Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale) - Anchor Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
83
good

677 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 677
Reviews: 122
rAvg: 3.66
pDev: 12.84%
Wants: 10
Gots: 69 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  5.50% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: notchucknorris on 11-04-2013

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
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Ratings: 677 | Reviews: 122
Photo of elNopalero
4.82/5  rDev +31.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

This pours a wonderfully dark amber-malty red hue with a cap of creamy cocoa-colored foam. Seriously, the beer looks amazing.

The aroma has a light medicinal, gruit-like aroma, with some juniper and pine notes standing out.

Flavorwise there’s a bitter intensity which complements the herbaceous mix. Some juniper, pine and a resiny yet drying finish round it out. Love, love, love this beer.

Photo of woodychandler
4.64/5  rDev +26.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

As Winter begins to come to a welcome close here at Chez Woody, CAN Spring be far behind? I have fallen horribly behind in terms of my beer consumption and review and as such, I am not buying or trading until the backlog is sufficiently reduced.

From the bottle: "This is the thirty-ninth 'Our Special Ale' from the brewers at Anchor. It is sold only from early November to mid-January. The Ale's recipe is different every year, as is the tree on the label, but the intent with which we offer it remains the same: joy, and celebration of the newness of life. Since ancient times, trees have symbolized the winter solstice when the earth, with its seasons, appear born anew."; "Merry Christmas Happy New Year"; "Abies concolor var. Lowiana".

The cap directed me to "Use Opener", so I employed one along with a quarter to avoid bending such a beautiful cap. I love using a heavy-handed pour, much to my Old Lady's consternation, but unless directed otherwise, that is how I roll. The pseudo-cascade began almost immediately and the resulting two-plus fingers of dense, light-brown head looked like I was making a root beer float. Ha ha. The nose smelled of anise, licorice, tar, dried dark fruits, pine tips and dark chocolate. Mmmm. Color was a deep, dark-brown with ruby highlights (SRM = > 27, < 34) and NE-quality clarity. Mouthfeel was medium and the taste was like anise biscotti! Yummy. Biscuit malt worked well with whatever spices and other adjuncts they may have added. It was much like the Christmas cookies that my late maternal grandmother used to bake. Lacing began to form in the glass as I drank and I was happy to see it. Finish was dry, especially thanks to the presence of all of the spices. A really lovely beer and one worth buying on an annual basis.

Photo of klimoja
4.51/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

This is a seasonal favorite of mine. The bottle label is a thing of beauty and is a gift to the drinker who can't help reminisce of Christmas's past, 39 years to be exact. Jim Stitt is getting up there in age but still producing great designs annually for Anchor. The bottle IS part of the experience. I poured this into a pint glass with a side pour and minimal head. The look is brown with a purple hue. The smell is vanilla, prunes and licorice. The sip, pause, and there it is again-welcome back to to last year and the year before and the year before that...back into Christmases past where the warmth of home soothes, and family is close, where all is peaceful and calm as the new fallen snow.

Photo of Extrajoker00
4.46/5  rDev +21.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

*slightly new reviewing style

reviewed: 12/09/13
previous quick rating of 4.25 on 11/29/2013

Our Special Ale 2013 by Anchor
poured from a bottle into My Ragtime Ricks Mug

P-packaging:
Short tapered bottle, oval tan label, pine tree, red "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year" 3.75

A-appearance :
Brown to almost black, 1 finger hearty tan head, good lacing 4.25

S- smell:
dark fruit, roasted malts, grains, spice 4.5

T-taste:
dark fruit, spice slight yeast and hops 4.5

M-mouthfeel :
initial bite gives way to deep complex flavor, finishes smooth 4.25

D-drinkability:
very good holiday offering, ordered extra to keep a stock 3.75

O-overall:
much anticipated and didn't disappoint, so glad i ordered some extra 4.5
-J

