Christmas Special – Winter Warmer – American: Anchor “Our Special Ale 2013″

Merry Christmas everyone! My Beer choice this year is Anchor’s Special Ale from 2013. It’s been sitting in a Cellar for just over a year and Christmas Day is always a good time to open one of these! Anchor release these beers in the lead up to Christmas, and they are always spiced differently.

Let’s start with Anchor‘s description:

This is the thirty-ninth ‘Our Special Ale’ from the brewers at Anchor. It is sold only from early November to mid-January. The Ale’s recipe is different every year, as is the tree on the label, but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy, and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appear born anew.”; “Merry Christmas Happy New Year”; “Abies concolor var. Lowiana.

A humble description from Anchor, as always! I feel the fact they are one of the oldest Craft Breweries in America always comes across well. They’ve been making the Special Ale since 1975, and have been a brewery in it’s current format since 1960.

Now, the recipe for this beer is completely Top Secret according to Anchor, but that’s never stopped me analysing a beer and trying to figure out whats in the recipe. So for this particular years beer, I think the spices used are Nutmeg, Vanilla Beans and Star Anise. They’re usually added around 90 Minutes during the Boil Period. As for the malts, the traditional Anchor malt 2-row is used along with Caramel Malt and Chocolate Malt. The Hops are not very prominent in this brew, so I’m guessing Northern Brewer is used for both boil and Dry-Hop hops. After this a normal American Ale yeast is used to ferment.

When you pour this beer, it’s a nice dark ruby colour, a medium to large tan coloured head with great retention. Once it does recede you get a lot of spotty lacing on the sides of the glass and a nice uneven surface foam on top of the beer. On the nose there’s lots of Chocolate malt aromas, mild roastyness and some caramel. I’d say it’s pretty Christmassy so far! When you taste this beer, initially you get a strange mint flavour which is actually quite nice and refreshing, after this Vanilla and a touch of Fruity Fig like flavours. After this the Roasted and Chocolate malts kick in, ending with a bitter Hoppy finish. This beer feels extremely smooth and ends with a medium-sweet finish with a touch of bitterness. This year’s one really is balanced and great, with a superb malty backing. Let’s hope this year’s one is even better!

I recommend buying this years and putting it in a cellar temperature place until next Christmas. It’s worth it!

You can grab Anchor Christmas Ale (Or our Special Ale) at Borough Market at London Bridge in Utobeer and the following online stores should have it in soon:-

Beautiful Beers

Beer Gonzo

For any bars, shops etc that are interested, Anchor products are distributed by James Clay in the UK and comes in Cans and Bottles.

EST. CALORIES: 165   ABV: 5.5%

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American Independence Day! Beer: Anchor California Lager

Anchor Beer

I thought I’d start with this Anchor California Lager, seeing as it’s independence day, it’s made by an American company and the sun is shining. This one is definitely a summer brew!

A lot of people don’t like lagers, but I think there’s nothing better than a well crafted lager on a hot day.

Let’s start with Anchor Brewing‘s description of the beer:

“Anchor Steam’s roots go back to the Gold Rush, long before icehouses and modern refrigeration made traditional lagers a viable California option. In 1876, thanks to an ice pond in the mountains and a belief that anything is possible in the Golden State, a little brewery named Boca created California’s first genuine lager. Anchor California Lager® is our re-creation of this historic American beer.

Made in San Francisco with two-row California barley, Cluster hops (the premier hop in 19th-century California), and our own lager yeast, this all-malt brew is kräusened and lagered in our cellars. Its golden color, distinctive aroma, creamy head, balanced depth of flavor, and smooth finish make Anchor California Lager® a delicious celebration of California’s unique craft brewing heritage.

The California grizzly bear on our Anchor California Lager label is from a woodcut by Durbin Van Vleck (1833–1898), courtesy of The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley. First published in 1856 in San Francisco, it is a superbly crafted rendering of an original illustration by Charles Christian Nahl (1818–1878), who had painted both eastbound and westbound versions of this bear. Nearly a century later, Nahl’s bear served as inspiration for the design of the bear on California’s modern state flag. Although that bear is heading west, our bear—like the bear on Boca Brewing’s historic lager label—is heading east.”

Quite a long description, but Anchor always like to almost over describe their beer, a bit like Stone Brewing. However, Stone always are quite sarcastic in their blurbs and it makes it funny. More on them another time.

The recipe of Two-Row Barley, Cluster Hops and Lager Yeast is definitely a great attempt at a Pre-Prohibition Lager. The story behind it also has some truth in it which is always nice. It’s much better than MillerCoor’s attempt when they made Batch 19, which was meant to be Coors before Prohibition, or Miller, or something. It ended up tasting the same, but looked like food colouring had been added to it. Anyway, this blog is meant to be about good beer so I’ll continue with the California Lager.

This beer pours slightly different to a lot of lagers, with a head that is quite thick and dense which tends to stay on top of the beer the whole time with an impressive thin cap. It has a lovely strawberry blonde/yellow colour and looks a lot more inviting than most lagers. It smells very biscuity but instead of the often metallic smell of a lot of lagers you get a nice clean grassy note from the hops in the beer. That’s right! This lager actually has a hop profile! It’s a really simple clean smell, but the hardest part of a lager isn’t usually the recipe! The first thing you notice when you taste this beer, is the fact it’s not heavy at all. It’s really light and clean, refreshing. The taste of the lager yeast is still there, as it is with all lagers but on top of that you get a really nice clean grassy note and a tasty biscuity flavour. It’s quite carbonated, which is expected but it’s ultra-smooth at the same time and one of the cleanest and light craft beers I’ve had. You really could imagine drinking this all day whilst working hard in the sun, or you could actually do it (if your job allows that sort of thing).

Definitely something I would buy again, and definitely something I would recommend

You can purchase Anchor California Lager in the UK at:

Beers of Europe

Noble Green Wines

Amazon (No I’m not winding you up!)

And probably some other places too, google it!

For any bars, shops etc that are interested, Anchor products are distributed by James Clay in the UK and comes in Cans and Bottles.

EST. CALORIES: 147   ABV: 4.9%