12/24/17: Anchor Brewing's 2017 Christmas Ale

9:14 PM

This is the fourth iteration of this ale I've touched upon with the blog. After having the 2014 Christmas Ale well after the 2014 holiday season, it's since become a staple of Christmastime around here. It's easy to write about every year (provided I can track it down) because it's always different: Anchor Brewing, the company behind the bottle at hand, creates a new recipe each and every year.

And, believe it or not, each year (or, at least, each iteration of the ale I've had) has definitely been worthy of a Yuletide spot here on the blog. This begs the question: Does this year's stack up to the previous three?

But before I begin to answer that question, I have to tell you that the FCC has voted to destroy the rules governing our (our being the United States) neutral internet. This means that, eventually, you'll be paying extra to access the websites you love and they'll have to pay extra for you access them. It's a hell of a raw deal. But it's not too late to correct the FCC's mistake. Please go to battleforthenet.com to learn how you can contact your representatives to make sure that the internet stays the way it is now, which is honestly best for everyone.

Now that that's out of the way, let's take a moment to talk about Anchor (click that link to go to their "Our History" page). They were minted in the late-Nineteenth Century and have been around in California since. Yep, they survived Prohibition. They survived fires (well, at least one). They survived the rise and dominance of macro beer. And, I'm willing to bet, they'll be around for a long time to come.

On the official page for the 2017 Christmas Ale, you won't find a lot of information about the beer itself--the recipe is truly a secret. Yeah, we know that it's 6.7% ABV, but most of the details here are devoted to the pine on the label (a Santa Lucia fir, by the way). But that's okay. I'm sure we'll be able to give it a description here.

Right off the bat, this year's ale's bouquet is totally different from those of previous years. Yes, I know this should be obvious--like I said, the recipe changes yearly. But hear me out: Whereas previous years were hoppy and piney, this has a nice chocolatey, maltiness on the fore. It's more of a mix of porter and märzen than anything else. Which isn't to say that it's not hoppy. There's a great piney hoppiness here that accents the Santa Lucia fir gracing the label. Purrl, for her part, likes the aroma wafting from the bottle almost as much as I do. She gave it eight whiffs.

The beer doesn't taste like how I imagined it would from the aroma. There is some dark, roasty chocolateness here. But it's lingering way in the back of my mouth in the ale's finish. No, this year's Christmas is spicy up front (I'm pretty sure I'm picking up some nutmeg and molasses here) with a kick of that same piney hoppiness I got from the nose. There's an odd peppermintiness that I'm tasting from the whole thing. I gotta hand it to Anchor this year--the ale really does taste like Christmas.

This is a chewy ale. Seriously--it's got the creamy-thick feel of good hefeweizen. Which says, in the event that you don't know, that I really like it's mouthfeel.

Here's a Christmas story for you. It's called "The Last Time I Truly Believed in Santa Claus" (it's in quotes instead of being italicized because it's a short story). That title isn't to say that there was any time where a traumatic event caused me to stop believing--a short conversation with my mom in her car took care of that. This is much more simple and, I guess, much more... magical? Maybe "sugar-induced dream-like" is a better phrase than "magical." You decide.

We were at my paternal grandparents' place for Christmas. It was long after my entire family had gone to bed (we're talking super early in the morning, here). I awoke to some sound on the roof. My twenty-seven-year-old self can't define the sound now but my seven- or eight-year-old self immediately though Reindeer! I sprung from the bed (careful not to wake my sleeping brother) and sprinted down the hallway.

I rounded the corner into the living room to see my grandfather asleep in his chair, softly snoring in front of the muted TV. But, out of the corner of my eye, I could see the fireplace. My periphery caught what I swore at the time was a large brown sack (almost an enormous bag full of presents for good children around the world) shoot  up the chimney. Like I said, this was probably just a sugar-induced waking dream of a child. Or, it could be magic. Maybe Santa is real. Who am I to say? Regardless, I have to thank Anchor for making a beer that allows me to ponder such a query.

I can't lie, especially this close to Christmas morning. Anchor Brewing's 2017 iteration of its Christmas Ale is the best one I've had to date. The last three walked away with solid ratings of 8.0/10 each. But not 2017. This year's Christmas Ale gets a hearty 9.5/10. On Tuesday, when you're able to shop without feeling bad that people have to work over the holiday, make sure you track some down. I promise you won't be disappointed.

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