Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale) - Anchor Brewing Company
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Ratings: 582 | Reviews: 111 | Display Reviews Only:
3.94/5 rDev +7.4%
A: Pours exceptionally dark, although holding it up to a bright light reveals it's clear, and more red than brown. The head was a finger of khaki-colored foam that lasted quite a while, although the lacing was a bit meager.
S: Initially, it's all about Christmas spices: cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and a hint of ginger. As I sniff repeatedly, I detect the grainy aroma of muffins, then caramel, and finally some sweet, fruity notes.
T: Minimal malty sweetness quickly yields to moderate-strength spices, with a mix of complexity, warmth, and bitterness -- but it's a pleasant gemisch, even if it doesn't immediately remind me of "beer" in its purest form. I'm also picking up some burnt grain, bitter cocoa, and even tart fruit. The finish is bitter, but I'm not sure how much of that is hops and how much is spice residual.
M: Moist, yet well-carbonated. Smoother than I was expecting, given the spices. I'm pretty sure the faint burn is spice, not alcohol. There's a slight dryness in the finish.
O: Like figgy pudding, this is enjoyable at Christmas, but not something I'd seek out year round. It's pretty good, but to be honest, I liked Anchor's 2012 version of the Christmas ale a bit more.
11-21-2013 01:04:08 | More by TappaKeggaBrew
3.21/5 rDev -12.5%
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.
11-20-2013 23:21:37 | More by kojevergas
4.51/5 rDev +22.9%
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.
11-20-2013 18:28:37 | More by klimoja
4.16/5 rDev +13.4%
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.
11-18-2013 00:58:12 | More by bsp77
3.44/5 rDev -6.3%
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.
11-17-2013 19:05:28 | More by mttaylor1066
3.35/5 rDev -8.7%
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.
11-16-2013 23:57:40 | More by Chiefy770
4.03/5 rDev +9.8%
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!
11-16-2013 05:53:39 | More by magictacosinus
Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
83 out of 100 based on 582 ratings.