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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.

121 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 121
Hads: 680
Avg: 3.74
pDev: 30.21%
Wants: 10
Gots: 79 | 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.
View: Beers (28) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 121 | Hads: 680
Photo of Aqualung
1.18/5  rDev -68.4%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

This is easily the worst beer I've ever tasted. I brought a bottle to a friend on Thanksgiving Day to share over a football game. Neither of us could finist a glass and we ended up pouring the bottle out. Overpowering flavor and fragrance of cloves, unpleasantly bitter and just plain undrinkable.

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Photo of mattt317
2.45/5  rDev -34.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Anchor Christmas is my pinecone in a bottle since my first sip in 1991. It has no real equal, unique. I love it. This year, my first taste, I thought it had a slight skunky flavor, sour and thin ... no pinecone at all. Still, I will head over to Tornado in the near future for the traditional happy hour pint or two...

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Photo of constantine_272
2.83/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

A: Dark blackish brown with a brownish head that dissipates quickly.

S: chocolatey with a touch of pine. Not bad.

T: tastes like a Christmas tree covered in cinnamon and sugar. Way over aggressive on the spice. Licorice and anise that's just too herbal for me. Minor chocolate notes way covered up by the spice.

M Dry finish is fine but the spice lingers long.

O: Way over aggressive on the spice. The black licorice flavor tastes like rotted wood and mushroom. None of that belongs in my beer.

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Photo of seymourcox
2.94/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I didn't open this beer with high expectations. I'm not much of a fan of the 'tastes like mulled something' class of beers, but I thought i'd give it a chance, anyway. It's actually decent. It's got a very mild smell to it that kind of reminds me of the way the furniture smells a couple of hours after my wife polishes it. The taste is a little stranger. It definitely has that 'Christmas punch' thing going on that I was worried about, but it's fairly mild. Without the spices, it would probably be a a pretty nice, light bodied, darkish red ale. If you do like that kind of 'seasonal spice', then you'd probably like this. My wife said it tasted like someone accidentally spilled cider in it.

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Photo of Georgiabeer
2.94/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

Okay, this looks like the Our Special Ale of old, but that's about it. I've always looked forward to this beer coming out, and in most years will drink a case or so of it with my family around the holidays. Every year was different- some years you'd get sharp, sappy spruce (my favorites were those with heavy pine notes), some years you'd get nutmeg and , some years you'd get birch or wintergreen notes, some years were more mellow, others more intense. For the last few years I've felt this beer was going downhill, and this year takes the cake. The brown ale base is there- and that's about it. No pine at all, very light spicing, and a watery finish. Tastes like a weak and not very flavorful brown- noting very special or holiday about it all. Bah Humbug! Bring the real stuff back!

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Photo of Spattastic
2.98/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Deep mahogany with a small cream colored head

S - Sweet and gingerbready, molasses/brown sugar, and nutmeg (gets stronger as the beer warms), slight cedar wood.

T - Fairly generic Christmas-style beer flavors: lots of baking spices, slight molasses sweetness, and pine trees. The finish is where this beer suffers the most being overly-spiced, and bitter. I don't think the favors are in balance here - too much spice, too little sweetness, and a bitterness (maybe resulting from the onslaught of baking spice) that seems lost.

M - Good carbonation, smooth

O - Not my favorite Christmas beer but certainly not undrinkable. I think some extra sweetness would help to balance the abundance of baking space flavors. I've never tried this before and would be interested to compare to previous/future versions.

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Photo of Karibourgeois
3/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Deep black pour with a one finger brown head. Spicy initial taste with a hint of roasted bitterness. Creamy body has a bit of nut, gingerbread and dark cherry.

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Photo of Mikus
3/5  rDev -19.8%

Extremely dark, mahogany edges in the light... slight head. Bit of chocolate, anise, and spice on the nose. Some funny pine and spicy flavors. Dry and thin on the palate. I drank it. It was interesting. Not sure I liked it all that much. Too far out there. Heard 2013 was quite good. Resounding ok.

