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Dec 8, 2010 05:23 AM

Aged Anchor Steam Christmas Ales

Hi All,

So in my move, I uncovered a couple of 2007 Anchor Steams that I had set aside and forgotten about. They were in a closet, so at room temperature for about that long. I also have the 2009, and now this year's. Anyhow, will the 2007 still drink ok? Will it have gone bad b/c of the aging conditions? Are these made to be aged for this long?



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  1. The beer -actually called "Our Special Ale" tho' referred to by even Anchor as their "Christmas Ale" * - wasn't "made" to be aged but it is often cellared successfully and most people attribute that to the various spices used acting as a preservative, since the alcohol level is lower than the rule of thumb for cellaring beers of that style. Even Fritz Maytag (in a somewhat famous tasting) eventually admitted as such -pretty sure we've discussed that, with a link, here on CH-Beer but I can't find it.

    As to how your bottles survived the warmer than preferable temps, as is often said:
    It won't kill you or make you sick, and there's only one way to find out...

    * "Celebration", OTOH, is the name used by Sierra Nevada (and others) for their seasonal Holiday ale.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JessKidden

      Always get those two confused!!! Thanks. I am thinking this year is about as long as I can keep it for. So I have a nice little vertical of three.

    2. IMO, Anchor's Special Ale ages very poorly, though inconsistently so. I attended a vertical tasting of '04-'09 sponsored by Anchor last year, and most of the beers had not aged well. '08 was a standout exception.

      My '09s I had stored were horrible. They tasted like Worcestershire sauce, and I wound up dumping 12 bottles of it.

      There are better winter beers for aging, that's for sure, and Anchor's aversion to bottle conditioning makes their beers especially bad candidates.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Josh

        That's weird, I was at a tasting for 05-09 and thought they were all very good (ie. didn't taste like vinegar, or smell like an attic at all). Either my palette was way off, or they were stored really well? I was hoping to pick up some this year but maybe I'll hold off based on what you're saying.

        1. re: Shaggy

          Well, beer won't ever taste like vinegar unless there were serious brewing errors or it was fermented with acetic acid-producing bacteria. Anchor pasteurizes their beer, so there aren't living organisms present in those beers regardless.

          Also not sure what you mean by "smell like an attic".

          The problems with the Anchor beer, aged, are from oxidation. Oxidation changes flavors, and rarely in a desirable way. Some of the beers in the vertical I tried were OK, but most were lessened by the passage of time.

          The bottom line for me with that beer is it's at its best when it's fresh, and aging doesn't help it at all.

          1. re: Josh

            I bet that the pasteurization process maks Anchor products more susceptable to oxidation. Not too long ago I found some Old Foghorns, about 2 years old, on one of those 'build your own six pack for $8.99" racks and took a chance on them. Unfortunately they were oxidized in a very unmistakable way, which really surprised me for a relatively 'young' barleywine. Whether it's the pasteurization or something else happening in their bottling process, I am now very leery of anything of theirs that isn't fresh.

            1. re: TongoRad

              I agree with your plan. I'm kind of sorry to hear that, as I have some Old Foghorn about that old, and was hoping the higher alcohol content would mitigate those effects.

              I guess the lesson is don't cellar anything that's not bottle conditioned.

              1. re: Josh

                "I guess the lesson is don't cellar anything that's not bottle conditioned."

                That'd eliminate one of the most cellered beers - Samichlaus.

            2. re: Josh

              Smells like an attic = musty

              1. re: Shaggy

                Sounds to me like you're describing oxidation. Oxidation can give aromas like old paper and cardboard. There are a handful of specific things that can go wrong with beer, and they all have a pretty clear signature. Generally speaking, old beer is most susceptible to oxidation, but with a heavily spiced beer like the Anchor, the aroma won't necessarily give that away.

              2. re: Josh

                It would be nice if Anchor packaged a few beers in a more age-friendly format. Fritz Maytag made a batch of Barleywine when he married his wife Beverly 20+ years ago. They served it at the vow renewal reception for 200 people a couple years back, and my parents said it was fantastic. The guys at Anchor definitely know how to make beer to age, they just don't do it for normal production beer.

                1. re: SteveG

                  I recently opened a 1 year old Old Foghorn and it was delicious.

          2. I did the vertical tonight. The 2007 actually drank beautifully. I think I am actually going to hang on to the other bottle I have from 07 and 09 for next year. The carbonation definitely mellowed out with age. It is difficult for me to know whether the fig-heavy taste of the 07 is the beer or the aging. Intended to be aged or not, they truly did with success.

            1. Santa and I will be sharing an 1992 Thomas Hardy's Ale tonight. Brandy snifters will be in ordrer.

              1. What a fortunate thread, as I came here looking for advice on my magnum of 2006. I've had it cellared at 50 f through the years, so I'm in better shape than the hall closet folks, but I'm not getting my hopes up too far for this beer.

                However, it's a big festive bottle, so it deserves a party (with plenty of back up beer or wine options). What would you pair a 2006 Special ale with? Braised pork shoulder? I'm expecting the spice notes will have softened and leave a round brown beer character behind.