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Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale) - Anchor Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

452 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 452
Reviews: 396
rAvg: 3.86
pDev: 10.88%
Wants: 3
Gots: 30 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Anchor Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer |  5.50% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: t0rin0 on 10-23-2008

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 452 | Reviews: 396
Photo of John_M
4.29/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Always a beer I look forward to. The grandaddy of all X-mas beers (at least in this country). On tap at Max's the other day.

The beer pours the expected dark brown color with some red hilights. This is the way OSA has looked for a number of years now. However, this beer has very good head retention and lacing, and just looks attractive. As is always the case, the aromas in this beer are otherworldly, and IMHO, are it's best feature. There is just so much going on... clove, allspice, nutmeg, brown sugar, molasses, perhaps even a hint of ginger. There are also dark fruits in the nose, with the beer reminding me more of beery equivalent of a fruit cake. The flavors on the palate generally replicate the nose, except there is also some chocolate and vanilla, along with the fruit and spice. There's just enough hops to keep the beer from becoming heavy, but otherwise there is a creamy mouthfeel in this year's version that I don't recall from previous years. Some prior years have seemed just a bit thin on the palate, but I can't say that this year. According to the beer menu at Max's, this year's version is 7%, which I think gives it a fuller mouthfeel. Drinkabilty is pretty good, though with all the spice, there's no way you're going to pound down several of these at a sitting.

I would hesitate to call this the best OSA I've ever tried (I've had quite a few and who can remember them all at this point), but it's a damn good one. Well done Anchor. Season's greetings.

Photo of GClarkage
3.85/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

11/16/08- Purchased at Mollie Stones in Burlingame, CA.

Presentation- 12oz bottle, 2008 release. Poured into a random pint glass.

Appearance- Brown, burnt caramel look. Light bubbly, creamy 1/4 inch head. Leaves some minor lace spots behind.

Smell- Not as spicy as the norm. Actually smells much more hoppy than usual. A bit of pine hops and some malt with other minor spices.

Taste- Very cola like with roasted caramel malt base. Much more hoppy that years past. No strange redwood tree flavor. Some pine and some sugary malt notes.

Mouthfeel- Medium carbonation, cola like flavor, but easier carbonation feel. Light bitter pine hop aftertaste.

Drinkability- I liked this years hoppier version better than last years, but not quite as good as some of the past versions. Overall about the average of OSA, which is good, but not exceptional.

Photo of chiefydawg
4.05/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Very dark but clear and not heavy-looking. The light you hold it to becomes a faint garnet-mahogany glow, exposing semi-busy carbonation going on. Head is dark tan, rich, and fairly durable; and it coats the inner walls of the glass like a tapestry.

Smells of burnt brown sugar and molasses, or some gingerbread cookie dough that fell over the side of the baking sheet and into the bottom of the oven.. Definitely carmelized. Seems to be a faintly warm spice to the nose with a deep sniff - maybe the ginger in the aforementioned gingerbread wasn't so far off.

Rich and sweet roasted toffee and caramel coat the tongue upon the first sips. Hey, it's hitting me: properly turned and nicely browned marshmallows on a campfire. And an accompanying roasted graham cracker taste is not out of the question.

As the glass gets halfway down, it bares a deeply ripened dried fruit. Some spicy hop bitterness shows up and while allowing the malts to star, does keep them in check.

Very soft on the mouth, and quite easy drinking, though a bomber is all I'd want at one time. I expected a more apparent alcohol and/or Christmas spice. Not disappointed, just surprised. The final sips have the only real evidence of either, and I let it warm. I am liking the marshmallow. Very comforting, and what better to sit fireside with?

Photo of JamesS
4.15/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a very nice dark amber/brown color with nice head and nice lacing. Very malty scent, some candy sugar tones and a nice hit of spice. It has a very deep and dark taste, well balance leaning towards malty, with a great spice (coriander?, cinnamon, and nutmeg) flavor with a thick aftertaste. It goes down smooth, but still thick.

Photo of duffextracold
3.82/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

pours a thick, bubbly tan head. dissipates quickly. Deep amber brown color, looks like cola.

Smells great. spicy, malty, slight peppermint. a little alcohol on the nose. a little fruity.

Malty, nutty flavor. cinnamon, nutmeg. just a tiny touch of hops.

