Anchor has been around since 1896 and one of the oldest craft breweries in America. They offer a number of styles and are probably best known for Anchor Steam. Since 1975 they have brewed a beer for the holidays that is named Christmas Ale or Our Special Ale. The interesting thing with this beer is the recipe changes every year and the ingredients are kept secret. Chris Ley, a friend of mine, brought over a bottle because he thought I would enjoy it – he was right.
Winter Warmer – “These malty sweet offerings tend to be a favorite winter seasonal. Big malt presence, both in flavor and body. The color ranges from brownish reds to nearly pitch black. Hop bitterness is generally low, leveled and balance, but hop character can be pronounced. Alcohol warmth is not uncommon. Many English versions contain no spices, though some brewers of spiced winter seasonal ales will slap “Winter Warmer” on the label. Those that are spiced, ten to follow the “wassail” tradition of blending robust ales with mixed spice, before hops became the chief “spice” in beer. American varieties many have a larger presences of hops in bitterness and flavor.” BeerAdvocate
Appearance – Dark brown with hints of red / mahogany and a light tan head.
Aroma – Spice (cinnamon, holiday spices, root beer), and sweetness (brown sugar, caramel a little chocolate), and citrus.
Taste – One gets a nice spicy taste that is not overpowering and you detect the holiday spices, then sweetness like brown sugar / caramel, bready / biscuity from the malt and some citrus / earthy / pine from the bitterness. Very good.
Overall – A – This is an excellent winter seasonal and I will purchase it next year. Thanks for brining one to me Chris.
Website description – “Each year since 1975, Anchor Brewing creates a distinctive Christmas Ale, available from early November to mid-January. A rich, dark spiced ale, our secret recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent 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. Our tree for 2011 is the bristlecone pine. Found high atop California's White Mountains, bristlecones are among the oldest living things on the planet. Some date back nearly 5,000 years, to the dawn of the ancient art of brewing. Each year our Christmas Ale gets a unique label and a unique recipe. Although our recipes must remain a secret, many save a few bottles from year to year. Properly refrigerated, the beer remains intriguing and drinkable for years. Different nuances emerge as the flavor mellows slightly, much like the memories of great holiday seasons past. Celebrate the holidays with Anchor Christmas Ale, an Anchor tradition since 1975.”