Anchor Brews a Christmas Beer! Who Knew?

December 15, 2012

Hey! Did you guys know that Anchor brews a Christmas Beer each and every year? And that each year they tweak the recipe so that it is just a little bit different? You all knew that already?

Alright, I knew all of that too. I have sampled this beer for more than twenty years now (going back to a time when it was damn hard to find some years in some of the places in which I lived, although finding it no longer seems to be much of an issue), and other than one year when it tasted like candied yams mixed with fake pine cones, shitty tinsel and melted down plastic Santas, it is always at least a good, if not excellent, beer.

Some Christmas Traditions - gifts wrapped in red & green; colored lights; passing out drunk under the tree - should live forever

Some Christmas Traditions – gifts wrapped in red & green; colored lights; passing out drunk under the tree – should live forever

This year’s version is…truth be told, I lost my tasting notes, but I had it in a bottle and on tap and enjoyed both. I remember thinking ‘spicy’ and ‘warming’ so figure that this has some Christmas spice flavors in it, and a nice warming sensation from the alcohol. I do not recall thinking ‘fake pine cones’ nor ‘shitty tinsel’ nor ‘melted down Santas’ so figure there was nothing nasty about it. I recall thinking ‘7’ when I had the bottle and ‘8’ when I had it on tap, so let’s average that out to a 7.5/10 and call it a day. You know you are going to get some, so what are you waiting for?


Black Friday Beer: Samuel Smith’s Winter Warmer

November 23, 2012

The day after Thanksgiving (AKA ‘Black Friday’) is the opening day of the Christmas Shopping season, and it is marked by midnight openings of Big Box Retail Stores, One Day ONLY! sales, people camping out days in advance to take advantage of those sales, and in particularly spectacular years, riots at stores to get at the merchandise. This year there were supposed to be various union organized protests at Walmart stores across the country, although if there were any they seemed to be largely ignored by the bargain seeking public.

For me, Black Friday has nothing to do with shopping. It is a day in which I sleep in a bit after eating too much on Thanksgiving, a day in which I sleep off yet another disappointing Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day Loss, this year to the hated Redskins (and Good God, the idea of my favorite team facing Robert Griffin III twice a year for the next decade fills me with dread, as he is the quarterback that Michael Vick was supposed to be, except he is serious about the QB craft, actually working at it by watching film and studying and doing drills and having his receivers practice endlessly to get their timing down instead of relying solely on his physical talent as Vick did; RGIII is, if anything, a better natural athlete than Vick; and something else, something else…oh yeah, he is not a fucking dumbass like Vick was), and it is the first day on which I will drink a Christmas Beer.

American Football is Mutant Rugby played in protective pads

The initial Christmas Beer of 2012 is an old favorite, Samuel Smith’s Winter Warmer. Seeing the ever changing yet still familiar label* with the Bill Shakespeare quote is the first harbinger that my favorite time of year is coming soon. I will not drink this before Black Friday, nor will I drink any after Twelfth Night, but I am hardcore like that. Like Omar Little, I have a code.

At this stage, with the proliferation of seasonal brews, this barely qualifies as a ‘Christmas Beer’ as it is not spicy nor especially in high in alcohol nor amped up in any way, but I do not really care. It is smooth and good and only comes out at the end of the year, and that is enough for me, 7.5/10.

*The 2012 label is a bit of a letdown. Usually it depicts Dickensian or Elizabethan or Edwardian revelers in a Christmas scene. This year it depicts two rugby players in action. I suppose rugby has some winter/Christmas connotations, but damn it, I am American, and I demand that Samuel Smith confine themselves to my predisposed notions of an English Yuletide!


Christmas in April: Troegs Mad Elf Christmas Ale

April 14, 2012

Another beer received from MZ, and another good one. I have tried the Troegs Mad Elf Christmas Ale before, and while I remembered the honey and the cherries it is brewed with, I did not remember how boozy (a whopping 11% ABV!) it is. My tongue went numb while I was drinking this. That is not a complaint, just an observation.

Lots of honey in the aroma, and sour and sweet cherries are very prominent on the tongue. I do not like sweet beers, and this could have fallen in that category, but there is a subtle spiciness that offsets the sweetness, and the funkiness from the Belgian yeast and the alcohol warmth helps in that regard as well. While this is a beer to savored on a long, dark, cold winter’s night, I enjoyed it immensely on a warm spring evening, 7.5/10.


