Beer 511

Exploring Craft Beer and Homebrew in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Category: California

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.

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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