Anchor makes a new Christmas Ale every year. It is a treat to see what new flavors they have brewed together, every holiday.
This year the beer poured dark brown almost black, with some light head. Once it was poured into the glass it smelled like winter. Ok... so that is not as descriptive as you might want, but it was a mix of piney hops, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and it just smelled like the holidays. The abv is 5.5%.
The beer flavor is a mix of molasses and chocolate tones with a nice sour hint of cherries or other winter berries. These flavors are accented by all the spices that were in the nose especially the ginger. I really enjoyed the sour characters of the berries. The hop profile comes in hard and overpowers the sweetness pretty quickly helping to balance it all out. Sometimes holiday beers are basically just deserts, so this was a nice more complex option. The mouth feel was surprisingly light. It has a pretty dry finish, but it fit the general pallet of the beer.
I give it a 3
Now the best thing about having awesome friends is they will invite you over to try awesome beers. In the spirit of Christmas, the Little Lady and I got together with another couple and they had prepared a vertical of Our Special Ale 09, 10, 11, and 12.
We lined them up and started tasting! Similar characteristics were displayed in every beer, but there were some differences. All of the beers got better as they warmed up a little bit. It helped take the piney edge off just enough and let the big malty character of these awesome brews to really shine through.
I rank them in this order: 2009, 2012, 2010, 2011.
Since it is the season of giving, I will not dwell on the beers that I did not like as much, none of the beers ranked below a 3 and most of them were 3.5.
The 2009 was my favorite! It was sweet with heavy flavors of molasses upfront, that lead you into the fruitiness of the dried cherries. It had a rich smokiness throughout that made it more unique than the rest of them. It did not have the extreme pineyness that I found the 12, 10 and 11 to have. This one had an almost creamy quality that helped cancel out some of those harsh hop flavors. The 2009 was a fantastically balanced beer. If I could this would become my yearly Christmas beer of choice. Thanks to Justin for setting it all up.
I give the 2009 a 4