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Barrel-Aged 2017 Christmas Ale from Anchor Brewing (2018 Release)

At the end of November, courtesy of the brewery, I attended the release of Anchor Brewing’s Barrel-Aged 2017 Christmas Ale at an event held in the Brewery’s tap room and brewhouse on Potrero Hill in San Francisco.

The event included small bites, and a vertical flight of four years’ of Anchor Christmas Ale – 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018- in addition to a taster of the featured barrel-aged beer. (It was crowded so I didn’t get to try the 2018, but the 2017 and 2016 aged well. The 2015, not so much.)

I did make sure to try the barrel-aged release, and I came away with a couple of bottles of it; one of which I have opened and am drinking tonight.

The Barrel Aged 2017 Christmas Ale was created by aging the 2017 Christmas Ale in bourbon, red wine, and brandy barrels, and then blending them. It has 10.3% abv and 30 IBU  (the original, unaged, version had 6.7% abv and 40 IBU).

It is a dark ale. Dark, dark brown, almost like a really dark cola, but with a hint of green to it.

It smells smooth, not alcoholey -which is a good sign, considering that it is pretty high in alcohol.  There is a bit of dried fruit in the nose, a bit of aroma of fried bananas.

It is malty, and a bit sweet, with flavors of vanilla, raisins, dark cherries, red wine, maybe a bit of port. There is just a hint of roastiness and barrel char.  Hop bitternes is quite moderate, with a slight note of evergreen.

As the beer warms,  some of the vinous character dissipates, and a bit of dried apricot starts to show up.

It is very pleasant. It has good body but is not too heavy; not cloying at all. It goes down smoothly, and is pleasantly warming. A good choice for this cold winter’s eve.

 

Anchor Brewing launches membership drive for California State Parks Foundation

Announcement from Anchor Brewing:

 

 

Anchor Brewing Company Extends Partnership with California State Parks Foundation
 
San Francisco, CA (August 24, 2016) – In a continued effort to preserve and protect California’s natural heritage, Anchor Brewing Company launches a membership drive for the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF). In February of 2013, Anchor Brewing initiated a partnership with CSPF in conjunction with the release of Anchor California Lager®. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Anchor California Lager supports conservation projects in California State Parks that help enrich the state’s innate natural beauty. In the past year, Anchor Brewing has funded three important grants distributed by California State Parks Foundation.
 
“Enjoying our state’s natural beauty is a fundamental part of the California lifestyle,” said CEO and President of Anchor Brewing, Matt Davenport. “Here at Anchor we embrace and celebrate that lifestyle, making beer to be enjoyed in valleys and on peaks, taking in the landscape with a cold brew in-hand. We strive to make beer that inspires people to go outdoors and Anchor California Lager is a perfect example of that, given our partnership with the California State Parks Foundation. Anchor Brewing is dedicated to its role as a steward for environmental conservation, preserving California’s natural heritage and outdoor lifestyle for generations to come.”
 
Expanding on this, Anchor is now hosting a membership drive for CSPF, encouraging the public to visit California State Parks and become a member of CSPF, helping their efforts to preserve and protect state parks. Anchor has also recently funded three important CSPF grants, benefiting Citizens for East Shore Parks, Jack London Park Partners and Santa Barbara County Trails Council.
 
Citizens for East Shore Parks is funding a study on land birds and their habitat in the Albany Bulb, a historically and geographically significant parcel on the East Bay shoreline. The study will advise and guide the Albany Bulb Transition Plan’s habitat and wildlife conservation and restoration goals as the area becomes part of McLaughlin East Shore State Park. It is expected to be completed by late summer 2016.
 
The Jack London Park Partners grant will help update and modernize The House of Happy Walls Museum, which serves as the main visitor center and museum for the park. It was built by Charmian London, as a memorial to Jack London and contains artifacts and mementos attesting to this world famous author’s literary success and adventurous lifestyle. The project is anticipated to be completed by November 2016.
 
