Endless Beers: Anchor Christmas Ale



Ah yes, the most wonderful time of the year. As you may know from last year, for four decades now, Anchor Brewing releases a new version of their Christmas Ale every year.  Each time, the brew is made with a new, original recipe, along with a new image on the label. The recipe is new every year and will not be reused. As you can imagine, I was pretty excited when I received a bottle of this at my doorstep. The brew will be available until mid-January.

Anchor seems to aim for the same feeling of a winter warmer each year. Typical flavor profile of this delish beer includes notes of spices, sweetness of the malt, and a bit of a boozey pokies online taste to it. However, you never know what the current year is going to taste like. The anticipation (for us beer dweebs at least) to opening the brew is similar to opening a gift—you know it”s going to be good, but you don”t know exactly what will be inside. Turns out this year”s is one of my favorites. PLUS my sister got me the 2011 brew, so I was able to compare to even another year! Get them while they last and save a few for years to come.

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Dark brown, nearly black with a thick light brown head.

Aroma: Smells like…Christmas. Sweet and spicy—scents of cinnamon and even pines and spruces. Deeper scents included a malty smell similar to that of a brown ale.

Taste: The brew begins with sweet and malty flavors, immediately followed by some spice flavors like nutmeg, cinnamon, and even ginger. A little bit of brown sugar taste as it ends.

Mouthfeel: Creamy and smooth. Goes down easy and has good carbonation that complements the spices.

Overall: I”ve had the 2011, 2012, and 2013 of these brews now. I think the 2013 is my favorite so far. The flavors really stand out without taking over the brew. It”s a great drink to have while sitting around the fire with family and friends, or after dinner.

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ES-Approved Holiday Gift Guide for Food Lovers

Still looking for that perfect gift for the epicurean in your life? Try one of our suggestions! Thanks to the internet, there’s no shortage of cookbooks and kitchen goods out there, but we’ve cut through the boring stuff and picked out a handful of ideas that are sure to please. Stick one of these under your tree and treat yourself to a drink – holiday shopping is hard work!


From Scratch Food Network

From Scratch: Inside the Food Network
We love some Food Network as much as the rest of the country, but we’re also  suckers for a good celeb chef snark sesh, and this new book from Allen Salkin looks like it will provide plenty of ammo.


Christmas HomeMade Gin Kit

HomeMade Gin Kit Holiday Blend Christmas Refill
I reviewed the HomeMade Gin Kit last holiday season (and gave it two thumbs up, I think it’s a super fun project and makes a great gift for any cocktail lover). Now they’ve released a special holiday edition. According to Gin Kit co-founder Joe Maiellano, “We’ve toned down the citrus and summery flavors in the original gin infusion blend and laced the new one with cinnamon, clove, ginger, and rosemary. We came up with a cocktail recipe for the new gin using cranberry juice, orange liqueur, and a rosemary sprig that testers say looks and tastes like Christmas in a glass!” The refill is only $10, so it makes a nice stocking stuffer for anyone you got the original kit for last year.

Magical Unicorn Salt

Magical Unicorn Salt
Truth time: part of the reason we picked this one is because of its majestic name. Besides that, though, this stuff sounds great: a mix of pure ocean salt, smoked paprika, garlic, rosemary, and celery seed. The seasoning possibilities are endless! The manufacturer, Beautiful Briny Sea, doesn’t have a full online store, but you can check out their current offerings and contact info on their Facebook page, and right now, just in time for gift-giving, Magical Unicorn Salt is selling on Fab.

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Top 10 Beers for Christmas

Put down the eggnog. I know you’re only drinking it because of some ridiculous tradition that started before you were even a thought. Okay, now that you’ve come to your senses, perhaps this is the year you drink and offer beer to your guests instead (not the kind that looks like piss). Even though I’m still having a hard time letting go of the fall seasonal beers, the winter has plenty to offer. I tried to pick a variety of winter seasonals ranging from dark stouts to spicy ales and lagers. There’s something for everyone! Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

*DISCLAIMER: This list is in no order. Try all ten, then decide what your favorite is!*

10. Sam Adams Winter Lager

(PHOTO: Sam Adams)

The Sam Adams Winter Lager is a tried-and-true brew that will not leave you disappointed. Sam Adams does lager well. They added a mix of winter spices and made the brew a bit darker (which makes it a tad bit sweeter in this case). The spices and the slight caramel flavor makes it an enjoyable fire to chug sip next to the yule log.

