmas Eve. It’s his old master’s kindness and holiday spirit that reminds Scrooge of the values he used to hold dearly.

In her own sort of Dickensian tale, Boston Beer Director of Marketing Lauren Price found herself tasting beers with Boston Beer Co. Founder Jim Koch one cold winter night when she joined the company a year and a half ago. A tradition for new employees, the tasting included a variety of beers. But the one that stood out the most to Price?

Old Fezziwig.

“I remember tasting it and immediately understanding why it gets the hype it does,” she says.

First released in 1995 in Samuel Adams’ winter variety pack, the spiced holiday ale quickly gained popularity and a faithful fan following.

Now, the number-one-requested Samuel Adams beer will be getting its own feature, releasing in individual six-packs nationally for the first time this winter.

A Brief History of Old Fezziwig: The Ghost of Christmas Past

boston beer co samuel adams old fezziwig logo christmas winter ale
The old Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale label | Photography courtesy of Samuel Adams | Boston Beer Co.

First released in the late ‘90s after two years of R&D, Old Fezzi (as the brewery calls it, “Old Fezziwig is very formal for us!” says Price) sought to fill a void in seasonal beers.

“The focus was really to bring something new to the winter variety pack and winter beer market,” says Eryn Bottens, brewing manager, new product development at Boston Beer Co. “We already had a spiced winter lager, but Fezziwig was slightly darker, more round in the mouthfeel, still spicy and warming, [but more] reminiscent of the season.”

Capturing the holiday spirit became Old Fezzi’s calling card.

Fans immediately took to the beer’s warm, slightly spiced flavor profile along with the now-iconic character on the label.

So much so that when Boston Beer pulled Old Fezzi from its seasonal pack, the uproar came swift and fierce.

“In previous years, we’ve chosen [other beers] in the variety cases [like] Chocolate Bock. … Anytime we don’t pick Old Fezziwig, there is an outcry,” says Price.

Safe to say that the following year, Boston Beer added Old Fezzi back into the winter variety pack, where it has more or less steadily appeared for the last two decades.

What Makes Old Fezziwig a Cult Classic?

boston beer co. samuel adams old fezziwig christmas winter ale
Photography courtesy of Samuel Adams | Boston Beer Co.

Just like “A Christmas Carol,” Old Fezzi has become an ale as old as time, at least for those who know the beer’s magic.

“I think there is a lot of nostalgia with this beer,” says Price. “People have a positive association when they think about this beer and memories of the holiday season they’ve had in the past.”

Ah, yes, could this be the roasty beer of Christmas past? Always there to remind us of festive time spent with friends and family?

“[Old Fezzi] just screams holiday!” says Price. “It’s a mix of nostalgic feelings and a great-tasting beer.”

Because, of course, people also love the beer for its notes of toffee, caramel, and chocolate that “just remind you of winter,” says Price.

Bottens points out that, compared to other winter ales on the market, Old Fezziwig exceeds expectations in both flavor and color.

Price agrees, saying, “It’s this deep mahogany brown. … When you see it poured into a glass, it makes you want to take a sip.”

By far and away, no matter what time of year, Old Fezziwig holds the title of Samual Adams’ most-requested beer.

“It could be the dead of summer, and people are talking about it,” laughs Price. “No matter what time of year it is, if we put something on social media asking for feedback, people are screaming: Bring back Old Fez!”

Old Fezziwig Becomes the Ghost of Christmas Present

boston beer co samuel adams old fezziwig christmas winter ale
Photography courtesy of Samuel Adams | Boston Beer Co.

Well, Boston Beer is finally giving the fans what they want.

Releasing in its own six-pack this winter, Old Fezziwig will be available nationwide in both bottles and cans and on draft only in Boston Beer’s downtown taproom.

The beer itself falls under what Bottens calls a “spiced brown ale.”

Featuring Samuel Adams’ two-row pale malt blend along with chocolate malt “that helps bring up the color and gives you that real nice kiss of cocoa,” says Bottens, Old Fezzi also includes C-60 to round out the spiced ale with those notes of toffee.

For hops, Bottens says the brewery used Samuel Adams ‘90s classic—Saaz—along with a simple ale yeast.

To capture those warm holiday spices, Old Fezziwig gets dosed with ginger, orange peel, and cinnamon.

“The toffee comes through, but the cinnamon hits second for me,” says Price, whose reaction to the beer goes beyond those flavors. “I’m thinking holiday. …. I feel more of the emotion before the flavors. … It’s very warming to the core; it’s just homey and well-balanced.”

Feelings we all want to have around the holidays.

And don’t worry about what’s replacing Old Fezziwig in the Beers for Cheers winter variety pack.

Boston Beer has that covered and then some, calling up a classic previously taproom-only innovation called Oaked Vanilla Porter, aka OVP.

This inventive MVP (get it?) of porters features notes of vanilla, oak, and coffee. “Again, perfect for these colder winter months,” says Price.

And while OVP certainly won’t replace Old Fezziwig, the team is still confident it will be a hit this season.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come: What’s Next for Old Fezziwig?

boston beer co samuel adams old fezziwig christmas winter ale
Photography courtesy of Samuel Adams | Boston Beer Co.

Standing alone for the first time in its twenty-eight-year history, Old Fezzi has high expectations.

The people have sung Old Fezziwig’s praise; the fans have shouted its acclaim. “Let’s put the money where the mouth is and see how much people want this one,” says Price.

If the beer performs well enough, Price indicated that Boston Beer could keep this revered holiday-spiced brown ale in its six-pack format.

She says, “If it truly is a hit, maybe we’ll see more of it in years to come!”

If we learned anything from Scrooge’s own moral journey (fable), it’s that a little bit of good memories and cheer can change our lives forever.

For so many, Old Fezziwig has done just that and will hopefully continue to be a beer of good cheer for many years.