Friday, December 17, 2010

Beers of the Holidays: Our Special Ale

For the past 36 years, Anchor Brewing has released a Christmas Ale that has become the quintessential holiday beer (for me, at least).  Technically, the beer is labeled as Our Special Ale which was originally done to allow the brewery to release other seasonals under the same label, but they never actually have.  And each year the recipe of the beer, as well as the tree on the label, is different and unique.  However, there's one thing that has been consisted which is that it just wouldn't feel like Christmas without enjoying a few of Our Special Ale.  I even shared a magnum of it with my brother-in-law on Christmas day last year. 
36 Years of Labels

Although the recipe does change each year, its another great beer to age and compare with other vintages.  Today I opened a bottle from 2006 alongside a bottle from 2010.  Surprisingly enough, the 2006 actually has a pretty strong smell of alcohol.  There are also aromas of burnt coffee and roasted malts.  The flavour is slightly sweet to start, but quickly turns to the bitter burnt coffee that was noticeable in the aroma.  Finish is tart and slightly acidic with a fairly thin mouthfeel.  The twist-off caps on the bottles probably didn't help the aging process, but I have had good luck with other past vintages.

The new 2010 release, however, is excellent as all fresh versions of it typically are.  I got aromas of candied ginger and other spices as well as some pine and black liquorice later on after it had warmed up.  Flavours of sweet dark malts and more ginger that lingers in the very dry finish.  Again, after it had warmed, picked up a little peppery spiciness as well as more black liquorice at the tail end of the finish.  Soft creamy mouthfeel, particularly after drinking the 2006 release.

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