When I left Cleveland last summer, I noted a number of things that I knew I would miss. Among them, some of the best craft beer in the country. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I heard that Great Lakes Brewing Company would be distributing Christmas Ale in DC this season for the first time ever.

That excited faded quickly, as I realized that it would be nearly impossible to find in the nation's capital. After all, Great Lakes was planning to sell 80% of the seasonal brew in Northeast Ohio - and I understand why that decision was made.

(from The Cleveland Kid on Flickr)

I figured if I could find Christmas Ale anywhere, it would be in the place where it was born, and it was pretty disheartening when I arrived in Northeast Ohio this weekend to find store shelves empty and kegs at local bar dry. There's still two weeks left before the holiday and already Christmas Ale is nowhere to be found, even in Northeast Ohio.

After the great Christmas Ale shortage of 2007, I figured that the Great Lakes had gotten pretty good at predicting seasonal demand and keeping up the production process. After all, I don't remember having trouble finding the stuff last winter...

Maybe there is a legitimate reason the brewery didn't produce more of their highly popular beer this year. Or maybe the conspiracy theorists are onto something when they say that these shortages are designed to maintain the "cult following" that Christmase Ale has developed over the years. The harder it is to get your hands on, the more that Christmas Ale fanatics have to savor every sip.

Whatever the case, I feel disappointed that this happened. I still think Great Lakes produces some of the best craft beer around, but to be able to drink it, you first need to be able to find it.