Body is a little thin, lots of big bubbles, heavy carbonation.

Alcohol content is a mystery, but it seems like its just about right, in the 5-8 range.
overall drinkability is decent. i could put back quite a few of these. the spices aren't overwhelming. i think i'll put a few in the celler next to the '07's and see how they turn out.

Photo of BeerSox
4.09/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle into nonic.

Deep brown hue, bordering on black, with ruby edges on the top an bottom. A thin tan head quickly settles to a thin rim along the glass. Spotty lacing.

Roasty malts and a little bit of caramel in the background. The spices are upfront, including a minty aroma that reminds me of a fresh-cut Christmas tree.

The malts are somewhat thin, not contributing much to the flavor. A little bit of licorice is in the flavor, mixing nicely with the spices. Full bodied (thought it is on the thinner side). Even with the spices, it has a somewhat clean finish.

I thought the aroma was great, helped bring up some good memories from the piney aroma. I thought this one was on the thinner side though. Also the minty herby aromas seem to come out more compared to last year. Recommended.

Photo of Gmann
3.88/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a near black color with a huge tan head with fairly large carbonation bubbles. The head takes its time dissipating, appears to be leaving a wall of lacing. The aroma is of rust, pine sap, light bitter chocolate; a bit buttery. Big spruce flavor, with a sour/tart berry, bitter nutty chocolate, a lemony twang and some unidentifiable spices. A nice full chewy feel, with prickly carbonation, earthy sweetness followed by a drying bitterness. Definitely a flavorful brew, great appearance. This is what I imagine an evergreen forest would taste like. Good for one sitting not sure I can take more than one a night.

Photo of beernut
4.1/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

pours a very dark amber color (very dark, almost like a lite stout) with a beige foamy head full of bubbles, head stays around, and when it disappears it is still there. Aroma was spices up front cinnamon and nutmeg with pine. Taste is malty but somewhat tart as well with some cinnamon/nutmeg/pine. Decent carbonation, good sticky lacing as you drink this beer. Flavors come alive as the beer sits for a while. Great beer for a chilly winters' nite.

Photo of KeefD
3.88/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark brown pour with ruby highlights, massive three finger tan colored head that slowly recedes, becoming rocky, and leaving some very nice sheets of lacing. Very piney aroma, but unlike the typical hop-pine aroma I'm used to. Has an almost sprucy character. Lots of spices including cinnamon and nutmeg along with plenty of dark fruit, chocolate and sweet malts. A red wine aroma shows up as it warms. Very complex nose on this one, and I dig it. Flavor is super spicy, cinnamon and ginger, lots of pine sap flavor, a bit of citrus fruit, maybe some orange peel. Hop flavor is mellow, but balances out nicely. The flavor of this beer is unlike any other Winter Warmer I've tried. Very nuanced, but the mouthfeel is a bit on the lighter side. I would say it's safely in the medium bodied category, but it's close to light. It's fairly drinkable, but the spices in this one limit the number in one sitting. A great holiday beer and certainly tastes like the holidays.

Photo of Tdizzle
3.98/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2008 edition.

A- Poured into a tulip glass, this beer pours a deep, dark brownish-black color that's encased by clear, ruby tinted hues when held up to light. The creamy two-finger head is tan in color and gradually settles to a thick cap over the beer. Some cloud-like lacing remains on the glass.

S- All the standard OSA aromas of molasses, dark fruits and various holiday cooking spices are present, but this year's version is accented by notes of citrus rind and pine. There's some dark chocolate in the background as the liquid warms up. The smell of this beer is all over the place, and the richness of the "dark" characteristics mixed with the orange peel and pine notes is interesting.

T- The initial taste is of molasses, dark fruits and spices, but these flavors leave the party early as a bland finish moves in on the palate, leaving a mild dark chocolate bitterness behind.

M- A slightly watery feel with medium carbonation.

D- This year's OSA is a bit light on flavor and the mouthfeel is more thin than I would have liked, but all this doesn't exactly hurt the drinkability. I could have a few of these in a sitting, where as last year's edition was more rich and heavy on the stomach.

Photo of bditty187
3.3/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dark red/mahogany in hue with a large beige head; even a soft pour produced a healthy two fingers of foam. Head retention was respectable, the foam slowly faded away only leaving a soapy collar. Subsequent lacing was spotty. The appearance is very typical for this beer, in other words, it is lovely to look at.

