Round One: Distant Shores Bracket
This ended up being an unfair match-up since it turned out Josh had picked up a 2011-2012 Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome. The ale held up well for a 2 year old, 6% alcohol, beer, and if Josh hadn’t been pulling so hard for its competitor, Anchor Steam’s Christmas Ale, it might have advanced. We’re considering a rematch with the current batch of the Winter Welcome.
This round’s winner: Anchor Brewing, Our Special Ale 2013 with 16/20 points.
Anchor Brewing, San Francisco, CA – Our Special Ale 2013 (Christmas Ale)
Dark brown in color with some reddish tones and a largish, khaki-colored head. Nice lacing.
Great spicy smell: a mix of anise, clove, cinnamon, juniper, and others. Smells almost like burnt sugar, but in a good way. Quite strong, but not overpowering. [Erin’s Note: I found the nose a off putting at first, though I became used to. I probably liked the aroma less over time, but that may have been partly in comparison to the much mellower Winter Warmer.]
The spice tones down on the taste, letting some dark maltiness through. Dry finish. Very nice.
Medium body, medium carbonation. A touch of spice astringency on the finish. Very drinkable from sip to sip, though definitely a palate-killer and maybe not something to have multiple pints of. [Erin’s Note: Half a glass was enough for me, but Josh is hoping to find this in one of the larger format bottles for the family Christmas gathering.]
Really good spiced Christmas beer. My favorite of the Anchor vintages I recall.
J: 9/10. E: 7/10.
Samuel Smith, Tadcaster, UK – Winter Welcome Ale 2011-2012
Light copper in color. Very clear. Medium-sized white head.
Smells strongly of malt–bready, mostly–with some earthy hops. No spice, as far as I can tell. A bit of butterscotch comes out as the beer warms.
Malty taste as well. A bit sweet up front, with some light fruity tones, though the beer seems to get drier as it warms. Dries out somewhat, but not completely, on the finish.
Medium body and medium carbonation. No astringency. Quite drinkable.
A nice winter warmer, but unfortunately the lack of spice doesn’t really fit with our theme here. I wish it had either more malt or less sweetness; as it is, it kind of fits between two beers that I wish it was. It feels very British in that way: not going far enough, out of a worry of offending. (Barleywines notwithstanding.) All in all, it’s good, but doesn’t do much to stand out.
J: 7/10. E: 7/10.
[Erin’s Note: One Brit who doesn’t seem worried about offending – Stephen Fry, who is in the new Hobbit movie, sporting a most theatrical comb-over.]
Stephen Fry as the Master of Laketown. It’s been 20 years since I read the Hobbit, so pretty much all I remember is Gandalf, Dwarves, Bilbo, Eagles.