2010 - This is brewed with natural flavors with natural flavors added. It pours extremely dark brown to black and is opaque. The aroma is black licorice, anise, cloves and burnt caramel malt. The taste is black licorice and sweet, dry and bitter all at the same time with some dark roasted malt in the aftertaste. This beer is not really to my taste. This is the 36th annual Special Ale for the holiday season from Anchor Steam.
2012 - The beer pours black in color, tints of ruby if held to the light, but essentially opaque. There is a tall head of very light brown, thick foam. The aroma is dark roasted malt, pine, cloves and a bit of molasses. The taste essentially follows those aromas. It has a sweetness, but is not at all too sweet. In fact, it finishes dry and somewhat bitter. It has a charred quality to the end. As it warms, I notice a bit of that black licorice note from 2010 and some vanilla. This doesn't blow me away, but it is a pretty nice holiday style beer.
2015 - The beer pours a very, very dark brown and ruby in color, almost black for all practical purposes. There is a relatively short head of dark tan foam. The aroma is sweet, herbal, tangy, with dark chocolate, anise, and light char. The taste follows the aromas, amping up the chocolate notes, with the anise still present, but lighter. The finish is dry with a moderate coffee-like bitterness. There is a vanilla note in the aftertaste. The beer drinks smooth with a soft tingling of carbonation.