Cinnamon, ginger, oranges, lemon zest, nutmeg, and allspice hit my olfactory fist. I get a candied orange aroma, something "new" in OSA. Dry, malty chocolate notes seem to overpower the typical piney/sprucey notes. I happen to like it this way. While there is plenty of spice I like the richness of the malt. The chocolate hints work perfectly with some bready-toasty-dough suggestions. I like the nose a good deal. Inviting.

The palate is very dry and the maltiness is quite thin. Spices are muted, I am surprised... sure they are detectable but not like I remember in past OSA. The finish is the strongest aspect, lovely chocolate malt with a flash of citrus and oranges and a dash of "Christmas cookie" spice and spruce. I am surprised by how little I taste in this beer. Very odd. Thin, dry, malty-spiced but really disappointing. Overall, the palate is simply decent.

Medium/medium-light in body, fairly thin, IMO, low carbonation; the mouthfeel is barely adequate.

I respect OSA a lot. It is not my favorite winter beer but I try it every year. One six-pack is always enough. This year I only purchased one bottle to review it (for BA but for work mainly) and I am glad I did not buy a six-pack. Some people will like this tamer version more and other will be disappointed. Color me surprised. I have had every OSA since 1998 and this is the weakest by far. OSA 2008 is, well, a dud.

Photo of Buebie
4.02/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

poured from a 12oz brown bottle. This is the 2008 release.
Poured into a brandy snifter.
Color is no-transparent black with glowing crimson at the edges.
1 finger foamy off white head, leaves rings of spotty thin lace. Retention is a nice thin layer with clusters of bubbles.

Aroma on this is dark fermented fruits, plums, figs and a red grape like aroma. Its somwhat perfumy in the spiced fruit notes.
Some cloves, cinnemon and a hint of piney hops.
Amazing already.

Thin watery mouthfeel with a medium dose of carbonation.
More of the dark purfumy fruit, with hints of chocolate, and roasted grains. A spicie flavor midway through and into the swallow. Wisps of earl grey.
Absolutly delicious. Finish is crisp and dry with a grassy hop linger.
As it warms the chocolate becomes a little more pronounced, as does a kind of rootbeer like flavor. It reminds me more of a dark belgium triple.

I will definatly be picking up the very large bottle of this I saw a couple days ago. It its still available.
This is a wonderful winter warmer.

Photo of bryanbrick
4.52/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

What better way to post my first review on this site than to start with the new Winter from Anchor. This is pretty darn good, nose alone is worth the price of a 6er or even better a magnum if you can get your paws on one. Cola, sasafrass, licorice ropes and nice touches of mint and evergreen. Very complete and complex. This seems a bit lest clove/cinnamon than in past bottlings.

The palate is soft and easy with plenty of sweet creamy malt, pretty burnt caramel and a contination of licorice found on the nose. My only complaint here is that it finishes a touch short but that is more than made up for by its sheer deliciousness. I'll be drinking my fare share of these this winter.

Photo of sliverX
4/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

poored a deep ruby red copper, head dissipated to just a ring on the edge of the glass but clung nicely to it each sip
smelled of caramel maltiness with a cola hint
taste was the same as the smell but obviously more pronounced, a very small hop bite in the after taste
medium bodied leaning towards the light side
very nice to drink sips good and could probably sit down and drink 3 or 4 in a night easy

Photo of walshclimb
4.06/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours deep dark chestnut with a thick bubbly head that stays around to the last sip. Very impressive appearance. The aroma picks up caramel malt, spice and a little citrus hops. Cinnamon and maybe ginger. Nice. Initial flavor of roasted malt and caramel with a gentle bitter aftertaste that is well balanced. Spice notes are obvious but not overwhelming. Medium to full bodied with active carbonation and a relatively crisp finish. Overall, this is a solid winter beer and my first this season. It is very smooth and great with spicy food. Try it with carne adovada if you can get some!

Photo of daliandragon
4.12/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

You know winter is approaching when the first bottles of this old reliable start to appear on the shelves. I like the tree this year... what is that, a Jefferson Pine? I like it better than the willow. Anyway, you get your usual nearly opaque dark brown with red highlights in the body, with a thick tan head that laces nicely as it retreats. The nose is among the strongest spice notes I've smelt in a while, with mucho cinnamon and clove up front.

