It would be remiss of us to write a blog about Anchor beer and not mention the fact they are one of the oldest pretty much continuously producing breweries in the United States. Although it has changed hands a few times, each new owner has kept the main aim; to continue producing high quality, full flavoured beer. Anchor brewing started as a small brewer producing full flavoured beer, and has moved into a mid sized brewer. They were founded in the late 1800’s in San Francisco. In this blog, we are going to look at their Christmas beer, but they are most famous for their Anchor Steam beer, and a few other editions.
Small batch, artisan & craft are all quite difficult terms to pin down, but what we would say about Anchor is that they use malted barley and wheat, rather than adding any corn or rice, they use traditional brewing equipment, and for now they are producing 180,000 barrels a year (soon to be expanded quite a bit with another brewery site soon to be on stream). They also use whole hops, as opposed to pellets. Whether these factors make the beer better or worse, well the proof is in the tasting, but it is certainly the more expensive way to do things. These practises in brewing also tend to produce more flavoursome beers.
Anchor Christmas 2015 is the 41st release of a Christmas beer from Anchor. Christmas beers tend to have some sort of Christmas spice (nutmeg, cinnamon etc), but this isn’t always the case. We have been stocking Anchor Christmas since 2011, and since we got it in we have been intrigued by the secret recipe (which changes every year). Other brewers tell us what is in their Christmas beer, but not Anchor, those mysterious mavericks. So this year, we decided to get a bottle of 2015, try it against a bottle of the 2014, to see if we could spot any common notes and to compare them against each other. Bottle ageing effects this investigation slightly (check out the Anchor brewer’s thoughts on bottle ageing their Christmas beer here) but we thought we would give it a go anyway.
Anchor 2014 Bottle Aged For 1 Year
Nose: Nutmeg, raisins, honey, orange and lemon shortbread. It has fruity notes in with all the spice.
Palate: Milk chocolate, more nutmeg, icecream, mint notes and a charred malty note.
Nose: Spicier and more forthright than the 2014 (but this could well be the bottle ageing). Dark chocolate, spicy notes like a chilli sauce. Nutty notes. More nutmeg.
Palate: Big charred, chocolate and coffee barley notes. Kirsche brandy. Black pepper. It’s a fair bit spicier on the palate.
In terms of common notes, we reckon on top of the lovely heavily charred barley there is probably some nutmeg added, and maybe some vanilla, but apart from that, we struggled to guess. The 2015 tasted really spicy on the palate, so maybe some cinnamon too?
As for comparing them, in the Anchor blog they talk about the effect of bottle ageing “The first and second year changes will be the most noticeable as the sharper hop and spice notes become more subtle and muted”. I think this is pretty much what we saw, so comparing them without a time machine is quite difficult. What we would say is some of the tasters preferred the milder bottle aged 2014, while other preferred the spicier, full bodied 2015.