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‘Tis The Season For Christmas Ale Thanks To This San Francisco Brewery

Photo: DisobeyArt (Getty Images)

San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company is one of the oldest breweries in America. In this new world of craft brewing where having your genesis in the ’90s makes you one of the stalwarts, Anchor has been crafting beer since 1896. The brand was revived by Fritz Maytag back in 1965. Many people believe this to be the true beginning of the craft brewing renaissance. One of the beers that came out of this was Anchor Christmas Ale. This year, the brand celebrates the 44th year of this highly-anticipated holiday offering.

The first of its kind, Anchor Christmas Ale has gained worldwide recognition. “Its annual release is highly anticipated, near and far,” says Anchor brewmaster Scott Ungermann.

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The recipe for Christmas Ale evolves every year, as does the beer label, but it’s always a deliciously spiced winter warmer. “The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but I can tell you that this year’s brew is complex and full in flavor, packed with roasted toasty cocoa notes, resinous pine and nutty, candied yam aromatics, and flavors of freshly baked banana bread and biscuits,” says Ungermann.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, this beer is perfect for any holiday dinners with friends and family. Whether it’s a holiday get-together or even New Year’s Eve, this should be your go-to brew. “This beer is at the pinnacle of holiday tradition and is ideal to pour for cozy nights by the fire, bustling family dinners, and everything in between,” says Ungermann. “The flavor profile and aromatics truly speak to the season and pair perfectly with holiday meals.”

Ungermann’s personal favorite food pairing is sweet potato pie — and pretty much any other pie for that matter. “We also suggest roasted turkey and braised root vegetables with it,” he says. But, some decide to skip the dessert in favor of a glass of this beer. “Many Christmas Ale fans claim the beer can be a dessert on its own.”

Available from early November until mid-January, Anchor Christmas Ale has been a mainstay since its inception in 1975. It was the first holiday beer created since Prohibition and one of the most unique aspects is that it changes subtly every year. “We do bring something new and interesting to this traditional holiday beer each year while maintaining its signature style,” says Ungermann. “Over the last few years, we’ve raised the ABV in Christmas Ale from 5.5 percent to 6.9 percent. People enjoy this holiday tradition year after year in vertical tastings, so with a higher ABV, Christmas Ale can age gracefully for years to come.”

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The hand-drawn packaging of Christmas Ale displays a different tree each year. However, one aspect has remained consistent since 1975: the artist, Anchor illustrator Jim Stitt. “Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appears born anew,” says Ungermann. The 2018 label features a Korean Pine Tree. “Native to both North and South Korea, the Korean pine tree is a symbol of peace and a reminder of the spirit of the season,” he says. “It flourishes in the scenic botanical gardens real close to the brewery, just north of San Francisco.”

Anchor Christmas Ale is available in all 50 states and several international markets. In addition to six-packs and draught, they also make gold-foiled 50.7-ounce magnum bottles that are popular centerpieces and holiday gifts.