Beer Chronicles – Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale


I recently reviewed on this blog the Anchor Brewing Company’s legendary steam beer. In that review I admitted that I got off to a very late start in discovering the glories of Anchor’s beers. It was really only this year (2014) that I discovered the greatness of Anchor beer when my friend and I split the cost of a variety pack. The variety pack contained bottles of Anchor’s steam beer, their porter, their wheat beer, and their Liberty Ale. They were all delicious beers and I’m sure I will have more to say about them in future reviews.

Now we are on the cusp of the Christmas season and it is time once again for the release of the Anchor Christmas Ale. I say “once again” because this is a seasonal beer with a long and storied history. The brewery began brewing the beer in November 1975. It has been in continual winter production ever since. In addition, artist James Stitt has hand-drawn every label for the Christmas Ale for the duration of the run. You can see a feature on Stitt and his work on the Christmas Ale label here.

Beer aficionados eagerly await the beer’s release every winter due to the fact that Anchor never follows the same recipe from year-to-year. The company tinkers with the recipe every year in order to give each iteration a special flavor of its own. It is almost as if the brewery is giving customers a Christmas present each year. “I wonder what it is going to taste like this year when I pop the cap on that first bottle of Anchor Christmas Ale?”

Sadly, this being my first year trying Anchor’s Christmas Ale, I had no idea what to expect as I opened my first bottle. It turns out that the Anchor Christmas Ale was a joy to look at and and a delight to the senses. It is utterly unlike most winter beers with which I was familiar. The smell most definitely had an aroma of ginger in it. It smelled to me a bit like opening a box of gingerbread cookies. Upon tasting the beer, one definitely tastes the ginger on one’s tongue. The other thing I tasted was chocolate. I’m not sure if I was imagining that or not, but I would be willing to be that Anchor used some chocolate-based malts in their recipe for this year’s ale.

There is something profoundly wonderful about a brewery that starts a tradition, tweaks it only slightly over time, and ends up maintaining said tradition for 40 years. Here’s to 40 more years of Christmas Ale from the fine folks at Anchor. My only regret is that I discovered it this year. I am 39 years late to a very delicious party.

Beer prayer: Gracious God, we give thanks for the Anchor Christmas Ale. For forty years the Anchor company has given fans of their beer a delicious reason to anticipate Christmas. Thank you for the company’s long obedience in the same direction. May those of us that call upon the name of Jesus Christ learn from this example and do likewise in our own lives year after year. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!

My Untappd rating for the Anchor Christmas Ale is 4.5/5.


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