11/29/20: Anchor Brewing's 2020 Christmas Ale

2:22 PM

It's the Holiday Season! This post would have typically gone up the day after Thanksgiving (which is when the blog's Christmas beer time officially commences), but it's been a zany long weekend: Eating food, yeah, but a ton of house work (plumbing stuff and furnace fixing, namely). Today, however, Michelle and I got our Christmas tree trimmed, put up, and decorated. I hung our outside lights while she set out interior decorations out. So, finally, I'm ready to start the blog's Christmas season.

The first post of this year is a beer that I look forward to annually, one that changes its recipe each and every year but is of a consistently high quality. That beer, as you can easily tell by the title, is Anchor's 2020 Christmas Ale.

Anchor's based in San Francisco, CA and traces it roots to when Gottlieb Brekle turned a saloon into a brewery way back in 1871. That brewery, in time, would come to the name "Anchor." Since then, the brewery's persisted, surviving a fire, earthquakes, and Prohibition. Today, their offerings are found at least as far as Ohio. Odds are you can find them, too. Here's their "Our History" page, if you're so inclined to learn more about them.

Christmas Ale's been an institution for the brewery. It, according to its official page, debuted in 1975 and features a different recipe and different tree on its label each year. Four and a half decades on, the beer's now drinking something like liquid s'mores, boasting flavors of chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows. There're supposed to be coffee notes in the 7% ABV ale, too. The trees featured on this year's label, by the way, are three sequoias in Yosemite National park known as The Three Graces.

I've had a couple of s'mores-inspired beers on the blog this calendar year and, I have to say, 2020 Christmas Ale doesn't have a bouquet like any of them. This is far more earthy--I'm getting something mushroomy from my bottle. This is fine (it's an aroma I actually enjoy in beer) but I just wish that I'd've had some heads up, you know? Beyond that, there's definitely chocolate and marshmallow here, but that's about it. I'm not finding any coffee nor can I suss out graham crackers. It's an intriguing nose, but I can't say it's one that Lottie loved; she only gave my bottle only four whiffs.

That mushroom quality is incredibly pervasive in the flavor profile. Shiitake (I know this specifically because I made a cider with the stuff and this is how it tastes). The marshmallow is here in a mild vanilla bite, and the chocolate and coffee are both present in the roasted malt the ale employs. I'm finding some graham cracker (honey and cinnamon) in the finish, way far back at the end, and a slight hint of the ABV lingers with it.

The mouthfeel is like silk. Smooth and creamy like I want a milk stout to be, but in a drinkable ale.

My bachelor party consisted of myself and my groomsmen holing up in a cabin for a weekend, drinking, hiking, playing video games, and just goofing around. I brought a few choice beers from my cellar to share, including a shiitake stout.

I poured that shiitake stout into four solo cups and passed them to my boys, and we drank them while snow gently fell. They were hesitant of the beer at first when I told them about its primary adjunct, but soon came to embrace and enjoy it. 

I'm attempting to embrace and enjoy this year's Anchor Christmas Ale. But it's difficult. Maybe I got a bad bottle, but that shiitake taste (as much as I like it in a beer) doesn't mesh at all with the s'mores flavors in the ale. This is, unfortunately, the weakest Christmas Ale I've had from Anchor, and I'm glad I only have the one bottle. This is a 6.5/10. Subpar.

Here's hoping the season gets better from here on out!

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