Dismiss Notice
Hello, is it beer you're looking for?

Learn more about beer. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for as low as 68% off the single issue price.

Subscribe now →

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.
very good

120 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 120
Hads: 679
Avg: 3.75
pDev: 12.8%
Wants: 10
Gots: 77 | 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 (26) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 120 | Hads: 679
Photo of ONUMello
3.93/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a pint glass
A: Dark brown color, 1/2-finger head
S: Pecan pie, brown sugar, molasses, ginger and licorice
T: Lighter & less complex than the nose, lots of baking spices with malt & ginger
M: Medium-bodied, smooth & spicy
O: Not my favorite but a great nose/mouthfeel and a pleasant flavor profile

 321 characters

Photo of Etan
3.79/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

On tap at Coopers Tavern.

A. Pours a reddish chestnut with a small tan head.

S. Toasted grain, nutmeg, caramel, a little raisiny.

T. Dry spice, nutmeg, whole wheat bread, a bit of cocoa.

M. Medium-bodied, creamy.

O: Drier and more drinkable than most American winter warmers. Nothing exceptional but certainly quaffable.

 325 characters

Photo of BB1313
3.69/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a tulip. Pours an extremely dark auburn; fluffy khaki head that fades slowly and leaves great lacing and retention. The aromas are very floral. Smells like fresh flower pedals. Lots of berries. Lots of spruce and juniper. Hints of anise and cocoa. Very earthy and woodsy. The flavors are pretty sweet. Solid malt backbone. Lots of raspberry. Some spices. There's a decent amount of cocoa and toffee. Taste very good, but it still seems almost watered down, but barely. Mouthfeel is very nice. It's on the lighter side of medium-bodied; very creamy and fluffy with active carbonation. Alcohol goes unnoticed.

This is always a great holiday beer. I always appreciate the extremely unique aroma/flavor profile. This year isn't far off from previous vintages. If you're a fan of this series, you will enjoy this.

 834 characters

Photo of Spikester
3.64/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Handsome dark beer with a two finger tan head with modest lacing. Smell is fruitcake with a touch of herbal hops. Taste is malty dark fruit with a slight earthy hop bitterness on the back end. A touch of brandied raisens come out in the middle. Mouthfeel is toward the thin side and carbonation is barely enough. Overall a better than average winter warmer and well worth a taste.

 380 characters

Photo of ocelot2500
3.53/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep cola color with a lot tight, tan head that leaves good sized bits of lacing.

Smells of a bit of roasted malt with some spices.

Tastes of a nice roasted malt character with some sweetness. Leads off with a bit of molasses and dark fruits. This gives way to a little brown sugar sweetness and toasted bread. Finishes with a bit of spices.

Mouth feel is medium with a smooth amount of bitterness.

Overall, I find this enjoyable, but it could use a little more oomph.

 480 characters

Photo of scotorum
3.76/5  rDev +0.3%
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!

 651 characters

Photo of Hoptometrist
4.3/5  rDev +14.7%
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.

 635 characters

Photo of JohnnyBarman
3.96/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Single bottle picked up at Premier Gourmet in Buffalo, part of our Christmas beer haul.

Pours a deep caramel brown colour into a short tasting glass. Half an inch of mocha head that recedes into a thick ring with lots of lace.

Nose is most certainly Christmassy - big malt, toffee, chocolate, and loads of spices, including ginger, allspice and cinnamon. I'm also getting a decent hit of evergreen boughs as well.

Very tasty Christmas ale that tends to emphasize spices over the malt. Spruce and cinnamon are the heaviest hitters for me, with nutmeg and toffee coming in the background.

Certainly an enjoyable beer to be had around this time of year. Spices get a great chance to show off, and the brew has a sufficient malty base to provide some nice heft. Definitely will pick up a few more of these in the coming years to see how the recipe changes!

 860 characters

Photo of brewskifan55
3.45/5  rDev -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.

 737 characters

Photo of delta490
3.62/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- Poured a deep clear mahogany with a finger of thick creamy tan head. Great retention and a little lacing.

S-rich malt with Christmas spices (ginger, cinnamon, bitter orange)

T- For whatever reason, the taste doesn't quite marry up with the aroma. It's not bad and most of the same elements are present, but it's not quite as flavorful as the aroma would indicate.

M- pleasant and full, with a nice smooth feeling

O-I wish the beer's taste was as great as it's aroma. It's not bad, but the two just don't match up.

 520 characters

Photo of magictacosinus
4.03/5  rDev +7.5%
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!

 2,863 characters

Photo of jimmah120
4.01/5  rDev +6.9%
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

 369 characters

Photo of sommersb
3.89/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Tasted On: 12-08-2013
Freshness: Bottled 10-18-2013
Packaging: 12 oz. brown bottle, pry-cap
Glassware: Shaker pint
Purchased: 6-pack from Frugal MacDoogal, Nashville

A: Dark brown beer, nearly black, with red highlights. Head is nicely sized, with very good retention and a fine lace.

S: Aromas have sweet caramel, plus fennel, pine and rosemary. Hops have woody and earthy hop notes.

