Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winter Beers — Anchor vs. Anchor

Anchor Brewing
Our Special Ale 2014
ABV 5.5%

Anchor Brewing 
Winter Wheat 
ABV 7% 

It's not really that cold or wintery in southern Oregon but that's no reason to avoid the slew of winter beers hitting the shelves! For this battle we went with two seasonal releases from the craft brewing pioneers at Anchor Brewing Co. Beers were tasted blind as is our custom.

Beer #1 (Anchor Winter Wheat) was a deep, dark brown and smelled of vanilla and coconut. The body was unbelievably smooth, rich and creamy with subtly sweet flavors of dried fruit and vanilla. The finish was roasty, toasted grain with almost no bitterness at all.

Beer #2 (Anchor Our Special Ale 2014) was a dark reddish brown with grass and honey on the nose. It had a light to medium body and a solid, malty/honey sweetness accented by herbal, mineral and dried fruit notes. The finish also featured the herbal and mineral notes with a mild herbaceous bitterness.

Being a big fan of Anchor's Our Special Ale releases throughout the years I expected that it would emerge as the winner. Wrong. As a matter of fact, it wasn't a very close fight. The Winter Wheat was superior on every level and left us disappointed that I'd only bought one bottle (that has since been remedied). It's truly a remarkable beer that manages to be deep and dark in color without the aggressive chocolate, coffee and burnt malt flavors that often lurk within a glass of dark beer. We both also agreed that it is one of the most unique and impressive winter offerings we've tried in awhile. 

Be it from a tough draw in a Bottle Battle or an off year at the brewery, the Our Special Ale just didn't seem that special this year. Where we were expecting winter spices (clove, cinnamon, nutmeg) we got indistinct herbs and minerals. It also just seemed thin for a winter beer and thin beers, in general, get no love from us in a battle. Mouthfeel is underrated and really can influence your opinion of a beer.

Big props go to Anchor for continuing to be relevant in a beer landscape that is surging with up and comers looking for a piece. Here's hoping the Winter Wheat becomes a key cog in their lineup of seasonal beers for years to come!
Unanimous decision: Winter Wheat

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