12/8/18: Anchor Brewing's 2018 Christmas Ale

6:45 PM

Anchor's Christmas Ale is something of a tradition around these parts. Don't believe me? Well, you should. See, I've had the following years on the blog: 2014 (long after the 2014 holiday season), 2015, 2016, and 2017. I'm excited to add 2018 to that list!

That's a Korean pine on the label, by the way.
This brew is one to which I always look forward. The recipe, which changes yearly, consistently makes for a good ale. I also enjoy the stroll down memory lane I take in preparation for each post by reading through those of each previous year--this gets me in a compare and contrast state of mind. It's nice to see how each year varies from those that have come before it. Last year's was my favorite yet, with a rating of 9.5/10. How will 2018 hold up? Let's find out!

Anchor Brewing has an impressive history. The brewery, started in 1871, was repurposed into Anchor 25 years later. Shortly after, it weathered a devastating fire and a few untimely deaths before Prohibition hit. The brewery enjoyed some growth after alcohol became legal again before a short, unsteady stint from 1959-1965. Starting in the 70's, Anchor hit full steam and has been cranking out good beers, and liquor, since. Be sure to hit up their "Our History" page if you want the full version of what I've provided for you here.

Like I said earlier, Anchor's Christmas Ale changes each year. It usually has chocolatey and piney qualities, but the similarities between each year end there. According to the ale's official page, the 2018 batch, which clocks in at 6.9% ABV,  has a nose of pine and candied yams with flavors of banana bread and burnt sugar, all wrapped up in a velvety finish.

I'm not getting much pine from 2018's bouquet. I get chocolate, I get the nutty, candied yams. I also get a touch of mint (which, I guess, some people could take as pine but to me it's a strong peppermint). There's also a fig-like quality here on the nose. This is, without a doubt, the most pleasant aroma I've found in one of Anchor's Christmas Ales. Háma, my beercat tonight, gave my bottle five whiffs (this is a positive rating from him--he's more discerning than Purrl).


The banana is definitely present in the ale's flavor. I don't know if I'd peg it as banana bread, but there's a definite banana here that pairs well with the deep, dark chocolate notes from the malt bill.  I get a little bit of the burnt sugar here, but the banana is really the star of the show before giving way to a cool, piney finish.

I wouldn't say that 2018's mouthfeel is velvety smooth--it's a little too sharp to be described as such. But it is big and robust, and compliments the aroma/flavor combination perfectly.

When you were a kid, did you ever get a Christmas (or other holiday or even non-holiday) present that you didn't ask for and didn't even know you wanted? There were more than a few years where that happened to me and, amidst all the Christmas presents I've been given over the course of my life, those unexpected ones are my absolute favorites.

Like, one time my parents (or, as the tag on the wrapped box read, "Santa") got me an Optimus Prime toy. The cab of the truck, glorious red, transformed into Optimus himself while the trailer became an awesome base for him, complete with a turret into which the robot could fit.

Another such gift came when I was in college. My brother got me the Gamecube version of the Mega Man Anniversary Collection. I spent the rest of that day in front of the old tube TV in my bedroom attempting to beat Mega Man 2. I never did.

I bring this up because Anchor Brewing's 2018 Christmas Ale is like those great, unexpected gifts. It's not what I'd think of as a traditional Christmas ale, but it's phenomenal. The banana quality of it really puts it above all the other beers I've had so far during my Christmas blowout this year, and makes it the equal of Anchor's seasonal offering from last year. I'm giving the ale a 9.5/10. I strongly recommend you track some of this stuff down so you can enjoy it yourself!

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