Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Anchor: 2011 Christmas Ale - A benchmark that other’s should aspire to

Established in San Francisco, Anchor has a long history of beer making, where its name was received as early as 1886 during the heart of California’s legendary Gold Rush. After years of financial hardships and shutdowns during the 1950s and 60s in the face of the large market for light lagers, today Anchor leads the way as one of America’s – and perhaps the world’s – benchmarks for first-class craft brew production.

Anchor has been making a Christmas line since 1975, although each year beer drinkers are graced with a new and well-guarded recipe and a totally new label. In 2011, the label’s centerpiece is a bristlecone pine, which was, according to Anchor, chosen because these trees “are among the oldest living things on the planet,” dating back to “the dawn of the ancient art of brewing.” With its zesty holiday spiciness and elegantly balanced qualities, Anchor’s 2011 Christmas Ale is emblematic of Anchor’s leading position among craft brewing and a benchmark by which other Christmas beers should aspire to.

Life in the glass begins with a dark amber color, producing a solid standing and an amazingly well-retained beige head and a dense and sticky lacing matrix. The nose of Anchor’s Christmas Ale indeed speaks of Christmas: A bready background is juxtaposed with a powerful raisin note, along with licorice, plums, and a touch of ginger and cinnamon just to round out the holiday feel. Like the nose, the taste again reveals Anchor’s Christmas ale as beer with a distinct holiday feel. The bready background is accompanied by raisins, plums, a touch of licorice, and a nice roasted taste. Cinnamon and ginger tastes are also discernable and perhaps a hint of clove as well. There is a wealth of carbonation in this Christmas ale, and the mouth feel is a bit on the heavy side, which again gives it a pleasant wintery feel.

Overall, Anchor’s Christmas for 2011 is well-balanced, relatively complex, and an attractive sight as it sits in the glass. Unfortunately, if you have not had it, you’ll probably just have to take my word for it. But, I’m sure Anchor’s 2012 variant will be as much of a benchmark as this one. Just a little less than a year to wait.


Anchor Christmas Ale on Ratebeer:

Anchor Brewing, Christmas Ale:

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