The Last of the Winter Beers

February 22, 2012

I just got back from Florida, where the coldest day got down to about 65 degrees. It will get up to about 75 degrees today in Texas. The force that drives the green fuse is pushing the first flowers through the Texas red dirt, and the trees are showing their first green buds. In addition to getting warmer, the days are getting longer. Naturally, my thoughts have turned to Winter Beers.

Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale: Malty, slightly sweet, with some caramel and some spice, a gentle hoppy bitterness, and a slight mineral aftertaste that is quite nice. It clocks in at 7.7%/ABV, which is higher than your average beer, but is quite moderate in the Winter Beer Wonderland. Too many winter beers try to knock you out with spiciness and alcohol and just being MORE, but this is subtle. To the extent there are Christmas spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, they are muted and understated, and there is a touch of fruity sweetness, almost apple cider like, on the back end. Southern Tier makes several excellent beers, and this is one of them, 7/10.

Heavy Seas Category 5 Winter Storm Ale: There is a mango like sweetness to the malts in this beer, which is different, as mango is not a fruit normally associated with the short days of winter. The taste is port like, with some mild hops bitterness and some brown sugar and raisin sweetness as well. This took on some complexity as it warmed in the glass, with some toffee and hard candy flavors coming out. It is a bit on the heavy side to drink all night, but it is quite enjoyable, 7/10.

Winter Solstice Ale in the Florida Sunshine. A commentary on global warming? A statement on the essential dichotomy of human nature? Or just me being a pretentious asshole with a camera?

Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Ale: This had an interesting vanilla aroma and a cream soda flavor to it. There are apple and cherry fruity flavors as well, with very little in the way of hops bitterness. I expected a beer called WInter Solstice Ale to be on the heavy side, but this had a light mouthfeel to it. I am not sure how this can be called a winter beer, but I enjoyed it anyway, 7.5/10.


The Eleventh Day of Christmas: Stone Vertical Epic 11.11.11

December 24, 2011

For the Eleventh Day of Christmas, I cracked open a bottle of Stone Brewing’s 11.11.11 Vertical Epic.* This ale is brewed with Belgian Yeast, which gives it a funky aroma and some banana flavors.  Cinnamon and New Mexico Green Chilies were added to the boil, with the heat from the cinnamon noticeable on the front end, and the mildest heat from chiles in the aftertaste.  The cinnamon and the chilies complement each other, and neither overpowers this beer, as is often the case with chili  pepper or cinnamon infused beers.  There are plenty of hops here as well, adding layers of flavor.  This is another wonderful beer from Stone, 8/10.

*Do you see what I did there? Eleventh Day of Christmas paired with 11.11.11? I am on a roll!


The Ninth Day of Christmas: Shiner Holiday Cheer

December 22, 2011

I am not posting a photo of this beer, because I am afraid that some of you will see a Shiner Holiday Cheer display in a store someplace, recognize it from the blog, not remember what I said about it, and buy some of this bottled shit.  Flavored with pecans and Texas peaches, this manages to taste like chemicals, with a metallic aftertaste. It is sickly sweet and medicinal, almost as if a cough drop was dissolved in it, and that is the best part of this beer. Shiner is very much hit or miss, with more misses than hits, but this is a new level of crappiness.  I would not even use this shit for cooking, which is my preferred method of getting rid of lousy beer.  I am not going to grade this, but please avoid it at all costs.

On a more cheerful note, check out Marah covering A Fairytale of New York.  It is only a fragment, but I like it:

This is the Pogues performing the song on Saint Patrick’s Day, 1988 in London. I was at this show, and can pick myself out of the crowd in the shot at the end of this clip. I would point out which one was me, but then you’d all ask, “How’d you get so fucking fat since then?”:


The Eighth Day of Christmas: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

December 21, 2011

I am a huge fan of Sierra Nevada. Their beers are consistently good to great, with one notable exception, giving them a Hall of Fame batting average. The Celebration Ale is one of their better beers.  There is nothing especially Christmassy about this beer as there are no spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamon; it is not particularly heavy; nor is the 6.5 % ABV is all that high. In fact, the only signifiers that this is a Christmas beer is the end of the year release date, and the poinsettias, pine trees and snowbound cabin on the label.  I am not complaining as this malty and hoppy IPA is one of my favorite harbingers of the Holiday Season, along with Advent Calendars, the Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol, and Christmas cookies, loads and loads of Christmas cookies.  My only gripe with this beer is the limited availability as I would drink this all year long. It is that good, 8.5/10.

The First Day of Christmas

The Second Day of Christmas

The Third Day of Christmas

The Fourth Day of Christmas

 The Seventh Day of Christmas

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