Time was when today, the Monday before Thanksgiving, was the traditional day on which Anchor’s Our Special Ale — a.k.a. their Christmas Ale — was released each year. Every year since 1975 the brewers at Anchor Brewery have brewed a distinctive and unique Christmas Ale, which is now available from early November to mid-January.
From this year’s press release:
“Every year we’ve changed our Christmas Ale. It hasn’t just been for change’s sake, though,” said Mark Carpenter, Brewmaster at Anchor Brewing Company. “For the past few years we’ve evolved the recipe to perfect a particular style of dark spiced ale and I believe we succeeded. So this year we went on a different path, exploring new possibilities and making larger changes. I’m happy to say we’re very pleased with the results. This year’s ale is aromatic with hints of citrus fruit, spices, and subtle piney hop notes. The flavor has a sarsaparilla-like sweetness with rich caramel maltiness and a pleasantly balanced back-end bitterness. The mouth feel is smooth with a full, velvety texture. The beer pairs well with rich meats, thick saucy dishes, roasted vegetables, and even your aunt’s fruitcake! We’re happy with this year’s Christmas Ale and while I don’t yet know where we’ll take it next year, we’ll continue to keep Anchor fans guessing as we do every year.”
Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew. The tree depicted on the 2014 Christmas Ale is the Giant Sequoia. It was hand-drawn by James Stitt, who has been creating Christmas Ale labels since 1975, to look as a “Big Tree” planted in 1975 might look today.
Anchor Brewing chose the Giant Sequoia for the 40th annual Christmas Ale in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Act. Signed into law by President Lincoln during the Civil War, it granted the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the State of California “for public use, resorts, and recreation.” The first such land grant in American history, it marked the beginning of the California State Parks.
Anchor first began their active support of the California State Parks when they announced in 2012 that proceeds of Anchor California Lager would benefit the California State Parks Foundation. This year’s Christmas Ale continues the celebration of one of the Golden State’s most precious institutions and its natural heritage.
Christmas Ale is a traditional “Wassail” of medieval England. In the olden days, brewers often used delicious blends of natural spices to give their Christmas ale a distinctive character. Similarly brewed, the Anchor Christmas Ale recipe remains a closely guarded secret every year. It’s always brewed using malted barley, fresh whole hops, and a true “top-fermenting” yeast. Its deep, rich color is produced by using a blend of roasted malts, carefully selected to achieve not only the deep color of this ale, but also to provide much of its distinctive malty flavor. The whole-cone hops provide a balanced back-end bitterness and subtle piney hop aroma. This is accompanied with aromas of citrus fruit and herbal spices.
Even though for the last few years, Anchor’s Christmas Ale is released in early November, I continue to observe Anchor Christmas Day on the Monday before Thanksgiving. I know I’m a sentimental old fool, but I liked that they used to wait that long to release it, even though I understand why they had to abandon it. But some things are worth waiting for. If you agree with me, please join me in drinking a glass of this year’s seasonal release tonight. Happy Anchor Christmas Day!