The 38th edition of Anchor’s “Our Special Ale” has the familiar very dark brown coloured pour with the signature spruce-pine essence in the nose, that I first encountered 21 years ago in the 17th edition. Variations on this Christmas wassail recipe have produced some memorable versions (the 1995 edition immediately comes to mind). But there is talk that Anchor may discontinue the wassail tradition after this year. I first heard of this 2 years ago, when a trade representative from Anchor told me that the brewers felt the parameters of the style had been fully reached. Which is really not such a shock when you consider the history of “Our Special Ale”, where the first few versions contained no spices at all.
This 38th edition of their Christmas ale incorporates all the elements that make “Our Special Ale” the legendary holiday brew that it is. Here you’ll find the medium to fully body, the incredible flavor complexity, with layer after layer of warming, if not downright toasty notes, all presented in a medium strength (5.5%) format.
It is a kind of annual pilgrimage to seek out this classic American wassail. If this truly is the last version, the 38th is a glorious departure.
Although more attention is focused on Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn Winter Ale should not be overlooked. A delicious tribute to the power of Maris Otter malt, this is a new world take on the Scottish wee heavy style, with all the nutritional goodness associated with it. Expertly made for Brooklyn by the Matt Brewing Company in Utica, New York.
This truly great English style, old winter Holiday ale, is Avery Brewing Company’s proofthat spices are unnecessary when five speciality malts are combined with expert hops support, to produce an incredibly rich flavor profile where notes of mocha, hazelnut, caramel, chocolate and toffee, are presented in a full strength (8.3%… yeah, it is!) format. A great American ale. It is said to be cellarable for 3 plus years. But why bother with that? A fresh bottle of Old Jubilation is one for the ages.