T: Taste is spicy and earthy, with bitterness of pine and also roasted malts.

M: Body is medium, with lots of carbonation and a finish that is woody and piney for an earthy bitter aftertaste.

O: The high levels of woody, earthy and pine favors make for a unique brew. It feels kind of like you're drinking a tree. I liked the beer but wouldn't want to drink it all the time due to the novelty.

 787 characters

Photo of damndirtyape
4.22/5  rDev +12.5%
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!

 1,006 characters

Photo of ExaltedNecrosis
4.11/5  rDev +9.6%
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.

 922 characters

Photo of korguy123
3.27/5  rDev -12.8%
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.

 374 characters

Photo of dacrza1
3.09/5  rDev -17.6%
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...

 1,149 characters

Photo of CloudStrife
3.93/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a tulip.

A: Pours a clear dark brown appearing black in the glass with a slightly tanned head on top. Leaves some nice lacing as the head slowly dissipates.

S: Initial spice aroma is what I notice. Hints of cinnamon and nutmeg blend with some dark fruitiness.

T: Well balanced winter warmer. All the spices compliment one another and none of them overwhelm. Malts make up a good portion reminding you this is a beer. Even has a touch of graham cracker crust.

M: Medium body with ample carbonation. A bit sticky on the finish but not too bad.

Overall its always fun to check out Anchor's Christmas Ale and this year is a must try.

 662 characters

Photo of Act25
3.75/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Entirely original, spruce and christmas spiced beer from Anchor. The best Christmas styled beer I have tried yet. A review says it will improve with age, so put a couple down for years to come.

A: Poured out a walnut dark, body with moderate carbonation and a tan head that laces well, but doesnt las that long.

S: Wood, cedar, spruce, pine, cigar box, tobacco. Like a cigar room humidor. What's not christmasy about that? I didnt find it medicinal, and there's fruit and malt there too. I enjoyed my first one on the banks of the shark river and it was a great outdoors beer.

T: Follows the smell, stronger cedar, pine, woods floor. more dirt floor cabin than cathedral.

M: Original beer. Must try. Must age. Low carb, low ABV. BUt too much for a session. Good with coffee.

O: Looks like BA's try this every year, I'd like to cellar a series and taste off with friends. Worth a conversation. Definitely will completement turkey, ham, roasts and all sweetened holiday meals.

 983 characters

Photo of TheMarkE
3.99/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Dark amber with a decent head of foam and good lacing.

Smell: Pine, dark fruits, spices, licorice.

Taste: Dark fruits, spice, herbs, and root beer.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, creamy, with a root beer aftertaste.

The Verdict: Very good. This complex offering from Anchor is by far my favorite from them. Way better than a fruitcake, this brew even smells like Christmas.

 384 characters

Photo of Mikus
3/5  rDev -20%

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.

 298 characters

Photo of MadScientist
3.78/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: A gorgeous looking ale that is dark brown with a deep garnet hue and a persistent head of tan foam. The head pour a bout two finger tall and is made of compact bubbles.

S: A sweet malt aroma with a pomegranate fruitiness blending with a piney, citrus hops notes.

T: The flavor is similar to having the pine hops flavor, pomegranate with the addition of some deep, somewhat dark malt flavors including a touch of molasses, some dark treacle and a touch of dried fruit. The malt sweetness is slightly stronger than the moderate hops bitterness making for a balance that is slightly towards the malt. The aftertaste if of fruit and hops with a long medium finish.

M: A creamy, medium-full bodied beer with a medium level of carbonation.

O: The smell is great, it totally reminds me of the holiday season without smelling like a glass of potpourri.

 852 characters

Photo of jngrizzaffi
4/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had this beer when it was first introduced but did not rate it at that time. It is no longer brewed but remember liking it at the time. Good beer with a hoppy edge..

 169 characters

Photo of MrBoh
3.94/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Pours a dark, yet tranaluscent, Brown with a thin beige cap. Rampant lacing.

Scent of clove and pine dominate. Nice sweet, caramely backdrop.

Clove and all spice re the main flavors. Finishes with just a little malty sweetness. A fruity, maybe cherry, flavor starts to come thru.

It starts so dry, but a kiss of sweetness at the end. Just a little bitterness.

Maybe I should have poured more violently, but the head was lacking, and it is noticeable after being out a short while. Other than that, not really my style, bit very well done for what it is.

 557 characters

Photo of jwhancher
3.56/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a bottle into a wide mouth chalice glass. Appears a clear garnet amber with fluffy off white head that laces the glass rim. Good carbonation. Smells of vanilla, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. Maybe a little nutmeg in there as well. Reminds me of a cinnamon Christmas cookie. Tastes sweet & spicy with supportive malts. Caramel and light cocoa flavors atop spices as found in the nose. Feels a bit thin. Light to medium feel. Wish this one had some more oomph for a winter warmer. Overall, a decent beer. Not bad, but not great. Would be a great choice to bring a sixer to a holiday party.

 600 characters

Our Special Ale 2013 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 120 ratings.