(2009) 12 Beers of Christmas, beer 7: Anchor Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale

Start a new Christmas tradition with Anchor Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale!

Every year for the past 35 years, the brewers of Anchor Steam beer have whipped up a delicious and unique recipe for their Christmas Ale. This highly sought-after brew is only available from early November to mid-January (in 12-oz bottles, magnums, and on draught), and as the adjective “unique” describes, the recipe differs every year. While the ingredients are top secret, beer aficionados have speculated about what goes into these beers, and have come up with everything from spruce tips to molasses to soy sauce and cloves. Anchor also creates a new label for the bottles every year, each with a different version of their signature tree, which according to their website is meant to symbolize the “joy and celebration of the newness of life.”

The 2009 Christmas Ale was featured at a BevMo tasting recently, and was definitely my favorite in the flight of Christmas beers. I was also able to taste an aged 2006 on tap at Backstreet Brewery in Ladera Ranch, where the guys have been keeping it in the cooler for the past three years. This aged version was like drinking a liquid Christmas tree- in a good way… which just goes to show that the Christmas Ale is delicious right after its release, but it also ages amazingly. So if you’re interested in starting a new Christmas tradition, my charge to you is this: pick up a bottle or two and hold on to them (in a cool, dry place) until at least next year. Or, you could collect for the next two years and try the ’09, ’10, and ’11 in a vertical tasting in 2011. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed with the flavors and complexities each beer acquires over the years.

To view the whole story behind the Christmas Ale, or to see all 35 unique labels from over the years, check out their website.



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