12/24/16: Anchor Brewing's 2016 Christmas Ale

4:10 PM

Here we go again. You know tomorrow Christmas because I'm dipping into the yearly Anchor offering. This is the third year I've been able to try this ever-evolving Christmas ale--each year the recipe for the brew contained within the bottle changes, just like the illustration of the tree adorning the ale's label.

In over the last year-and-a-half (I drank the 2014 ale randomly during the spring of 2015) I've come to expect holiday goodness from Anchor. How does this year's Christmas Ale hold up?

This is my fourth time writing about Anchor's history, so I'll just give you the main point: The California-based brewery's been around since 1871. This means, of course, that they've made it through Prohibition unscathed. They've also made it through some disasters, including a fire and an earthquake. But, luckily, the good folks at Anchor are a steadfast bunch and the brewery still exists to craft its unique Christmas Ales. For the full details, be sure to see their "Our History" webpage--it's overflowing with information about the brewery.

Okay, now that you've had the (short!) run-down on Anchor's history we'll get to the part where I talk about the beer. You can read all about this year's Christmas Ale on its official webpage, but I'm forgoing doing so myself (for now. Odds are I'll look into it later). Instead, I thought I'd do something different. Since each year's offering is a new beast, I thought I'd go into this blind, write about what I find, compare it to 2014's and 2015's versions, and (finally) write about the memory the ale brings to my mind.

Aroma-wise, 2016 is pretty dang malty. And, while there is some sweet malt (like what you'd find in a good Märzen), most of what I'm getting in terms of malts is good, chocolatey roastiness. Also, I'm find some pine in there, which, in a Christmas beer featuring the image of a pine, is perfect. Purrl gave it four whiffs (Háma [not pictured] gave it six). I like 2016's bouquet a lot.

The flavor, however, is throwing me through a loop. It's pretty much standard ale dry on the front, but the finish is a flurry of malty sweetness and piney hops. The aftertaste that I'm finding lingering in my mouth is all pine, but subdued instead of the sharpness from a piney IPA. Part of my confusion here can be attributed to the fact that the ale's taste doesn't match its aroma. It's strange that there're no chocolate notes in the flavor. However, I am picking up on a little nuttiness, which is something distinctly Christmasy to me.

On the mouthfeel front, this year's Christmas Ale is silky smooth. Creamy, even.

So, how does it hold up to the last two years? Well, here's a quick overview of the two: 2014 was more akin to what I consider to be a "standard" Christmas ale, meaning it was spicy-strong--nutmeg and cinnamon, with hints of molasses. But, I also picked up on honey and a distinct minty-ness. 2015, on the other hand, was all chocolatey molasses on the nose but traditional Christmas ale spice in the mouth that was overshadowed by strong piney hop flavors.

This means that 2016 holds up well to the previous two Christmas Ales. It's different, but, especially with its nutty flavor and malty, roasty aroma, adds to Anchor's Christmas Ale catalog.

Did you know I've been snowmobiling? Well, I have. My family and I made an afternoon of it around Christmas a few years back (well, more like 6 years back, but who's counting?). The place we went was a dense pine forest on the edge of a clearing. The snow was up to my waist and the snowmobiles we rode seemed to glide right on top of it. But, at one point, after working my way through the woods and into the clearing, I fell off my machine and the snow swallowed me up.

I pulled myself to the surface to see my family laughing at my predicament, and I laughed, too. It was Christmas. We were having fun. And that fun, Christmasy snow mobile excursion is exactly what I'm thinking of as I sit here drinking 2016's Christmas Ale.

This year's offering carries on the tradition established by the previous two: I'm giving it an 8.0/10. I like it. I drink it. I'm looking forward to how Anchor Brewing will commemorate 2017. You should be doing the same.

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