Our Special Ale 2014 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Reviewed by on November 25, 2014 in Holiday Guide

The Details

  • Brewery: Anchor Brewing Company

  • Origin: San Francisco, CA, US

  • Rated On: November 24, 2014

  • Best Before: October 2017

  • ABV: 5.5%

  • Ideal Temperature: cool to cellar temperature

  • Style: Winter Warmer

  • Rating: GOOD !

The Review

San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing has released their Christmas Ale every year since 1975, always with a different recipe, and always with a different tree depicted on the label – this year, it’s the Sequoiadendron giganteum representing California, which I would imagine to be the basis for one kick-ass Christmas Tree setup.

This 12oz bottle pours a clear, dark red-brick amber hue, with four hefty fingers of puffy, loosely foamy, and bubbly beige head, which leaves a decent array of EKG lace around the glass as it slowly abates.

It smells of semi-sweet bready caramel malt, ginger root, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice, um, spice, faint gritty coffee beans, mildly musty yeast, muddled dark fruit, and herbal, leafy, and perfumed hops. The taste is grainy, bready caramel malt, still edgy and softly phenolic yeast, mixed gingerbread spice, fading black orchard fruit, day-old coffee, mild cocoa powder, a bit of wan Nordic licorice, and earthy, leafy, and herbal hops. The carbonation is quite understated, not really interested in tickling my palate whatsoever, the body a thin medium weight for the style, and plainly smooth, a subtle airy creaminess arising after a spell. It finishes well off-dry, but not as far as I might have imagined – the biscuity nature of the grain, and yep, the herbal yeasty Anchor house flavour preserving a sense of balance, for better or for worse.

I know that Anchor does good things, especially with this holiday seasonal ale (it is, after all their 40th annual version), but I just can’t fully get on board here – the herbal, yeasty underpinnings distract me just enough from appreciating everything else going on, alas. Not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but so obviously surpassed by its upstart colleagues of late, not to mention foreign (mostly Belgian) incursions on US store shelves.  Still, worthy trying for yourself, to see what this year is all about!

Brady White



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