Photo of champ103
4.44/5  rDev +21.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours a dark brown with some ruby highlights around the edges. A large rocky tan head forms with excellent retention. Spiderweb looking lace is left behind. I always love the wat this looks in my OSA Tumbler.
S: Toasted malts, baked bread, light chocolate aromas. Then the spices. Gingerbread, light anise, peppery cloves. Finishes with more toasty malty aromas. Excellent.
T: Like the nose a big old malty profile up front. Toasted malts, baked bread, and chocolate. Then the spices. Gingerbread cookies. Cloves, pepper spice. All with perfect balance. The spices are not out of wack at all. Finishes with a light bitter bakers chocolate.
M/D: A medium body with moderate carbonation. Ultra smooth. So easy to drink. I can take long gulps of this. I will be getting many more six packs.

Still one of my favorite Winter Warmers every year. So many other spiced winter releases have the spices so unbalanced with everything else. Here the spices are a great compliment to the rest of the malty base. I love it.

Photo of Coffdaddy
4.36/5  rDev +19.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

What a fantastic beer. I cannot think of a better Christmas beer.

Photo of Hoptometrist
4.3/5  rDev +17.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served from the bottle into a becker glass

A- Poured a very dark brown with off-white frothy head that left cascading lace.

S- Big gingerbread, molasses, nutmeg, toffee, and caramel. Really great aroma with lots of spices and malty sweetness.

T- Big gingerbread, sticky toffee, caramel. molasses, nutmeg, some light tea and chamomile notes, finishes with a slightly citrusy hoppiness and mild bitterness.

M- Medium mouthfeel, very smooth and creamy, finishes dry, and soft carbonation.

O- This is a really great winter warmer with nice spice and malt character. It is very balanced, very easy to drink, and tastes like the season.

Photo of MattyG85
4.26/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a tall pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a very deep brownish amber with a moderate amount of bubbles. Huge four finger tan head that slowly settles into a thinner creamy layer. Leaves a lot of lacing clinging around the glass.

Smell: A spicy, sweet, and roasty winter ale aroma with lots of chocolate hints and winter spices. Upfront scent of holiday spices with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and ginger. Toasty and roasted malts with hints of chocolate, biscuit, toast, coffee, cream, caramel, toffee, grains, and nuts. Sweet scent of brown sugar and slight molasses. Some earthy hops with hints of pine and grass. A very solid aroma.

Taste: Like it smells, a very spicy, roasty, and fairly sweet winter ale taste with good notes of chocolate and spice. Upfront mixture of winter spices with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and clove. Roasted barley malts with notes of chocolate, biscuit, toasted bread, coffee roast, caramel, toffee, cream, nuts, and grains. Sweet taste of brown sugar along with some light notes of molasses. Earthy hop presence with notes of pine and grass in the background. A pretty good taste.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Very creamy and spicy. Finishes dry and smooth.

Overall: Another good year for this winter brew. Good mix of spices and toasty sweet malt notes.

Photo of wordemupg
4.24/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

355ml bottle poured into tulip 30/11/13

A dark brown with a deep maroon glow when held to the light, two fingers of dark tan foam hangs around for a few sips leaving a few partial rings on the way down

S anise, root beer, cola, herbal and leafy notes, dark toffee, faint coco, spruce, a pile of freshly chopped fire wood, fruit cake and winter spices I can't quite place

T more spice and some brown sugar and molasses I didn't smell, everything's still there in one form or another but the nose just has a little something over the flavor

M medium bodied, slightly foamy but manageable, spicy, herbal finish

O great nose, complex all-around, I could smash a 6er no problem and I just might right now

Another great Christmas ale from Anchor, I look forward to this one every year and I grab a magnum to age but I always seem to drink it before next years release

Photo of shigg85
4.24/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Lots of woodsy berry flavors in this! This is no easy-drinking winter warmer, and I like it that way! Forces you to come to terms with juniper, clove, molasses, pine, roots, twigs, and branches in the flavor! Definitely complex and unique. Would complement an apple pie or something like that.

