Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Every year, around the fabled Holiday Beer Season (known to many of you as “Christmas” or “Hannukah”), the ANCHOR BREWING company comes out with a delicious concoction they call “Anchor Christmas Ale”. It’s available from roughly Halloween to whenever it disappears from store shelves in the new year, and it has a different formulation and taste every annum. I’d reckon I’ve enjoyed at least one every year for the past decade, some being off-the-charts incredible, others mediocre at best. Outside of perhaps the 1999 version (ah! The ’99!) – actually I have no idea what I’m talking about – this past year’s Christmas Ale was the most satisfying holiday brew in ages. Dark, complex and vaguely spicy, and soooo drinkable. It’s why the holiday style, which is a catch-all to describe many beers that are spiced and/or tarted up with “holiday”-like flavors, is perhaps my favorite outside of the IPAs/Double IPAs I’m growing to worship.

I bought a 6-pack of said 2005 version in December, quickly drank 3 of them, and left the other three in the garage to age gracefully. Well, I busted one out last week and re-learned a very important lesson that my beer professor taught me last year. That lesson is: storage conditions matter, as do refrigeration conditions. Those 3 malty, delicious beers I relished in the winter were a distant memeory as I downed a clammy, off-balance and only moderately drinkable 2005 Anchor Christmas Ale. Here’s the life that this beer took before reaching my belly:

1. Arrived on store shelf, December 2005 (I have no idea what happened before this, of course)
2. Purchased by me, placed in refrigerator, mid-December 2005
3. Removed from refrigerator, transferred to cold garage with no light, late December 2005
4. Continued garage storage during unusually warm February 2006, including some days in the mid-70s
5. Moved within garage to area with more light, March 2006
6. Transferred to refrigerator again, late March 2006
7. Consumed – March 29th, 2006

Something in that chain of events broke this beer into a pale imitation of its former self. My beer professor said something about light exposure, something else about refrigeration, and something else about optimum temperature. With my March 29th beer, I’m pretty sure I ignored all of them, and I paid the awful price for doing so. New lesson learned – buy your beer and drink it quickly. If you can’t do that, put it in a dark bunker where light cannot be seen and heat cannot reach, then chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes, tops, and ingest. Anyone need two 2005 Anchor Christmas Ales?


Anonymous said...

It was probably the light more than anything else. As for buying it and drinking it quickly---for the most part, that is exactly the way to go, but there are plenty of beers out there, including Anchor's x-mas brews, that really do age well and develop some additional depth over time. I'm pretty sure there's a place in LA where you can buy Anchor Christmas Ale from the last 10-15 years, if not even further back.

BTW, found this blog yesterday after going to Agony Shorthand for the first time in a great while. Glad I did.

Donavan said...

One of the best investments I've made is in a chest freezer and a thermostat. You can store a lot of beer in a dark, temperature controlled environment that way. I suppose this makes me a beer geek, but I have bottles of beer that I've been keeping for 10 years and want them to be in the best condition when I drink them.

Anonymous said...

I'd second the light factor. I had a large Duval bottle stored in a dark place in the garage for 5 years. Was worried it got skunked. Opened it last week. Delicious.

hark said...

the past two years of Anchor MC&HNY have been rather "earthy" IMHO. neither of which i cared for.