Back in 2001, I decided to keep a bottle of Anchor Christmas on a whim to possibly do a comparison tasting. Fourteen years later, I’ve got fourteen versions of Anchor Christmas. Starting today, I’m going to do a tasting of one per day leading up to Christmas Day 2014. I had toyed with the idea of throwing a vertical tasting party with some friends and trying them all at once over the course of an evening, but after searching around, it seems that the beer’s ability to survive that many years is very hit or miss. I didn’t want to throw a party, invite people and find that half of them are undrinkable. Plus, I still have all but one of the Stone Vertical Epics that I need to taste and that one’s worth throwing a party.
Here’s a quick roundup of the multi-year tastings that I could find:
- Guys Drinking Beer – Five Year Vertical – They did 2007 to 2011. The consensus seemed to be that up to four years, they all still held up pretty well. They get points for nice photos.
- Constructive Consumption – 20 year partial vertical – 1993, 1995, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013 – This reviewer mentions the taste changing past 5 years although he does still seem to like some of the older vintages.
- Anchor’s Christmas Ale Vertical Tasting – 1993 to 2008 – These guys did 15 years all in one sitting . The reviewer thinks that anything over 10 years did do well at all. I’ll be interested to see if spreading this out over one a day will make it easier for me to compare them objectively.
- Double Feature – 2012 and 2011 tasting
There’s also this recent feature on Anchor Christmas from the San Jose Mercury News.
I’ll be interested to see if I notice some of the same patterns as I try out all fourteen of these. One note on my batch, one of the kids left my garage fridge open enough one summer several years ago that at least half of these on the older end were exposed to some Texas summer heat. I don’t know if that will affect my results. That’s also why some of the labels are a bit warped, especially 2007. The bottles sweat, making the labels wet, which caused some of the label to separate from the bottle.
Let’s get started with 2001, shall we?
I’m using a tulip glass to get the full aroma and flavors of each beer as I taste it. I’m also going to power through each one even if I’m not very fond of it. I’m aiming to see if the flavor profile changes over time as the temperature changes and as I’ve had more of the beer.
Day 1: Anchor Christmas 2001
Tree: California Fan Palm, Washingtonia Filifera
Neck Label Text: This is the twenty-seventh Special Ale from the brewers at Anchor. It is sold only from late November to early January. The Ale’s recipe is different every year, but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. In ancient times trees symbolized the winter solstice when the earth with its seasons appears born anew.
My first reaction is that it’s not great. I deliberately poured it a bit vigorously to ensure some head, but the carbonation died off pretty quickly as you can see from the photo. The taste and especially the nose reminds me a bit of what I remember Sam Adams Triple Bock tasting. There’s a bit of a molasses flavor. It’s still pretty sweet and full up front, but the finish is metallic. I don’t get much of the pine that I remember from other years. I’m noticing some tastes that I’ve typically attributed to bourbon barrel aging, but perhaps some of that is just the affects of aging? This has just been in the bottle in my fridge. My wife thinks the smell is great but is underwhelmed with the taste. She says there’s not much body. I have to agree with her that it’s pretty thin. I started eating a carrot ginger curry soup towards the end and it totally overpowered the beer.
Part of me wishes I had done tasting notes with each of these at the time that they were released so I could compare them to what I thought when it was released. Perhaps an idea for 2014-2028?
Come back tomorrow for 2002’s tasting!