Today’s beer pick has appeared on the Beer Advent Calendar every year since I started: Anchor Christmas Ale (also known as Our Special Ale). This is the beer that established the modern Christmas beer tradition in American craft brewing: first introduced in 1975, this is a dark, spiced ale with a recipe that is different every year (and is always a closely guarded secret). The label changes each year as well, featuring a different tree:
Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew. Our tree for 2011 is the bristlecone pine. Found high atop California’s White Mountains, bristlecones are among the oldest living things on the planet. Some date back nearly 5,000 years, to the dawn of the ancient art of brewing.
The tree is a potent symbol of Christmas, and Anchor’s distinctive labels have a simplicity and elegance that perfectly capture the spirit of the season. (You can see a snapshot of all their past labels here.)
Even though this beer is only 5.5% abv it cellars well; I have a magnum of 2010 Christmas Ale that I plan to open on Christmas this year, and last year I opened a 2009 magnum—and it was fantastic. If you get the chance, lay some bottles down to enjoy in the many years to come.