Merry Christmas! Here we are, the final beer in Ale to the King and possibly, hopefully your festive countdown towards the big day itself. Just going by the bottle and label itself I knew immediately this would be the one that would see us out in style. With bold, red capitals declaring MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR surrounded by a very nice, old fashioned tree this not only celebrates the big day but also welcomes in the new year.
Very appropriate I thought, but I’m pretty new to a lot of the world of ale so I was very pleased to hear this was even more in the spirit of Christmas than I’d thought. Turns out Anchor Brewery has brewed a special Christmas ale every year since 1975, entirely unique, a different, closely guarded recipe every time. And this year’s is a cracker (pun entirely intended).
The nose is absolutely delicious, very unique and very defined. Its brilliantly spicy and immediately hits with strong crystal ginger. Its a great sensation that’s slightly backed up with mulling spices.
On pouring the head is a creamy tan and has real staying power way down to the glass. The colour is a very dark chocolate or heavily varnished old wood.
On the taste you’ll notice its incredibly dry, the driest I’ve ever tasted that really sucks the mouth together. Unfortunately the taste is a little more muddled and undefined than the nose.
The foretaste is of dried figs mixed in with the spices is not unpleasant but isn’t entirely a treat. The mid-taste is rather more pleasurable and the spices, which dominates right through to the end, compliment the sweetness and dryness of the roast chestnut tones.
On the after-taste the spices come together with remnants of the crystal ginger, dried figs and chestnut into a melange of notes which is where the dryness really kicks in. Unfortunately this is a warm, cottony flavour which leads to a certain clagginess that’s perhaps overly-emphasised by the dryness.
So, ultimately its a beer with a lot of promise that fails to deliver on that, but its still something very special and unique regardless. In a way, it sums up one of the most iconic things of Christmas, a knitted sweater from your grandma. You hope its going to be something great, and despite being what it is, you just have too much goodwill and appreciation for the effort that’s gone into it to regard it with anything other than warm feelings. Merry Christmas.