Here in the United States, the marketing of winter holidays has begun. This includes the marketing of what is called “Holiday Brews.”
I can remember when this kind of brew was a rare treat. One, in particular, was awaited with great anticipation. Just after our Thanksgiving, in 1990, I was sitting at a restaurant in Manhattan (N.Y.C.) and chatting with one of the chefs/owners, Rick Moonen. The chef told me how they were hoping to get a keg of the Anchor Brewing Company, “Our Special Ale.” This was an ale that was first brewed for the wedding of Anchor Brewing Company owner Fritz Maytag in 1975. Since that first one was so much fun to brew, he decided to make it an annual brew and a small length. The flavorings have changed every year but always feature flavors that challenge the taste buds.
By 1985 I was familiar with at least two versions of that brew. The prospect of having it on tap at Chef Moonen’s C.C.C. (Chefs & Cuisenaire’s Club) was exciting. There was no other brew like it at the time.
Back then, the “microbrewery” revolution had just begun to be taken seriously – over 200 breweries were in operation – and they were noted for small batches of simple ales. Today almost every brewery in the United States pumps out a “Holiday Beer” for distribution in December, January, and often through February. The flavors and styles range from brassy bright, sparkling light-bodied ales to thick, dense creations stuffed with any and every herb on the market. Last year I visited a local beer distributor. I walked out, having purchased two cases of individual representations of products from forty-eight different breweries. (I could have doubled that purchase and still not had a duplicate in the bunch.)
So what am I saying about these brews? I am saying that their proliferation has been astounding. The variations in flavors are a statement by brewers that no “style” is sacred. It is the season to have fun… It is the season to pull out all the stops and play with flavors that dare not show up at any other time of the year. It is time to test limits. And I can assure you that I am hoping for a long cold winter, so there will be time to try as many of them as I can.
In closing, here is what the Anchor Brewing Co. has for us this year…
That’s it for now….