Every year, Anchor Brewing tweaks the formula of its Christmas Ale to try something new, keeping as mum about the exact recipe as Coca-Cola does. Last year, brewmaster Scott Ungermann aged it for a year in bourbon, brandy, and whiskey barrels before tasting everything and the blend that emerged combined whiskey, vanilla, and winter-spice notes.
This year, for the 44th annual holiday release, Anchor went in a pinier direction with notes of cocoa and roasted malt — and a slightly higher 6.9 percent ABV. While the mahogany-brown Christmas Ale is available from Nov. 1 until mid-January, you can drink a special version of the 2017 brew, a Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale, at the brewery’s release party at the brewery on Thursday, Nov. 29. This comes barely a month after Anchor released the second in its hop series, Brewers’ Pale Ale Citra Hop Blend, an aromatic offering with notes of melon and tangerine.
The $25 ticket — with staggered time slots, although once you’re in you’re welcome to hang out — includes some bites, a guided brewery tour, a 22-ounce bottle to keep, and the opportunity to nab some six-packs or gold foil-wrapped imperials for your friends. Best of all, the admission gets you a four-year vertical tasting of the Christmas Ales from 2015 to 2018, something that’s fun on the merits but which might nudge the four calling birds out of the 12 Days of Christmas.
Anchor Christmas Ale release party, Thursday, Nov. 29, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at Anchor Brewing Company, 1705 Mariposa St. $25; anchorbrewing.com.