STYLE: Winter Warmer
APPEARANCE: Extremely dark chestnut…nearly black.
HEAD: Wispy, tan head that melts faster than snow in Alabama.
LACING: Sticky, sparkling lace.
NOSE: If you want to experience the “right” way to do a Winter Warmer, look no further than the closest bottle of Anchor Christmas Ale (also called, “Our Special Ale”). The nose is dark-roasted, very nutty malt with a hint of pine needles and a bracing dash of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. It doesn’t smell like a spice rack exploded in the beer…it’s just a hint o’ the holidays in a wonderfully rich, dark ale. Mmm…
TASTE: Sweet caramel malts, vanilla, and fresh-baked dark bread up front, a touch of hop bitterness and fruitiness in the middle, and refreshing, almost “cooling” (think licorice and ginger) spice in the finish. Very complex, but never overpowering or cloying.
DRINKABILITY: Around the holidays? This is as drinkable as it gets. In the dog days of summer? Yeah, not so much. Such is life as a Winter Warmer.
RATING: 3.5 Hops for one of the best in an oft-maligned style. Anchor changes the recipe for the Christmas Ale every year and while some are better than others, I’ve never had a bad one. I certainly can’t remember every specific characteristic from each year’s version, but I think the 2009 might be my favorite. Delicious, complex, and full of holiday cheer. A perfect Winter Warmer.