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Photo of david18
3.01/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

If I'm not mistaken this beer changes every year and can range from ipa-like to the more likely christmas style. This was definitely in the latter category. It was very malty, very dark, lots of dark fruits and a bunch of other aromas and flavors that you're more likely to find on a cake recipe list. Overall it's great for the style, i just wasn't sure what I was getting. If you like Christmas/Winter beers, try it.

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Photo of dacrza1
3.09/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

DATE TASTED: December 25, 2013... GLASSWARE: Kisatsky Tavern pint...OCCASION: day two of an epic four-day Christmas family/friend celebration swing... APPEARANCE: dark black body fosters a tabletop of three-finger brown head that clings and cakes to the glass--clearly a beer of substance.. AROMA: immediate cinnamon, pinecone, spruce; malts are spoken for, if a bit dampened; much of the aroma bespeaks a brown ale... PALATE: medium-bodied, drinkable and consistent in its presence from first sip to swallow--a bit of soda fizz and cream...TASTE: brown, yes, and malty--a mellow, funky barnyard concoction forms in the mouth with each sip, leaving an undesirable aftertaste; trace elements of what the aroma promised; surprisingly suggests a Dickensian punch bowl--many unique leftover flavors producing an odd, alcoholic whole...OVERALL: hate to dis on a Christmas ale, much less while drinking it ON Christmas, but this beer promised big things and fell short once consumed; the last I had was 2005's offering, and I cannot recall the specifics of that brew, so maybe this batch had--what was for me and my tastes--a less-than-pleasing profile...

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Photo of Premo88
3.17/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

12 oz. bottle poured into nonic
(oct. 24, 2013 bottling date)

L: dark dark brown with amber highlights ... almost an old-ale purplish thing going, but more amber-red than purple; 1/4- to 1/3-inch head of thick tan foam, holds on for a bit, sticks to the glass nicely; some lacing; hard to tell if beer is clear or not, it's so dark, but it appears it might be 100% clear

S: ginger, nutmeg, bay leaves, salt ... hint of vanilla; sweetness to it

T: quite christmasy with nutmeg, ginger, clove flavors dominating; also has a pumpkin note

F: solid all around; at times i think it's a bit flat

O: the style is not for me ... i love all the spices just fine, but i'll keep them in my hot teas and lattes; the translation just doesn't work

with that said, this brew has a ton of different smell/taste notes, all fitting into that winter warmer category. loads of christmas spice that combines into a medicinal, bland prunes kind of thing for me, but i could see someone who loves old ales loving this brew

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Photo of curasowa
3.2/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Appearance: Dark red color with one finger of tan head that fades to a thin cap with a nice curtain of lace.

Aroma: Sweet dough and holiday spice, mostly nutmeg and clove.

Taste: Roasted malt kicks things off, but the body is fairly thin. The spices show-up in the middle, Ginger builds to be the dominate flavor lingering on in the finish where there is also notes of brown sugar.

The Rest: I tend to be pretty hit or miss on the Anchor Special Ale, and this year is a miss for me. I like more body and sweetness from the malt to help balance out the spice in these beers and this one is lacking in that department.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.22/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Big nod to Duff27 for this review (inside joke).

5.5% ABV confirmed per the bottle's label. 12 fl oz snub-top brown glass bottle with standard intricate Anchor label art and iconic red/gold pry-off pressure cap acquired as a single for $1.79 at me local HEB grocery and served into an Avery stem-tulip in me gaff in low altitude Austin, Texas. Reviewed live. Expectations are above average given the brewery. No indication as to the style is given on the lable. "Brewed with natural flavours & with natural flavors added."

Served cold - straight from me fridge - and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: No bubble show forms as it's poured.

