Beer of the Weekend #36: Anchor Christmas Ale

The beer this weekend is Anchor Christmas Ale, brewed by Anchor Brewing of San Francisco, California.

I’ve never walked into BevMo! with the intention to buy a beer I didn’t care to drink, but tonight I did just that. Last week’s BotW was disappointing. Well, I take that back: Winterhook Winter Ale was not my style. With last week’s tasting in mind I did a little research on Anchor Christmas Ale to get an idea of what it tasted like. Everything I found pointed to a Winterhook-like experience, though unique and different. It’s not what I want, but I have made a short commitment to sampling the seasonal brews available during the winter holidays and I’m going to stick with it. However, I’ve made this decision: If I don’t like Anchor Christmas Ale I will cut short my winter brew sampling.

Here we go.

Serving type: Six 12-ounce bottles.

Appearance: ACA poured a very deep, ruby brown — almost black — which surprised me. I fucked up the first pour and got a little too much head, but the foam was light and dissipated quickly. The remaining lacing had a sangria-like tint. The brew is also very effervescent.

Smell: Another very distinct scent, one I’m not familiar with. Spicy cinnamon and a deep berry, which reminds me of raspberry jam.

Taste: Weird. Sweet raspberries and cherry at the very beginning; a slight tingle of spicy cinnamon followed. It’s not bad. It’s almost like drinking Cherry Coke with a shot of brandy. It lacks the explosive hoppiness, which is a huge plus in my book.

Drinkability: It’s a good substitute for eggnog and Winterhook.

Fun facts about Anchor Christmas Ale:

-Serving temperature: 45-50°F.

-Alcohol content: The ABV varies yearly due to changes in the recipe (see below) and neither the Anchor website or BeerAdvocate list the alcohol content for the 2008 version.

-Each Christmas since 1975 Anchor has released a special Christmas Ale, and each year the recipe and labeling are different. The 2008 version is the 34th. The recipes are secret so no one but the brewmasters know the ingredients. Apparently, many Anchor enthusiasts save a few bottles each winter and compare vintages years later. The labels, on the other hand, are a source of pride for Anchor. The designs are always distinct, featuring a different tree each year. The Anchor website offers a cool slider gallery showcasing all the Christmas Ale labels. For me it was interesting to see the different design styles through the years. Each label embodies the year it represents in its fronts and form. After a quick look through I think my favorite is 1975 or 1980, though 1982 (my birth year) is quite unique compared to the other labels.

-ACA is categorized as a “winter warmer” on BA. Last week’s BotW, Winterhook Winter Ale, is also categorized as a winter warmer, though it was more like a winter incendiary.

The Quite Man’s grade: I’m split. It’s not my style, and it isn’t appealing enough to keep me trying winter brews (sorry), but it was a pleasant and tasty surprise. I’m craving a piece of raspberry pie from Polly’s. B-/C+.


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