12/12/21: Anchor Brewing's 2021 Christmas Ale

9:18 AM

Another holiday season, another run of Anchor's historic Christmas Ale. I haven't missed a year since I fell into this beer rabbit hole and I'm pleased to add 2021 to my résumé.

I look forward to each annual release of the beer, but the stuff's largely been hit or miss for me. '17, '18, and '19 were all killer ales, but I just couldn't get behind last year's for some reason (I think I might have had a bad bottle, because a lot of people didn't have my particular issues with it). Let's see how '21's drinking.

Anchor Brewing's been around (in some capacity) for 125 years. They've weathered fires, earthquakes, Prohibition, and more. The San Francisco, CA brewery has a long history and isn't showing any sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Anchor's Christmas Ale (also referred to as Our Special Ale) is a Christmas tradition that dates back to 1975. Each release sees a new tree grace its label and a new recipe behind the beer. '21 isn't on Anchor's website, so I'll get my scant information on it from BeerAdvocate and my bottle. It's a 7% ABV ale that features the image of a Joshua tree on the label.

I'm finding chocolate and caramel on the nose, along with some light licorice and raisin with a touch of piney hops. Of all the version of Anchor Christmas I've had (this is my eighth, mind you), '21 features the most appealing bouquet I've yet encountered on the ale. Unless you're Háma--he gave my bottle two brief whiffs before hopping down from our kitchen table.

The first pull I take from the bottle is warm banana nut bread, complete with raisins and cinnamon. It's a really intriguing flavor profile--not one that I necessarily associate with Christmas, but it would definitely have a place on the table during the holiday. A second, longer pull presents the same, but backed with piney hops, bitter dark chocolate, nutmeg, and plenty of plum skin tannin (adding a slight sour note). 

'21 Christmas Ale has a medium-bodied mouthfeel that's a little fluffy with a short, sharp bite.

It's a warm(ish) mid-December day here. The sun's out and shining brightly. There isn't a cloud in the sky. We got lucky at my house and missed the worst of the storms that racked the area yesterday and night before.

I've never been a big fan of sunny warmth in December (it's better than thunderstorms, though, that's for sure). But I remember one year we had a sunny day the weekend before Christmas. I went shopping with my mom to pick up a few things and, somehow, there wasn't another soul on the road. She'd cracked her car's sunroof and radio hit Christmas tunes accompanied our light discussion. Sunny Christmastime may not be for me, but I love spending time with family during the season.

Anchor Brewing's 2021 Christmas Ale is unexpected. The flavor is delightful, as is the nose. I'm giving this one-off seasonal an 8.5/10. Color me pleasantly surprised.

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