9. Troegs Mad Elf

(PHOTO: Troegs Brewing Company)

Just the name is enticing. Troegs Brewing Company has established themselves as one of the best craft breweries in the country. The Mad Elf and their Nugget Nectar have been my favorites for a while. Mad Elf packs a punch (11% ABV) and offers all the flavors I think of about Christmas: sweet, fruity, spicy. All packed into one swig that tastes great and gets you buzzed quick while dealing with that crazy family of yours.

8. Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale

We all know how I feel about this brew. Get a couple of six packs of this and put a couple bottles in the basement to compare to the next couple years’ versions. The rest—drink with your friends and impress them with your knowledge of the brew!

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My One-Item Christmas Gift Guide

Christmas is coming, which means that it’s time for many of my favorite blogs, especially the food ones, to give me their annual list of suggestions for the foodies in my life (see here and here, for example).  Now, I enjoy reading what other people like as much as the next guy, but the problem with lists like these, for me,  is twofold.  Uno, the things are often super-specific. I can already tell you that my mom will not like tea that tastes like pine trees, or even sounds like it might taste like pine trees.  Two, the gifts on these lists tend to offend my delicately frugal sensibilities ($24 for 12 oz. of olive oil?  Seriously? In my dreams.)

And so, ESers, I bring you the only food gift you need this holiday season: the classic cast iron skillet.  Here are five reasons why it makes the perfect gift:

1. Everyone needs one, whether they know it or not, and if they already have one, they probably need it in another size.  (Come on, so cute!)

2. It’s perfect for a tight budget.  They are a good value to begin with, and I find them often at thrift stores where, after simple re-seasoning, they are at least as good as new.

3. Not only functional, if you hang it on the wall, it makes you look like you know what you are doing in the kitchen.  Just be sure to use wall anchors.

4. It offers endless cooking adventures.  My new fav: cake baking (see photo above and recipe below).

5.  Even for the non-cook,  cast iron skillets always come in handy:

Skillet Apple Cake

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Wish List 2011: Huge Fucking Cheese Slicer

When I stayed in Copenhagen earlier this year, the hotel breakfast spread fucking rocked.

Soft boiled eggs (with adorable holders and spoons), 5 different dark, seed-crusted breads, cereals, granolas, 3 different types of yogurt-ish products (samoa, soured milk) DIY fresh-squeezed – and ultra pulpy – OJ and sliced (fancy!) meats.

But most of all, I couldn’t get enough of the cheese. It wasn’t just slices, or a wedge or shreds.

But cheese hooked into this almost torture-looking device that easily slices cheese fresh from the block. I had just as much fun using the contraption as trying the various types of wonderful cheeses available. So, someone either fly me back to Copenhagen’s Scandic Palace Hotel or find me one of these machines.

Demonstration below:

More in Copenhagen Travels

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Cocktail O’Clock: A White Christmas

Dreaming of snow this Christmas? Let coconut flakes stand in for the real stuff on top of your drink. If you get your guests boozed up enough, they may even think it’s snowing.

You could do this with pretty much any drink; Isaac Elbhar at Bryant Park Hotel Cellar Bar in New York offers it atop the Purple Snowflake Martini:

1 ½ oz of 44th Degree North (Huckleberry Vodka)
¾ oz of Cointreau
½ oz of Pineapple Juice
3 fresh blackberry
1 fresh squeeze of lemon juice
Coconut flakes
Pour all ingredients into shaker except the coconut flakes. Shake the concoction vigorously! Pour the mixture into a martini glass and top with coconut flakes.
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Edible Holiday Gifts: Boozy Peppermint Bark

Peppermint bark is a standard for the holiday season, but since we like playing with our food here at ES we decided to give ours a bit of a boozy twist by adding in a peppermint Kahlua truffle center.

We’re so glad we did and we are betting you will too. What can you expect in this bark? How about a bottom chocolate layer crunched-up with some crushed chocolate wafers. For the center we boozed up our bark with Kahlua’s seasonal Peppermint Mocha mix, and to finish it all off is a layer of white chocolate with crushed Peppermint Andes candy.

Now that we’ve finished tweaking a classic bark, we’re off to create a new bark with a bit of wine. Stay tuned!

Peppermint Truffle Bark

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