Pours a one finger wide head of khaki colour. Nice fluffy consistency. Good creaminess. Nice thickness. Has a soft appealing complexion. Head retention is good - about 4-5 minutes. Nice even consistent lacing coats the sides of the glass as the head recedes.

Body colour is an extremely dark amber, which borders on black. Opaque. No yeast particles are visible.

Overall, I didn't expect it to be quite this dark. I'm not sure what to consider it, but if it really is a winter warmer, it's atypical. Outside of style conventions, it looks pretty good but isn't unique or special. No egregious flaws are immediately obvious.

Sm: Christmasy spices are the first thing I notice: nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and sassafras root. Vanillicin (one of the "natural flavours," perhaps?). Ginger. Dark malts. Chocolate malts. Rootbark. Bananabread. There's some sort of stonefruit buried in there, but I can't quite place it. Maybe plum? It's not a dark fruit, but isn't juicy or citrusy either. As it warms, I pick up some caramel and light toasted character. Maybe some bready malts too. A kiss of anise. Some pine - not necessarily piney hops, but the actual leaves.

Overall, it's quite well balanced, if a biteen medicinal - there is a sort of spearmint toothpaste type note which isn't flattering.

No yeast character, alcohol, or hop character is detectable. A pleasant aroma of mild strength.

T: Vanilla (vanillicin, probably - not vanilla bean) and sassafras feel very artificial here. Plenty of roots and spices: nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, et al. Raisin. Plum. Dark malts and chocolate malts provide the foundation, with a bit of burnt character and bready malts lending it some complexity. Pine. Anise is present and is a bit overdone, but then I'm not a big fan of too much anise in a beer.

Definitely evokes Christmas. The spices are well chosen. Hop character is absent, but maybe there's some generic floral character buried beneath the malty base. In any case, no hop bitterness emerges. All the bitterness the beer has comes from the spices and is more than enough to balance the well-tamed malty sweetness. Sassafras is dominant.

A balanced, assertive flavour profile with an interesting build. Not a winter warmer in a traditional sense, but an interesting holiday brew. It's quite cohesive, but not gestalt. Plenty of complexity here, and some decent subtlety. Limited nuance/intricacy.

Depth of flavour is above average. Flavour duration and intensity are average. I like it.

No yeast character or alcohol comes through.

Mf: Smooth and wet, though the burnt sugars and raw spices do lend it a bit of rough coarseness in the second act and on the finish. Good thickness. A bit overcarbonated, but it's tolerable. Could be softer and creamier. Full-bodied. Not as approachable as I'd expect from Anchor, but interesting. Complements the flavour profile well, but doesn't feel custom-tailored specifically for it. A bit heavy on the palate for the flavour profile.

Not astringent, harsh, oily, gushed, hot, or boozy.

Dr: A drinkable Christmasy spiced ale from Anchor. This is pretty good year for this series based on those I've tried. I'd pick it up again if I was in the mood for a beer that isn't afraid to commit to its spices. It's only personal taste that prevents me from fully enjoying this beer; I just don't like anise that much. This wasn't what I expected, but it's an interesting beer from Anchor and if friends asked, I'd recommend trying it just for the boldness of the spices.

High C+

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Photo of happy4hoppybeer
3.27/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Midnight black with thick tan head. Consistent retention throughout.

Holiday spices hit nose, some liquorice and notes of toffee.

Medium body with tastes of roasted malt, coffee. Very milky. Could use some more flavors.

Not too exciting, could be better, but overall okay.

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Photo of korguy123
3.27/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

12oz bottle into tulip.

A- Opaque, dark brown pour. Half finger of beige head. Lacing is minimal.

S- A touch of coffee, some cloves and cinnamon. Smells more reminiscent of a brown ale to a winter warmer. Some chocolate with a touch of cherries or strawberries.

T- Metallic taste up front, bitter chocolate and coffee with some cloves.

M- Light body, decent carbonation.