Photo of Dreizhen
4.24/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Think Chimay Blue, but a little lighter and a little more caramel. Very pleasant. Very drinkable. Makes me want to eat a roast beast.

Thin head that deteriorates at a decent rate. Solid mouth feel. Dark appearance.

Malt, chocolate, dark fruits, caramel. Emphasis on the last two.

Very good seasonal ale with a lot of great pairing opportunities.

Photo of damndirtyape
4.22/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle poured into a Libby globe porter/stout glass. Date stamp of bottling: 3OX (2013 October 24).

Appearance: Dark brown, clear cola brown at the edges. Very thin foam across the top with persistent sheets and strands of lacing.

Smell: Christmas spice smells - nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, hint of some charred malt as well.

Taste: Lots of holiday spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, plus a hint of anise) plus a roasted malt sweetness. Finish is mildly bitter, some very mild leafy hop notes at the end.

Mouthfeel: Good carbonation, slick, little bit spicy on the tongue, little bit sticky on the teeth.

Overall / Drinkability: This may be one of the better Christmas Ales I've had from Anchor in regard to flavor and aroma. Lots of spicy flavors and aromas, and very very drinkable. I could easily have another bottle, but for some reason I feel I have to let this beer last the month like it's a special treat. Well, I suppose it is a treat since it only comes out once a year, isn't it? Well done!

Photo of scottfrie
4.16/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into snifter.

A: Pours a deep cola brown with a huge, dense, and fluffy looking light brown head that took forever to fade into a thin collar that left sticky patches of lace down the glass.
S: Very inviting notes of forest spices, holiday baking spices, and fruity hops and yeast. The nose is complex and it’s hard to nail any one scent down, but I get notes of cardamom, peach, mint, wood, forest floor dirt, clove, cookie dough, brown sugar, nutmeg, and antique shop.
T: Follows the nose with complex flavors of spice rack mixed with dough and forest. Bitter citrus pith, spearmint, tropical hops, and a touch of powdery chocolate come through as well. The finish is full of green leafy spices, and the aftertaste reminds me of a dark Belgian ale except more bitter. Reminds me of mint chewing gum at times.
M: Medium body, smooth and drinkable mouthfeel with a good dose of bitterness to it. The carbonation is frothy but soft and splashy.
O: Hoppier than I remember in years past with a good dose of bitterness and complex spice flavor. Very delicious, as usual.

Photo of bsp77
4.15/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Nonic Imperial Pint.

Appearance: Dark brownish-ruby with creamy tan head that mostly recedes with slight lacing lines.

Smell: Faintly sweet spices of allspice, clove and ginger. Nice chocolate and caramel undertones with a mild roastiness.

Taste: Bittersweet roasted malts with light notes of chocolate and caramel. The spices counterbalance the Porter-like base nicely, and include gingerbread, allspice, clove. A hint of a sour finish.

Feel: Moderate carbonation, medium body, somewhat dry finish.

Overall: Much better than last year, but not as good as 07 and 09, which remain my favorites.

Photo of ExaltedNecrosis
4.11/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into tulip glass.

A - Pours a dark brown with a reddish tint. One and a half fingers of light brown head.

S - Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, caramel, and toast are all apparent in the aroma. A bit of sweetness along with the spice.

T - I get a lot of the holiday spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, with pine / spruce, caramel, toasted malt, earthiness, and a hint of chocolate. I can definitely see how this is a Christmas ale. Great amount of complexity yet it remains balanced between sweetness and spices.

M - Thin-to-moderate body with moderate carbonation. It feels a bit sticky at times, but is not as thick as I would have hoped. Nice earthy aftertaste.

O - I was pleasantly surprised at this one, not knowing what to expect as this is my first one. Has a great complexity and range of flavors with the spices, sweetness, and earthy tree notes. I will be looking forward to future vintages of this.

