Santa Lucia fir

Anchor released its 2017 Christmas Ale on November 1st, and we were lucky enough to get our hands on one of their large 50.7 oz magnum bottles on Friday night in South Bend, Indiana. The four of us who were traveling for the Notre Dame v. Wake Forest game savored it in our hotel room together.

I’ve enjoyed Anchor since a friend introduced it to me years ago, and it’s become an annual tradition that I try to keep. I can remember enjoying Anchor 2012 Christmas in a Miami hotel room the night before running Ragnar. I remember enjoying Anchor 2011 in Ave Maria, Florida with Ben and Michael Novak. And I remember plenty of other moments, and the nuances in taste, body, and flavor each year brings.

Here’s what Anchor shares about their Christmas Ale this year:

In 1975 Anchor released the first holiday beer in America since Prohibition. Every year, Anchor creates a new, secret recipe with a completely unique label for their Christmas Ale, but the intent with each brew remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. With a heavily guarded, secret recipe, Christmas Ale is sold only from early November to mid-January. This highly anticipated seasonal delight is complex and full in flavor, with a velvety texture and an alluring aroma of coffee and roasted wood.

“This year’s Christmas Ale has a strong malt profile that is enhanced with wintry spices,” said Anchor Brewmaster Scott Ungermann. “The beer pours a deep, dark, mahogany brown with a creamy, tan head. It has flavors of creamy bittersweet chocolate, coffee, roasted malts and toasted nuts, with a rich, smooth, velvety mouthfeel. This is the third year in a row that we peeled back the layers of spices, taking some ingredients out and making those remaining stand out even more. In the meantime, we added more specialty malts, some that we’re using for the first time. The combination of malts, spices, and hops add layers of complexity to the beer and bring this year’s ale to a new level.”

Along with an evolving recipe, Christmas Ale portrays a new label every year. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew. This year’s tree is the Santa Lucia fir. Extremely rare, it is native and limited to California’s Santa Lucia Range along the central coast of California. The tree on this year’s label was hand-drawn by Bay Area artist James Stitt, who has been creating Anchor’s Christmas Ale labels since 1975.