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Photo of jazzyjeff13
3.31/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

A 355ml bottle with a BB of Oct 2015. Picked up recently from the York Wine & Beer shop. The latest installment of Anchor's seasonal brew - I seem to recall reading that they were going to make significant changes this year. Let's see....

Poured into a Delirium chalice. A very dark reddish-brown hue with plentiful carbonation. Yields a large head of creamy beige foam that lasts for a few minutes before settling as a patchy surface layer. Slight lacing. Aroma of warm spicy notes: cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg and a touch of coriander, underpinned by fruity malt, earthy yeast and stewed leaves. A hint of harsh cardboard in the background.

Tastes of acrid spice and mildly fruity malt, with a dry, bitter finish. Notes of woody cinammon, clove, nutmeg, mild ginger, fruity malt, earthy yeast, stewed leaves and harsh cardboard. The dominant spice character is excessive and discordant. A leafy, herbal bitterness upon swallowing. Mouthfeel is smooth and tingly, with decent carbonation and a satisfactory body for the style. Rather astringent, followed by an aftertaste of dry, bitter spice/herbs, stewed leaves and faint malt.

Hmmm - not Anchor's best attempt at a Christmas ale. It looks OK and the aroma is pleasantly rounded, however the flavour possesses a harsh, dry bitterness that swamps any other contributing characteristics. Body is alright. Basically, the spice addition is a little heavy-handed. I've had better Christmas brews - no need to hunt this one down.

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Photo of BWED
3.35/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a tulip

A- Deep brown in color, with a creamed coffee head. A little lacing.

S- Caramel, roasted malts, and spice. Maybe even an evergreen hint, or maybe because I'm looking at the festive bottle.

T- Spices and roast are the players in this. Not much else.

M- Lighter than I was expecting, almost watery. Spicy, bittersweet finish.

O- Really not what I was expecting. Biggest knock is on the consistency of the mouthfeel, but overall I was looking for a little more complexity.

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Photo of Eisen
3.36/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

From notes. Poured a light black with a thin white head that faded quickly with little to no lacing. Smells of chocolate, toasted coffee, and a plethora of spices. Nothing in particular stands out. Taste like chocolate, nutmeg, a touch of ginger, toast, slight hops, perhaps juniper and pine or other evergreen foliage. Never the best tasting or drinkable beer, but definitely a must try every winter.

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Photo of Chiefy770
3.4/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 fl. ounce bottle. "2013" is printed on the label.

Appearance: Perhaps the strongest suit this brew had to offer. The body was dark brown with a slight red glow. A very light brown, fluffy and dense foam head formed during the pour. It lingered around for quite some time. It collapsed and left a very good amount of sticky lacing.

Smell: Incredible herbal notes. Pine stood out as well. Sweet fruity notes were present. The malts were very subtle, producing a very mild beady scent. Take what you want from this, but I found this beer to smell a lot like the holidays. There was a very earthy scent which reminded me of a freshly cut Christmas tree sitting in a living room. The sweet and fruity notes were very reminiscent to how the house would smell when my grandmother would load the oven with cookies and pies. The scent triggered a lot of great memories in my mind.

Taste: This scent smelled good but unfortunately it did not translate to taste very well. The hops created a rather overwhelming fruity taste. I felt like the taste in the first few sips was similar to the taste of Chardonnay. The herbs and spices were very unique but again, they were overwhelming. There were great unique flavors present but they just were not very well balanced to my liking. More malts may have enhanced this beer for me.

Overall: This was not a terrible beer. I bought a six-pack and I intend to finish it, which is more than I can say for a number of seasonals I've had over the years. This is not my favorite winter warmer but there are great things happening in this brew and I look forward to next year's selection.

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Photo of brewskifan55
3.45/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a snifter

A: Chocolate brown with a tan one-finger head that dissipates to big bubbles. Great lacing.

S: Picking up a roasty dark chocolate. Woody, leather, anise.

