Anchor Christmas Ale

As in so many other areas Anchor Brewing sets the standard for the craft brewing world when it comes to brewing holiday ales. Marrying a profound respect for tradition with the restless spirit of experimentation and innovation, they've been producing their Christmas Ale (sometimes also labeled "Our Special Ale") since 1975. Every year, the recipe of this winter warmer changes, but it's always a dark brown ale with spices added.

Picking out the individual spices that find their way into each year's batch has become a time-honored ritual. We think we're getting star anise, liquorice, and nutmeg in the 2013 batch, which has the bright aromas of a pine forest. The spices dance over a toasty malt base with hints of chocolate.

Each year since its inception, illustrator James Stitt hand-draws a new label for the beer. What remains constant is that the label features a new tree along with the message "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." The tree on the 2013 release is a California white fir.