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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 ARoman
3.63/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

*transferred from old notes - 12/29/2013*
12 oz bottle poured into a shaker (2013 vintage). Very aromatic beer - strong vanilla and some cocoa right off the bat, followed up by anise, cinnamon, and caramel/malt - definitely smells like Christmas. It’s an oily, syrupy pour; dark, rich mahogany color with a big, frothy, egg white head that sticks around for a nice long while. The taste is sweet and bitter, but neither is strong (more sweet than bitter). It’s a full bodied malty, syrupy drink that hits first with chocolate malt. As it coats the mouth and/or warms up, some dark cherry notes come through as well as the spiciness (cinnamon & anise mainly, but some ginger too?). Basically tastes like it smells - and that’s Xmas - but it’s not too much of anything, very mellow. A nice balance blending the viscous beer and creamy head.

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Photo of Gmann
3.59/5  rDev -4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pour a very deep brown color with a tight beige creamy head that settled into a light cap with lacing on the glass.

The aroma is of sweet malt, quite bready. There is a candied orange sweetness with a pine or spruce earthiness. There is a very much a fruitcake aroma to this beer.

The taste is of a pumpernickel bready base. Lots of candied fruit sweetness. Orange and pineapple seem to stand out. Some scorched caramel provides some additional sweetness. Not very hoppy, perhaps a touch of pine.

Moderate to full feel with noticeable carbonation. The beer is sweet but there is enough of an earthy bitterness. A touch sticky in the finish.

The beer captures fruitcake very well but it screams for needed hoppy flavor.

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Photo of Tilley4
4.08/5  rDev +9.1%
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...

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Photo of Sam-VW
3.88/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

When you pour this beer, it's a nice dark ruby colour, a medium to large tan coloured head with great retention. Once it does recede you get a lot of spotty lacing on the sides of the glass and a nice uneven surface foam on top of the beer. On the nose there's lots of Chocolate malt aromas, mild roastyness and some caramel. I'd say it's pretty Christmassy so far! When you taste this beer, initially you get a strange mint flavour which is actually quite nice and refreshing, after this Vanilla and a touch of Fruity Fig like flavours. After this the Roasted and Chocolate malts kick in, ending with a bitter Hoppy finish. This beer feels extremely smooth and ends with a medium-sweet finish with a touch of bitterness. This year's one really is balanced and great, with a superb malty backing.

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Photo of scotorum
3.76/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

The 2013 version, but not bought that long ago.

Poured from the 12 oz. bottle into a Unibroue stemmed flute

a; Clear very dark ruby to copper, inch and a half thick tan head receded to rocky surface foam and lots of spotty lacing.

s: Fruit cup, mainly pear.

t: Medium fruit up front to a mildish degree, followed by a significant hop bite. Bitterness lingers at the sides of the tongue at first like a moderate IPA. Fruity finish. Later slight smoke and ripe dark fruit notes emerge.

m; Light to medium, pretty good body, some carbonation tingle.

o; An unusual and seemingly complex holiday brew. Would like to try this with a grilled steak!

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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 WVbeergeek
3.75/5  rDev +0.3%

Deep dark ruby brown hue with a big thicket of fine carbonated khaki tan head, fine even lacing. Aroma herbal mint, pine, citrus zest it's a joy to smell with mild spices noted as well nutmeg and cinnamon...always a great Christmas ale from Anchor. This is last year's though I've seen this year's out there already. Flavor like spiced christmas bread, and pine water very much a holiday ale it always holds up quite well with some age. Mouthfeel is medium bodied even flowing carbonation dry finish from the spruce and nutmeg notes I'm catching. Overall always a favorite will continue to pick up a six every year!

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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 SensorySupernova
4/5  rDev +7%

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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Photo of woodychandler
4.64/5  rDev +24.1%
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.

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Photo of 312HopBomb
3.85/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a deep chestnut/blackish with fluffy mocha head three fingers tall. there's some nice lacing as it settles.

The aroma consists of dark malt and toasted biscuit with moderate/strong spices of anise and dates.

The taste follows the nose. Strong anise and date flavor then a nice malty finish with some brown sugar and molasses.

It has a medium body and moderate carbonation.

I liked this year's spice flavors and tasty, sweet and malty backing.

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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 LiquidAmber
3.97/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a dark russet brown with a fine two finger tan head with great retention and lacing. Aroma of sweet bready, lightly toasted malt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice very seasonal. Flavor is a nice blend of caramel and lightly toasted malt, cinnamon, ginger, light nutmeg and allspice, a hint of pine. Finishes with an herbal bitterness and residual seasonal spices. Surprising light creaminess and medium body. A pleasant and well spiced winter ale, lying in style somewhere between a dark bitter and very light brown ale. I liked the spicing this year and it fit well with the malt body. A nice light ale for the holidays. This was one of the better tasting years for me, although I miss the pine element that is frequently.

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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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Photo of buschbeer
3.67/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 FL. OZ. bottle
Served in a tumbler

A - It is a dark mahogany color with three to four inches of tan head.

