Tonight I’m drinking Anchor’s Our Special Ale, a Christmas beer brewed by the classic American craft brewery, San Francisco’s Anchor. Vintage-dated, this is a brew released once a year for the holidays, with a slightly different recipe every year. The label also changes every year with a different tree adorning the front, 2007’s a particularly beautiful rendering of a California Valley Oak. Oh, and I just so happen to be drinking the 2007 vintage. I’d been keeping it, I saw it tonight, and I wanted to try it, so here goes. An experiment in aged beer…..style “winter warmer,” ABV 5.5%.
What a label, I hate to kill off the bottle:
After several years, it still looks great. Thick creamy foam with a dark brown body and lots of fine lacing ringing the glass.
It smells vaguely oxidized, maybe not to the extent I thought it might be, but I’m getting some sherry and port notes. Mostly cola, though, like those natural cane sugar colas you can buy at Whole Foods. For all I know, kola nut could be one of the ingredients, because that’s what it smells like – an odd mix of cola and port wine. I remember this smelling like sharp wintergreen when it was fresh, though. Quite a change.
Taking a sip, it’s obvious that the beer has changed. It has thinned out in body, and, following the smell, tastes a bit like unsweetened cola with minor dark chocolate and wine-like notes on the back end. There is zero taste of spruce tips, mint, ginger, nutmeg and clove, all of which were in abundance back when I had the other five bottles from this six pack in 2007-2008. Very dry. I can’t shake the feeling that this is actually a diluted Cabernet Sauvignon that was spiked with kola nut. It’s an interesting drink, with the cola, grape and chocolate flavors playing upon one another – I wouldn’t want this kind of thing every day, but I have to admit, it was worth keeping a bottle of this 4 years just for the experience alone. I’d say its only real weakness was how it had thinned out in the mouthfeel.
Anchor’s Our Special Ale should be found on our shelves in six-pack form in December, should you want to sock away a bottle or two for a few years. Keep in mind that when fresh, this is going to taste spicy, green, and bark-y, like taking a bite out of a Christmas tree.
For food pairings, I want to say that this, in its aged state, will be amazing with a steak or a good duck confit. Fresh, you’ll want to throw it against traditional Christmas foods – gingerbread, plum pudding, fruitcake will all work well.