The holidays are about tradition and nothing says tradition in craft beer quite like Anchor Brewing. Considered the granddaddy of the craft beer movement, Anchor’s Christmas Ale has been a holiday staple for the iconic San Francisco-area brewery since 1975. Every year, the holiday ale features a distinctive label featuring a hand-drawn tree and special secret recipe which changes annually. 2019, in particular, marks the 45th iteration of the festive brew.
Appearance and Aroma
Out of the bottle, Anchor’s Christmas Ale pours a deep walnut brown with a creamy off-white head that lingers ever so slightly as I drink. Out of the bottle, I’m immediately hit by aromas of rich chocolate and vanilla. Once poured into a glass, more subtle earthy, herbal notes are noticeable.
At 6.9% ABV, it’s also approachable enough you can keep your wits about you a little longer than usual before making a fool of yourself at the holiday party.”
In the words of Shrek, Anchor’s Christmas Ale is like an onion. They both have layers. Toasted caramel and lightly roasted coffee are layered with what Anchor refers to as “coastal spices.” Despite its intense flavors, the beer is not heavy or overly sweet like I was expecting. Instead, my tongue is greeted by a semi-sweet experience—like dark chocolate—with a silky, smooth finish and, oddly, a hint of cherry.
This was my first time enjoying Anchor’s Christmas Ale, so I don’t have any past formulations to compare it’s 2019 version with. That being said, this beer doesn’t really need to be compared to anything. It’s great in its own right with exceptionally balanced flavors and just the right amount of body to back it up. Plus, at 6.9% ABV, it’s also approachable enough you can keep your wits about you a little longer than usual before making a fool of yourself at the holiday party.