S - I get a concoction of cocoa, juniper, and clove.

T - I am hit with a blast of spices. Clove and cinnamon are the easiest to identify. It finishes with roasted malt and some chocolate.

M - Medium

O - This beer always reminds me of Christmas. I know it is different each year, but my sensory experience is about the same each year when I look back at past year's reviews.

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Photo of ranger7
3.58/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the bottle into a tumbler.
Review from notes: January 5th, 2014.

A: Deep dark red with a decent head.

S: Some hops, pine needles, clove, allspice, nutmeg, and dark chocolate. Intriguing and very different.

T: Somewhat bitter front and back with spices in between.

M: Thin with some carbonation.

O: Very different and unique from anything else I've had. A good seasonal offering.

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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 foglemgs
3.98/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint class, this beer is a lovely, dark brown color. There is a substantial, two-finger light brown head that dissipates into a thin (though not unpleasant) film that leaves a nice lacing on the glass.

S: The sweet roasted malt really comes through, and I get undertones of coffee and anise.

T: Very rich, with a strong flavor of anise (black licorice). Coffee finishes the flavor and lingers on the tongue.

M: Considering the smell and taste, the mouthfeel is surprisingly thin, though there is a nice dryness that lingers.

O: I think I'm in the minority here, but I've never considered any Anchor Steam beer to be excellent, though this Special Ale is quite tasty on a cold winter evening.

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Photo of rlee1390
3.8/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A-Clear brown when pouring but black in the glass, one finger off white head.

S-Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, chocolate, roasted malt.

T-Roasted and burnt malt. Not much of the spices that were present in the nose. Balance worsens as it warms

M-Lighter, watery and not much carbonation.

O-A poor showing for the Christmas Ale from Anchor. They have been better. If the spice came through in the taste it would have been a better beer.

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Photo of arizcards
3.77/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Picked up a single in mid-November for $2.99.

Beer poured dark brown with a nice tan head that dissipated quickly.

Nose is cinnamon and nutmeg.

Taste is roasted malts, coriander, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and pretty smooth.

Overall this is a pretty decent rendition of Our Special Ale. I used to buy sixers of this but over the last couple of years find that more than one is overwhelming.

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Photo of scottfrie
4.16/5  rDev +11.2%
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.

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Photo of chinchill
3.77/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle served in a Belgian snifter.
Pours very dark mahogany but clear, looking like a porter.
The aroma is spicy; not so much as to mask the medium and dark roasted malts but enough to suggest it may be over-spiced. Thankfully, that is not the case. The spicing mixes nicely with the malts, and among other things has a clear if unexpected note of allspice. Still, I'd prefer this with less spice rather than more. There may be a dash of spice from the hops too which otherwise manifest themselves by controlling the sweetness.

Althoug allowed to warm for a while prior to uncapping, this changes and develops nicely with further warming.

O: a very winter beer from Anchor. If memory serves me, this is better than last year (and I recently helped kill a magnum bottle of that) but perhaps not as great as 2011.

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Photo of GMB
4.1/5  rDev +9.6%
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.

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Photo of smakawhat
3.82/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured from the bottle into a nonic pint glass.

Real nice dark amber, and hinting of deep burnt red body, pours out like chestnut milky brown though for the body color. Head is three fingers and a perfect styrofoam light tan and slight hinting red accented cap color. Slow retention and falling nicely.

Christmas herbs and warmth in a glass. Spicy warmth and cherry tones, hints of spruce and milk sweetness. Very light chocolate and hinting fruit cake sensations also.

Palate comes with a little bit of light chocolate milk action. Slightly wet with a YooHoo character, but some real nice spice action. Finish has a soft lingering pine and sweet spruce like quality that matches nicely. Some light cinnamon and a faint earth like hop just want to squeak out on the finish as well, some faint herbality makes an appearance also.

Overall, it's always fun to try these guys out, but I think I may have enjoyed previous versions, but that being said is splitting hairs either way.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.74/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours a clear but opaque very dark reddish brown (almost black) in color with moderate amount of active visible carbonation rising along the edges of the glass and garnet red highlights. The beer has a three finger tall dense foamy dark beige head that slowly reduces to a mottled thick and thin film covering the entire surface of the beer and a thick ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of malty sweetness combined with fruit cake + spiciness (ginger and fennel seem to stand out to me).

T: Upfront there is a moderate to strong flavor of caramel/toasted malts with a light to moderate amount of molasses sweetness. That is followed by moderate flavors of fruit cake with some ginger, anise and fennel spices/herbs. There is a light to moderate flavor of rye spiciness and spicy hops in the finish. Light amounts of bitterness in the finish which fades quickly.

M: Medium bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation.

O: There are really nice amounts of complexity to the aromas and flavors of this beer which make it very enjoyable. As always, I look forward to seeing what the new year brings in this beer and it did not disappoint. Also a big hit with my wife and mother-in-law.

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