Back in September, Mr Wort Hog and I made a trip to Goebel Liquor & bought six magnums of Anchor Christmas Ale (2009 - 2005). We weren't sure what we'd do with them, but they were so damn cheap we couldn't leave them there on the shelves. It seems unfair to do anything but a vertical, but trying to drink 9 liters of beer in one go between us seemed a bit ridiculous. Besides, this isn't Oktoberfest. So, over the next couple of weeks, we're drinking them all. Yep, you read that right.
Every year since 1975, Anchor has made its Christmas ale with a different - and secret - recipe and a different tree on the label. This year's tree is the Ginkgo tree (does memory improve with consumption?); we didn't get a magnum of the '10, but did pick up a sixer of the vintage. I think that's probably a more reasonable size for verticals. We're starting with the newest first, so a bottle of the 2010 starts this run of reviews (and yes, I'll actually post them in a timely manner, unlike my still-outstanding Germany posts).
The 2010 has a fantastic aroma; it smells like a molasses crinkle! Tons of molasses & ginger in the aroma, with nutmeg & dried fig not far behind. There were also notes of cherries & juniper or spruce in there, with a little bit of cookie-biscuit (you know, like those British "digestive" biscuits - vanilla, graham, and grain).
The flavor isn't much different, melding ginger, dark chocolate, toast crust, candied orange peel, and a little coffee. The finish is moderately bitter from the roasted malt and a decent helping of hops, but ends a little on the sweet & creamy side.
There are a lot of flavors going on here, and they all pair very well with each other. However, I think a few years of hanging around in the bottle will improve the complexity and depth of flavor. The different components just need more time to "marry". It's definitely worth picking up a six-pack or two and drinking one or two bottles now, saving the rest for next year. The richness and complexity of the Christmas Ale is something that is sure to change over time.