The 2008 featured the Jeffrey Pine, which doesn't seem like a very interesting tree until you start reading about its distilled resin (a.k.a. turpentine). I thought all turpentine was the same, but apparently that from the Jeffrey Pine helps with respiratory ailments quite well, and can help with burns & other skin problems. But maybe the awesomest property (which sets it apart from other pine trees) is that the turpentine from the Jeffrey Pine is explosive. Explosive!
But enough botany for today. The 2008 Anchor Christmas ale is a bit different from the two more recent vintages (though not explosive), but it shares several common characteristics. It still has prominent notes of ginger, molasses, anise, dark chocolate, and dried figs, but the vintage has a new property - wine. The aroma definitely has a vinous character, which is something we haven't yet had in any of the newer vintages.
The flavor carries a lot of the same characters in the aroma, but is heavy on the citrus - it reminds me of fruitcake. Rich, sweet, spiced flavor and heavy on the dried candied fruits. As for aftertaste, Mr Wort Hog suggested that it's like those Nestle Nips candies (could there be a worse brand than something that refers to a WWII racial slur?). The 2008 spices are subdued - nothing real prominent like the newer versions, but we still get some nutmeg and mace.
This beer has a medium body, dry finish, and mod carbonation. It's dry like the '09, but has a bit of alcohol warmth we didn't get before. Overall, we like it and appreciate the complexity added by a couple years of aging. There are definitely some pretty consistent themes across the years so far, but the 2008 brought some new complexities that make me interested in the older vintages still hanging about in the cellar. I'd say that the 2008 is more interesting than the 2010 or 2009, but not compelling enough to seek out as a specific vintage. We'll see how the older versions fare in later posts...