T: Heavy malts roll in with dark chocolate. Sweet, robust, smokey with a clove-like finish. Somehow the tastes collide in the mix and it doesn't really complete in the finish. It's missing that "pulled together" taste that puts the punctuation at the end of the swallow. I think the clove is what muddles the mix.

M: Medium but not much carbonation.

O: I really wanted this to be better after reading the reviews. There's a cohesiveness lacking in the total taste. Makes me want to rush out and get an Anchor Steam. They sure got it right with that one.

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Photo of ExtraStout
3.48/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Appearance: Great color here--very dark amber with a beautiful tan head that stands tall and recedes rather slowly. The lacing is pretty good too.

Smell: There's a lot going on. Chocolate, roasted malt, molasses, ginger, fruit...and more aromas I'm sure. This is one unusual winter warmer, but I like the smell.

Taste: This is a letdown. There's a lot of flavors, but it leaves a weird taste in my mouth, and it finishes rather odd, and not in a good way. There is the roasted malt, chocolate, ginger, citrus...I don't know. It just doesn't work so well.

Mouthfeel: Things might come together better if this didn't have such a flat mouthfeel. A little more carbonation may have helped. Again, I don't like the finish at all.

Overall: I have a lot of respect for Anchor, as they are usually very consistent. I do appreciate the effort to provide a winter warmer that is unique, but not everything works too well here.

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Photo of DeFaz
3.48/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

First let me say that I'm disappointed by the fact that natural flavors are added after the brewing. I kind of look at that as cheating (just my personal opinion).

Appearance: Great color here--very dark amber with a beautiful tan head that stands tall and recedes rather slowly. The lacing is pretty good too.

Smell: There's a lot going on. Chocolate, roasted malt, molasses, ginger, fruit...and more aromas I'm sure. This is one unusual winter warmer, but I like the smell.

Taste: This is a letdown. There's a lot of flavors, but it leaves a weird taste in my mouth, and it finishes rather odd, and not in a good way. There is the roasted malt, chocolate, ginger, citrus...I don't know. It just doesn't work so well.

Mouthfeel: Things might come together better if this didn't have such a flat mouthfeel. A little more carbonation may have helped. Again, I don't like the finish at all.

Overall: I have a lot of respect for Anchor, as they are usually very consistent. I do appreciate the effort to provide a winter warmer that is unique, but not everything works too well here.

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Photo of mttaylor1066
3.49/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

I seem to recall the head brewer at Anchor claiming that there are few options left for the Special Christmas Ale. I think it's true. How many different recipes have they gone through at Anchor? Not all of them can be successful.

Looks great, tan head. Delicious appearance.

Aroma is of dark malt an non-Noble hopping. Some burnt grass and pine sap.

The taste starts with a red plum skins, bitter and warming but this fades into a black licorice aftertaste with some malt coming along for the ride. The combination is not terribly annoying, but it overwhelms any spice that I can pick up.

Mouthfeel is OK. Fine carbonation.

Overall, this is not one of Anchor's better holiday efforts. The wrapping is pretty, but it's just another tie that Dad will be required to wear at family gatherings.

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Photo of JulianBaughman
3.49/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

The beer poured a deep dark brown mahogany, the color of the fretboard on my first guitar and it left a small tan head.

The smell was like raisins, baked sweet rolls with a little clove or coriander smell that I couldn’t quite place.

The taste was a big malty ball of awesome. Spicy, with a bready finish and a hint of chocolate.

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Photo of kindacold
3.51/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

2013 bottle. Pours reddish dark brown with thick tan head that dissipates quickly. Smells of spices and grain. Light mouthfeel with fine carbonation. Lots of spices and pepper in the front, hints of celery, raisins, and a slightly hoppy finish in the back of the mouth. Throughout, there is a hint of orange pith. Slightly sticky finish.

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Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
84 out of 100 based on 121 ratings.