“This smells like Christmas!” exclaimed a friend of mine who was trying this beer for the first time. Anchor Christmas Ale, from the Anchor Brewery in San Francisco (most famous for their Steam beer), is always the first beer I look for when the Christmas ales hit the shelves. Though the formula changes from year to year (and always remains a secret), it is consistently delicious and a great representation of what Christmas beers are about.
This year’s version pours a dark, reddish brown with ample head retention. The aroma features a heaping dose of pine, with notes of mulling spices, notably clove and cinnamon. Chocolatey malts coat the palate, paired with quite a bit of cherry and more of those great spices. A balanced dose of hops cleans up the finish and keeps this tasting like a beer. All in all, it is both immensely flavorful and very smooth.
This drinkability is one of the main differentiators for this beer. Many other excellent Holiday Ales, such as Tröegs’ popular Mad Elf and Belgian favorites like Delirium Nöel, are high in alcohol (8-12% ABV), so though they taste wonderful, they are definitely sipping beverages that are almost more like wines than beers. As such, if you aren’t as familiar with the Christmas style, Anchor’s version is a great starting point.
Anchor Brewing Our Special Ale (Christmas Ale)
Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco
Style: Winter Warmer (Xmas Spiced)
Widely Available in the Main Line Area ($11 for a 6-pack at Wegman’s)
Photo via anchorbrewing.com