Advent Beer Calendar 2014: Day 12: Anchor Christmas Ale

Anchor Christmas Ale 2014Today, the 12th, marks the halfway point for the Beer Advent Calendar, and I’ve chosen one of my favorite Christmas beers for today’s Advent pick—one that has been featured every single year I’ve been doing this calendar: Anchor Christmas Ale. It was first brewed in 1975, and this year is the fortieth annual version!

Anchor is considered by some to be America’s first craft brewery since Prohibition, influencing and setting the mold for the small breweries to follow. In that vein I consider Anchor Christmas (also called “Our Special Ale”) to be the prototypical American holiday beer, from which all others followed. Each year they change the (secret) recipe, and each year they feature a different drawing of a tree on the label. This year it is the Giant Sequoia.

We chose the Giant Sequoia for our fortieth Christmas Ale in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Act. Signed into law by President Lincoln during the Civil War, it granted the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the State of California “for public use, resort, and recreation.” The first such land grant in American history, it marked the beginning of the California State Parks.

Make sure not to miss this year’s Christmas Ale from Anchor, and as the message on the bottle says, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Advent Beer Calendar 2014: Day 11: Fat Head’s Holly Jolly Christmas Ale

Fat Head's Holly Jolly Christmas AleToday’s Advent beer pick is one you can get at two opposite ends of the country: Fat Head’s Holly Jolly Christmas Ale. Fat Head’s Brewery originated in Cleveland, Ohio, has an additional location in Pittsburgh, and just recently opened up their newest location in Portland, Oregon—quite a leap! I was in Portland myself last weekend for a book signing and had the pleasure of sampling Holly Jolly myself and it inspired me to include it on this year’s list.

The beer is tasty and rich, and it’s brewed with honey and spices—cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and coriander. At 7.5% abv it’s a nice warming winter ale. Here’s what they say:

Once upon a frozen evening way up north, a sweet local honey named Holly inspired our Jolly Fat Man (as only Holly can) to create this festive spiced holiday ale. We think you will enjoy his holiday creation with it’s aromas and flavors of Christmas day. Sweet malt, ginger, honey and cinnamon spice. Sip this by the fire with your significant other. Who knows, maybe it will lead to a little inspiration of your own. From our Jolly Fat Man to yours, Happy Holidays.

And as a bonus, their food pairing recommendations include holiday fruit cake! We just don’t see that often enough. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!

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Advent Beer Calendar 2014: Day 10: De Ranke Père Noël

De Ranke Père NoëlIn French-speaking regions of the world, Père Noël is the Christmas gift-bringer analogous to Santa Claus or Father Christmas (which is in fact the literal translation of “Père Noël”). So it’s a fun play to find a Christmas beer named the same, which is what Belgium’s Brouwerij De Ranke brews each year for the holidays in their De Ranke Père Noël.

Père Noël is a Christmas ale, though very different from any other Christmas ales you might know. While most Christmas ales are rich & sweet, this one is amber-coloured, 7% vol. Alc. strong and tastes quite bitter. The complex taste is completed with the addition of liquorice. In the recipe we can also find pale malt, Munich malt, Caramel malt, Brewers Gold hops and Hallertau hops.

The French tradition of Père Noël has children leaving their shoes by the fireplace on Christmas Eve, filled with carrots and treats for Père Noël’s donkey, named Gui. If the children have been good, Père Noël leaves presents in their shoes (small enough to fit, of course, like money, candy, or small toys).

So in the beer version, the shoes would be filled with malt, hops, and licorice… or handily enough a bottle of De Ranke’s Père Noël!

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A unique beer calendar for 2015

The Bend Brew Daddy, aka Matthew Ward, is a photographer, fellow craft beer geek, and blogger and friend of mine based here in Bend, Oregon, and over the past year he’s been making a name for himself in the local craft beer scene with his stunning beertography. You can follow his Instagram account to see his work, and he sells framed prints as well (and has photos on display at local breweries and beer establishments).

Matthew’s latest project is ready just in time for the holidays and would make a perfect gift to anyone who likes beer (particularly Central Oregon beer): his 2015 Bend Brew Daddy Calendar.

2015 Bend Brew Daddy Calendar

His own fun, somewhat tongue-in-cheek description reads:

The 2015 Bend Brew Daddy is unlike any calendar ever made. You won’t find the Moon phases or Groundhog Day in this bad boy! What you WILL find is the most hop heavy, brew-centric calendar on the planet! We start with beautiful beertography and brewery info, and we don’t stop there! We tap the grid area with beer history, beer events, beer factoids, beer… well, you get the point!

Matthew partnered with a number of our breweries, as well as Atlas Cider, the new Backdrop Distilling, and Humm Kombucha, to feature a signature photo of a particular beer for each month. Here’s a sample, a terrific one featuring Deschutes Brewery’s iconic Black Butte Porter:

Bend Brew Daddy Calendar featuring Black Butte Porter

The calendar is available for sale here for $16, and there are deals if you buy in packs of five or ten. And if you live in Central Oregon, you have the option of picking up the calendar and waiving shipping fees.

So don’t miss out—this would be a great Christmas gift for somebody or even yourself!

Advent Beer Calendar 2014: Day 9: Burton Bridge Festive Christmas Porter

Burton Bridge Festive Christmas PorterBurton-upon-Trent in England is one of the great brewing regions of the world, with a long and important history in the world of beer. In 1982, Geoff Mumford and Bruce Wilkinson, both formerly with the Ind Coopes Romford brewery, looked around the scene and saw the great breweries of old being consolidated into multinationals or closing, and decided to open a brewery and pub of their own: Burton Bridge Brewery.

Burton Bridge produces a number of traditional ales, including their yuletide seasonal, Festive Christmas Porter. At 4.5% abv their own notes describe this as a “Fruity beer with a distinctive bitter after palate.” It seems in essence to be the Christmastime bottled version of their Burton Porter but that’s fine: consider it their annual bottled gift to us.

To me this sounds like a perfect session beer to kick off the holidays, and it would make a great stocking stuffer as well. Wouldn’t you love to find some Burton-upon-Trent beer in your stocking?

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