T’is the season for holiday ales. And a fantastic season it is. One of my favorite annual holiday beer traditions is the “Our Special Ale” which is produced annually from the folks at Anchor Brewing Co. in San Fransisco. Amazingly, they’ve been brewing their Christmas Ale every year since 1975 and every year the recipe for this beer is completely different; as is the tree featured on its label (check out all of the trees from past years here). But as the beer’s label itself reads,
The intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew.
I have to say, unlike some people, this year’s Anchor Christmas was one of my favorite in recent memory. Although the brewery chooses to keep the recipe a secret every year, this year’s beer pours a nice dark, cola-like color with a puffy tan head that, although it dissipated, stuck around for nearly the entire time I was drinking. The aroma was a great combination of tart black or sour cherries – so much cherry that I didn’t notice much else. But on a second whiff, I did get some nice cola, pine/spruce smells, some fennel and roasted malts.
The taste is awesome! A little bit of vanilla and those toasted malts, but tons and tons of the cherry. In fact, I’m really surprised that more folks reviewing this beer on BeerAdvocate haven’t commented on the intense black cherry flavors in the beer (but I guess that’s half the fun of beer reviewing — everyone can have a different reaction to the same beer). For me personally, the cherry flavor was so onmi-present that I didn’t pick up on much else. However I’m not complaining; I think it’s a really interesting, unique taste and one not often done in beers but perfectly fitting for the cold winter months this beer is available.
The Anchor Christmas is one of the best American beers out there to cellar, since the flavors change dramatically from year-to-year. And comparing each year’s brew to that of the year before is one of the best Christmas Beer Traditions. For cellaring or not, I’ll definitely be picking up a few more bottles of this year’s version of Our Special Ale before it disappears in mid-January. Happy Holidays!