Finally, the Santa Barbara County Trails Council will add an entrance sign, kiosk, trail markers, and maps for a significantly underutilized area of El Capitán State Beach, improving access to the land. The grant will have a direct impact on visitors’ experience and as it was just awarded work is expected to begin immediately.
 
In addition to fundraising efforts, Anchor employees have joined CSPF staff for Anchor volunteer days at California State Parks, which have helped to support conservation projects at Fort Ross, Half Moon Bay, Candlestick Point and China Camp State Parks, with additional projects planned in the future.
 
Actively embracing California’s brewing traditions, Anchor California Lager is a re-creation of a historic beer; the first genuine lager brewed in California.  The label features a California Grizzly Bear, an icon for the state, as well as California State Parks. CSPF works to provide care for the state’s 279 parks and ensure that everyone is able to enjoy these national treasures. In this way, California’s enduring natural heritage is celebrated and protected.
 
Join Anchor Brewing in supporting the California State Parks Foundation by becoming a member today. The drive runs through September 30, 2016.
 
1      Visit calparks.org/anchor
2      Save $5 on your Membership Fee
3      Receive a FREE hiker’s guide to California’s State Parks
 

Anchor  will be also hosting “Party for the Parks“, a membership-drive event for the California State Parks Foundation:  

Location: Anchor Beer Garden at The Yard –100 Terry A Francois Blvd., San Francisco Date: Thursday, September 15th Hours: from 5 pm ’til 7 pm  

The CSPF will be onsite to sign up new members.  Sign up and receive $5 off of membership, and a free copy of the CA State Parks Hiker’s Guide.  Anchor Brewing will also be offering deals on pints and growlers of Anchor California Lager, and will donate $1 to the CSPF for every pint of Anchor California Lager sold at the event.

2019 Anchor Christmas Ale

I’ve received a couple of bottles of the 2019 Anchor Christmas Ale courtesy of Anchor Brewing, and decided to pop one open for review tonight.

First off, let me say that it is a pretty beer. It has a big tan, rocky head. It appear dark brown and opaque, but when held up to the light a beautiful dark, deep garnet hue comes through.

Following on that impression, it is also a beer that can fool one a bit. Due to its dark hue and big tan head, one might allow oneself to expect a robust beer like a porter or stout. In other words something with a very malt-forward character. However, the 2019 Christmas Ale is actually surprisingly light-bodied, and the first impression upon tasting is one of smoothness, almost as if it had been dispensed on a nitro system.

It has a malty nose, with a light hop aroma, with some subtle conifer notes in the background. As it warms and the head subsides, some caramel or invert sugar aromas come forward.

In the taste, I got some spice, some coffee, and baking chocolate up front, backed up by some malt or caramel notes. It finishes dry, with the bitter chocolate flavor lingering, and some more of that pine at the back end.

It is a good, tasty beer, but to be honest, I’m not as partial to it as I have been to previous years’ iterations of the Christmas Ale. The recipe changes every year, and taste is subjective, so that is to be expected from time to time. I guess I just miss the more robust mouthfeel of those other versions.

However, because it does have that lighter mouthfeel, it is more drinkable than a lot of other seasonal ales that come out at this time of year. This is one that one can have more than one of in a session.

Brewing Community Unites for Camp Fire Relief

In response to the terrible Camp Fire in northern California, which has destroyed thousands of homes and leveled entire communities -continues to burn as this is written- Sierra Nevada Brewing Company stepped forward with a proposal to brew a beer and donate all sales to fire victim relief efforts.

Similar collaboration benefit brewing efforts are not new to the California craft brewing community. Last year, after the devastating fires in Sonoma County, Russian River Brewing Co. enlisted dozens of craft breweries to brew Sonoma Pride beer. Their efforts helped raise over $1M for Sonoma fire relief.  Similarly, just a few months ago, after the Carr Fire, five Shasta County craft breweries teamed up to raise funds by  brewing Shasta Strong IPA.

This time, Sierra Nevada’s founder and CEO, Ken Grossman got the ball rolling with this message on Facebook:

Many of you have asked if we will be brewing a fundraiser beer to support Camp Fire relief efforts. The answer is a resounding “yes.”