Photo of GMB
4.1/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A standard pour of Anchor's "Our Special Ale, 2013" yields a dark brown body that lets through just enough light to reveal ruby highlights when held up to strong light. The pour also yields a respectable tan head that falls slowly and leaves behind some sticky froth atop the brew. Carbonation is gentle. I expect a gentle mouthfeel.

The nose comprises a mix of familiar roasted aromas and seasonal spices. Molasses, raisins, and nutmeg, and a splash of port wine are easily appreciable.

The taste follows the nose before moving well beyond it. Molasses, prunes, raisins, and nutmeg are out front. Bitter spices dominate the middle. I pick up, in addition to nutmeg, touches of cinnamon, clove, and allspice. Roasted nuts appear on the back end. Port wine's sweet and alcoholic flavors develop during the hang. Hoppy flavors aren't clearly palpable, but I suspect that some of the spice flavors owe themselves to well-balanced hopping. A warm mixture of raisins molasses-coated toasted almonds seasoned with holiday spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove), enjoyed while sipping sweet port. Yes, that's what this beer tastes like.

"Our Special Ale, 2013" is an outstanding winter warmer. The flavors are clear and delicious. The profile is complex and layered. This may be the best warmer I've had to date.

Photo of Celtics17
4.09/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Smells of a bit of roasted malt with some spices.

Taste- Very nice spice backbone, and slight ginger, and some hop bitterness. Slight chocolate notes. I liked this years version. The flavors played well with each other.

A fan of this from start to finish.

Photo of BeerFMAndy
4.08/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter.
5.5% ABV

A - Dark chocolate brown with ruby highlights, the 2013 vintage of Our Special Ale is almost black looking and crowned with an off-white head that dots the snifter in lacing as it subsides.

S - Deep toasted malt pulls through the woody, pine-like aroma of Our Special Ale, introducing rich complexities of raisin and plum into the beer. Hints of ground nutmeg and ginger add a subtle spice to the beer while a swirl releases brown sugar and caramel sweetness for a lingering complexity.

T - Substantially more shallow in flavor, Our Special Ale has a somewhat thin malt base consisting of toast and hints of roast which work well with the beer's overall earthy profile, sprinkled with spice but, sweetness is strangely absent as are the fruit complexities.

M - With a medium-light body this Winter Warmer has a smooth, easier drinking flavor profile than that of some of the more robust, truly warming winter beers but, that doesn't stop it's earthiness and delicately lingering spice from completing the seasonal beer.

O - Despite the recipe changing from year to year, Anchor's Our Special Ale always seems to remain familiar; robust earthy, pine-like aromas and malty, toasted flavor with a sprinkle of holiday spice. This year has a fantastic and complex, welcoming aroma that unfortunately dies off slightly in flavor but the smooth body allows the beer to finish out nicely for a winter treat.

Photo of Tilley4
4.08/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Spices have mellowed out over the course of the last year.. Very nice holiday ale... Hints of spruce and cinnamon and nutmeg and all things Christmas... Really nice edition of this offering from Anchor...

Photo of dirtylou
4.06/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz (kyle) Singler

A winter staple - I could never pick one vintage apart from the rest as they always seem to taste identical to me. It's always been very pine forward - like you were ingesting a liquefied version of your x-mess tree. Gingerbread, spruce, a touch of cinnamon. I always have room for 1 or 2 of these suckers a year.

Photo of notchucknorris
4.04/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: Pours a deep brown color with ruby hues when held to light. A tightly laced sand colored foam head stays at about half a finger.

S: Has a great blend of baking spices mixed with some bready malt and some dark fruit notes. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, banana bread, cola, light chocolate. Digging it.

T: Bready with some spices poking through. Some molasses, dark bread, cinnamon and a rich nuttiness throughout. Mouthfeel is a touch thin, but this is really good. I'm liking this a lot more than last year's.

