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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Ale Review Doubleheader!

A couple of days behind, but to make it up it is a Christmas ale doubleheader!

The elf has always been
slightly disturbing to me.

The Mad Elf I am reviewing though is slightly different having been aged an additional year. It was originally purchased in a sixer last year at this time. I drank or shared the others, but saved one. Describing Mad Elf to a friend I once called it “Fruitcake in a bottle…but better.” That does fruitcake more justice than it deserves but I think the point still stands. This is a big complex beer with a lot of pieces to it. This bottle has aged well over the last year, becoming rounder, smoother, and the alcohol has better presence, now hovering in the background. Overall it has become better mannered.

As has been the case lately I drank this out of my Hamm’s chalice. It poured with little head and a very nice reddish bronze color. It drank very smoothly with a pleasant aftertaste of honey, a bit of a spice, and just a hint of fruit.

I like this better than the younger version currently in the refrigerator. My gig on the “fresh” stuff is that the alcohol is interruptive. It masks the other ingredients and takes away from the beer. The aged version behaves better and frankly has improved itself.  No matter what version of Mad Elf you find yourself with, be advised that it has a bit of punch coming in at 11% ABV. This year I am saving two bottles, one for next year and one for 2013. I recommend this beer and I always pick up a few sixers every year for the holidays. (Mad Elf is a Book beer and can be found on page 181)
I would marry this beer label
if I could. 

The other selection for the evening couldn’t be more different. It is Our Special Ale 2011 by Anchor Brewing Company also known as “Anchor Christmas Ale.” I bought a sixer of this at my local supermarket just the other day while tracking down selections for reviewing.

This poured nice deep rich brown color, burnt sienna / umber, with a big tan head. The head stayed around for awhile too and the beer laces up the glass as you drink it. I drank this out of a pub glass. The spices are immediately evident on pour and as you bring the glass up to drink. It is a chewy beer and it has a distinct aftertaste that, for me, took awhile to get used to. It is a woody taste that stays with you for a bit.

While dark and laden with spice this was a pleasant change of pace after the Mad Elf and I would drink this during a holiday meal. It comes in at a sessionable 5.5% ABV. It was interesting to find out that Anchor Brewing adjusts the recipe every year on this beer so no two years are the same. (I think that is pretty cool.) Since this is my first year trying it I have no basis of comparison to previous models.

The final line for me on this beer is that I am glad I picked up the sixer, but I won’t get another till next year. If you like dark holiday beers with a big spice kit then you may wish to track this down. (This is also a Book beer and can be found on page 912.)

"Propaganda" on the two selections
Mad Elf
The Mad Elf, a cheerful creation to warm your heart and enlighten your tongue. The combination of Cherries, Honey, and Chocolate Malts delivers gentle fruits and subtle spices. Fermented and aged with a unique yeast, this ruby red beer has significant warming strength that underlies the pleasant character of this intriguing yet delicious Ale. The Mad Elf, a jolly and delicious beer for the Holidays.

Anchor Christmas Ale
Each year since 1975, Anchor Brewing creates a distinctive Christmas Ale, available from early November to mid-January. A rich, dark spiced ale, our secret recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life.

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