We are proud to announce that we’ll be brewing Resilience Butte County Proud IPA and donating 100 percent of sales to Camp Fire relief. In addition, we are also asking every brewery in America to brew Resilience and do the same.

I’m sending a letter to brewers across the country, inviting them to join us in a collaboration brew day on Tuesday, November 27. We are working with malt and hop suppliers to provide raw ingredient donations to all participating breweries and are asking those breweries to donate 100 percent of their sales, as well.

We know that the rebuilding process will take time, but we’re in this for the long haul. Our hope is to get Resilience IPA in taprooms all over the country to create a solid start for our community’s future.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your support. We’re right here with you and we’ll get through this together.

– Ken

The response from the always close-knit brewing community has, of course, been tremendous and hundreds of breweries in California and further afield have signed on.

Some of the Bay Area breweries that are participating are Danville Brewing Company, Del Cielo Brewing, Shadow Puppet Brewing Company, Ghost Town Brewing,  Russian River Brewing Co., Altamont Brewing Company, Almanac Beer Co., Anchor Brewing Co., Drake’s Brewing Company, 21st Ammendment, Morgan Territory, ….

There is a growing list of participating breweries on the Sierra Nevada webpage.

In addition, the recipe for Resilience Butte County Proud IPA has been made available to homebrewers via the AHA, and homebrew supply retailer MoreBeer! may (emphasis on may) be releasing a homebrew ingredient kit.  Homebrewers, who of course cannot sell their beer, are encouraged instead to make a donation for Camp Fire relief via the Golden Valley Bank Community Foundation.

Autumn Beer Tasting at Anchor

About a week and a half ago, took advantage of invitation to attend an Autumn Beer Tasting Session led by Dane Volek, Anchor’s Pilot Brewer at Anchor Public Taps.

Up until now Anchor’s tap room has not been generally open to the public, and the only way to taste Anchor beer at the brewery was to attend a special event or manage to grab a hard-to-get spots on a tour.  Anchor’s new taproom, Anchor Public Taps, changes that by being open 7 days a week and offering pretty much all of Anchor’s beers on tap to the public, hence the name “Public Taps”.

Located just across the street from the main Anchor brewery itself on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Anchor Public Taps also houses Anchor Brewing’s 7-bbl pilot brewery, which produces many beers offered only on tap, and only at Anchor Public Taps. In addition it also hosts Anchor’s growing barrel-aging program, including some “funky” barrels.

Volek led our group through a line-up of four beers that “you would want to drink on an evening in the Fall”.

These are my notes from that night on each of the beers:

Blood Orange Blonde
orange prominent in the nose, some hop aroma.  light body, gold to light-amber in color  not much maltiness or bitterness, slight fruity sweetness lingers on the palate

Fog Breaker IPA
citrus and pine hoppiness in the nose  Pine and citrus bitterness in the mouth   gold in color, light body and mouthfeel  bitterness lingers

Third I
triple IPA  9.3%    fruitiness in the nose: citrus and then … strawberries!   Marked strawberry character in the flavour as well.  Hop bitterness is attenuated by the sweetness.  The sweetness lingers on the palate, leaving a sharp bitterness as it fades. Very interesting beer.

Coffee Porter
Pronounced coffee notes in the aroma and taste.  Coffee, roast, and hop bitterness balanced by malty sweetness.

In addition to those four, Volek threw in a few additions and surprises.

The first of these was a Märzen, of which we got serve ourselvesdirectly from the sampling port on the fermenter.   Next, the group was able to taste a brown ale that had been fermenting for only 24 hours.  It pretty much was like tasting unconverted wort –which is, in fact, what it was.

Finally, we got a preview taste of this year’s Merry Christmas and Happy New Year beer and a sneak peek at the label and packaging.

Produced afresh each year from a different recipe, and with a different image of a tree on the label, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year changes from year to year.  This year’s version –which goes on sale in November– is less robust or roasty than previous years’ versions. Less like a stout and more like a barley wine, but still with some spice character: coriander, cloves, …

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