Photo of magictacosinus
4.03/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Always good to see this release on the shelves around here. I wasn't too happy with last year's version of this beer, but I still wanted to give this a review and see if anything improved. Poured out of a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass.

Very dark in appearance - blackened with some slight plum or reddish hues that streak the sides of the glass when held against the light. There was a phenomenal amount of off-khaki colored foam, which almost overflowed over the glass at about 5 fingers high. Looks a lot like cherry cola from a afar, and while it leaves a bit of lacing as it goes down. I owe this more from the aggressive pour rather than the quality of the beer itself, but it still presents itself nicely as any Noël ale should.

The aroma is as good as always - mulled spices with dark fruit and baking spice notes. There's a lot of dark cherry pits and plums at the nose, which meld with the spices that range from sweet to spicy. Cherries and cranberries meld with clove, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and a bit of rosemary. There's a ginger backbone to this that is undeniable and the molasses and caramel make up a good deal of the malt profile as a whole. The pine/anise flavor that comes in is a bit distracting from the nice array of spices, bread, and dried red and dark fruits, but overall it's good. Nice and sweet, with spicy notes that keep it interesting.

If memory serves me right, this is a far better batch this year - less of the burnt, overly malty notes of the '12 offering, and larger emphasis on the spices, molasses, and cranberry notes. This really IS Christmas in a bottle. Notes of pine, ginger, and orange peel immediately hit the tongue, followed by molasses, cranberries, black cherries, and blackcurrant. Slightly tart and and under ripe, with cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, baking soda, cinnamon, and burnt salted caramel following right afterwards. The burnt note is subtle this time around, and the cinnamon gets progressively stronger with each sip. The cherry/plum combo is really fabulous here, and this reminds me so much of a nicely spiced fruitcake as it warms up, which is different from its gingerbread cookie profile in its early stages. Just like mulled wine, this continues to change over time, and it never gets truly cloying - thick, well carbonated, and bready, rather than syrupy. The bitterness really keeps this refreshing and cleanses the palate for another sip. Good stuff.

Much happier with this batch, but perhaps my taste buds towards these seasonal spiced beers have changed? Nevertheless, I'll gladly pick up a magnum for when the family comes in town. This is balances the spices (which are excessive, to be honest) with some really nice dried fruit notes that make this a good one to drink. It's pretty heavy even at 12oz, but I'm glad I'm enjoying it more than I expected to. Happy holidays!

Photo of jimmah120
4.01/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into duvel glass

look is a deep, dark amber/cola, with a thin layer of froth. smell is powdery cookies, peppermint, gingerbread, pine/spruce. thin feel, lots of gingerbread and molasses, some spices, hops, and a malty finish. also, there was an odd saltiness that popped up at some points.

sweet and sticky, one of the only christmas beers i really enjoy

Photo of plaid75
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On draft at The Lark, East Northport, NY.

Poured a deep murky amber hue with a one finger foamy white head. There was good retention and lacing.

The smell featured a medley of spices, including spruce, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg with a light earthy caramel.

The taste mimicked the aroma with a residual herbal hoppiness.

The mouthfeel was of average fullness.

Overall a pretty good Christmas ale.

Photo of SensorySupernova
4/5  rDev +9.3%

Appearance: Dark brown, just light enough to make out some red light peaking through. Light brown head that faded to faint lacing.

Smell: Mild roasted malts, caramel.

Taste: Roasted malts, mild bitterness, gives way to a stronger sweet raisin/fig flavor. Subtle woody aftertaste with some alcohol warming (more than I would expect for 5.5% ABV).

Mouthfeel: Moderately thick with subdued carbonation.

Overall: A “winter warmer” that fits the category perfectly. Nothing sets it too far from the pack, but it had all of the fundamentals solidly covered. Good as a seasonal - something to look forward to sharing with friends once a year, but not something to seek out every month.

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Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
83 out of 100 based on 677 ratings.