Nick Carr on November 1, 2016 0 Comments Quick Characteristics Brewery Anchor Brewing Location San Francisco, CA Style American Strong Ale ABV 7.5% IBU ? Hops Nelson Sauvin, Citra, Cascade, Northern Brewer, Nugget, Golding Malts Pale 2 Row, Caramel, Roasted & Toasted Malts Shelf Life Several Years Suggested Glass Tulip Glass Serving Temp 50-55°F Availability Limited – 2015 batch available through December Food Pairings Best enjoyed alone, but will work ok with something like a robust roast, or rich chocolate dessert. Don’t try to pair cheese with it. Maybe it’s the stubby vintage looking bottles; or the awesome, also somewhat vintage looking, labels they design; or the fact that new anchor beer seems to be a rare and deliberate undertaking; but it could just be the excellent beer. Whatever the reason, I always get pretty excited when I find Anchor beer I have yet to sample. Enter Anchor’s Argonaut collection. The collection is named after the legendary men who accompanied Jason on the Agro in the famous Greek Myth. Jason selects the Argonauts by hosting a competition a bit like the Olympics, games of skill and fitness. The men he chooses to accompany him in his search for the Golden Fleece are men special among their peers. So also, the beer in this collection is special. The collection’s lineup, brewed in 2015, includes Double Liberty IPA (June-August), San Francisco Flying Cloud Stout (March-May), and Anchor Barrel Ale (September-December). This year-old Anchor Barrel Ale is the first I’ve seen of the collection down in my area. Fritz Maytag bought Anchor Brewing back in 1965, and was instrumental in reviving the craft brewing industry in America. He also founded the Anchor distillery in 1993. This beer is a blending of those two worlds and a tribute to Fritz Maytag. The Barrel Ale is not the first time Anchor has ventured into the world of barrel ageing, but it is the first time they’ve done it in large enough quantities to widely distribute. The other barrel aged beer is simply called Our Barrel Ale, and like this ale, was a blending of four different Anchor beers that had been individually barrel aged in their Anchor’s own Old Potreo Single Malt Straight Rye Whiskey barrels. Because their distilling operations remain relatively small, in order to up the available quantity to a nationally distributable amount they had to use both their own rye whiskey barrels and some acquired bourbon barrels. The four Anchor beers are aged in these barrels before being transferred to a cellar tank for a secondary fermentation with barrel staves that had been charred on both sides. As far as I know, the beer has not been brewed again this year, but some 2015 vintage bottles are finding their way back onto the bottle shelves as winter closes in. This is especially cool for those of you out there that tried the beer last year and now can compare it to one with a year’s worth of age. I am not so lucky, but I’m still very excited to try this year old vintage. A quick note on how to decipher Anchor’s bottled-on date. It is three characters printed big and bold on the actual label. The first is the last digit of the bottling year. The second represents the first letter of the bottling month. The last is either a letter or a number representing the bottled-on day (the first 26 days are represented by the 26 letters of the alphabet, the 27th through 29th day is represented by 7 through 9, 30th day as 3, and 31st day as 1). The bottle in front of me is “5OT.” That would be “O” = October “T” = 20 “5” = 2015. So, a barrel aged beer just over a year old. Sounds like quite a treat. THE TASTING Below are the tasting notes I took while drinking Anchor Barrel Ale. If you’ve tasted this beer or you’re letting one age, please share your thoughts with everyone down in the comments below. Pour and Aroma: It is a very dark and deep brown in the glass, opaque, with just hints of ruddy dirty red highlights along the edges. Head stays small; about one finger of tan big-bubbled froth, quickly disappearing to just paltry fizzing islands. Threads of rye whiskey color the aroma. Big dark malt, slightly smoky; caramel, whispers of plum and wood with a slight licorice twist. Mouthfeel and Taste: Body is medium-full, round, and robust. Low carbonation adds to the smoothly warming and very pleasant mouthfeel. Flavor is of strong maltiness; roasty, toasted dark breads, coffee, char, whispers of chocolate, dark caramel, and licorice. There’s also a nice spiciness to it, no doubt in part due to the whiskey barrel aging. Medium-dry through the finish, low booze, with the woody, spicy, whiskey elements remaining into the warming aftertaste. FINISHING THOUGHTS My first thought is how nuanced this beer is. It’s a thinking beer, meant for quiet contemplation, and will keep you interested all the way to the last sip. I also like how subtle the barrel aged whiskey notes are, staying a part of the whole experience without gathering an ego and shouting “Hey, look at me, I’m important.” It stays a little humble, something not always found in barrel aging. Another draw is the alcohol content. Many barrel aged offerings hike up into the high ranges of 9, 10, or higher ABV. This one, while still radiating a little warmth for those winter nights, dials it back a bit. And it’s perfect for the Thanksgiving after-dinner night cap. In fact, if you want to go all Anchor for your Thanksgiving beer selections they do a nice job of presenting a “Beersgiving” selection of pairings for your Thanksgiving enjoyment. I might even have to try this myself this year. Cheers!