Lots of malt and spice in the taste, followed by a medicinal and peat finish, which is unexpected. The texture is a little thin early on but evens out nicely. Overall, this is close to textbook for the style although I'd be curious to see how it aged in a few years. Another good year, and hoping for many more!

Photo of Rzzzzz
4.15/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hadn't thought of it until now, but one of the nice things about making an annual realease my very first review is that I get to review the latest release of the same brew to celebrate my one year BAnniversary (and, we assume, each subsequent BAnniversary).

Poured into a Chimay chalice, deep brown/black depending on the angle, with a thin, creamy head. Aroma of dark frult, spices (cinammon and clove--lotta clove) banana, vanilla, bubblegum, and 'christmas tree' pine.

Taste is a muted amalgamation of these flavors, but with a distinct dark coffee bitterness taking hold and keeping any anticipated sweetness in check.

Mouthfeel is a bit thin, medium to gentle carbonation carbonation (improves as it warms). My guess is about 6.0%-6.2% ABV.

Couple more of these and I'll be ready to face the holidays.

Photo of morebeergood
3.8/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Tried this on tap this past weekend at Big City in Allston. Came served in a standard pint glass. Dark ruby brown color. Thin white head. Slight carbonation. Spicy smell to the nose. Flavor was pretty good. There was a nice combination of the usual spices in a winter warmer (clove, cinnamon) but also the added bonus of a bit of chocolate in there. Really liked the flavor. This beer could be phenomenal if there was a bit more body to it. I felt it could have been a bit more fuller in texture. When tried side by side with another local winter warmer (Harpoon), you could tell there was a world of difference. The flavor is what carries this beer.

Photo of cerveza5150
3.43/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: Chocolaty, soapy foam head disappears into a dark, ruby red (when held up to light), clear ale. The head dissipates from the center out (I like the previous reviews which mentioned the 'donut' ring; it's a great word to describe it!) and clings to the sides of the glass.

S: I could smell this as soon as I popped the top on the bottle. Chocolate, pine, spicy - I would use all to describe it. Seems similar to last year, with a little more astringent quality on the nose.

T: Ok. Here's where this one kinda fell of the rails, so to speak. I like the spice of these ales and I've always been a fan of them, year to year. I think last years offering was as close to perfection as I had found; big flavor that washes through your palette and then leaves as quickly as it had come, due to a lower ABV than most typical 'winter warmers'. This year, it seems like the ABV might have been kicked up and that kinda overpowers the spiciness of the ale. It's obvious from the other reviews that other people feel the same on this. I DO notice the spruce tips here, and they're a welcome addition to the spice menu. Overloading spices in ales, no matter how historically accurate it is, doesn't really fly with me. Spruce tips, however, suit me just fine in a holiday ale. Historic, yet real.

M: I'm giving this a 3.5 instead of a 3.0 due to the fact that I think my sample is a little warm. That being said, my first impression was that it was WAY too carbonated for it's style. I'll have to give this category awhile to set in.

D: Everything about the drinkability of this ale is average. Average to good taste, average to below average mouthfeel.

It kinda saddens me to have, overall, a very average offering this year. This might be one of those creeper kind of ales that has to truly warm me throughout the winter. If so, I'll have to give this one another chance.

Photo of champ103
3.61/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a dark brown color. A large beige head forms, but recedes fast. Tons of sticky lace is left behind.
S: At first peppermint hits the nose. After that some cinnamon and other spices. Malty nuttiness and caramel. Interesting. The spices seem to overwhelm the senses though.
T: Follows the nose. Lots of peppermint, cinnamon, and other spices. Pretty sweet. A good malty flavor, but again the spices seem to overwhelm everything.
M/D A medium body the is crisp and clean. It becomes more creamy and rich as it warms up. A good beer to sip on, but the sweetness and spice are a bit much.

This is my first Anchor "Our Special Ale." It is interesting. I want to track down the other years now. I will continue to follow the series.

Photo of WVbeergeek
4.13/5  rDev +7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I've been drinking this every year since at least 2001, althought I haven't been able to review every version this brew sits as a classic in the Christmas seasonals repotoire. Pours a rustic deep mahogany brown forms a thick tan head forming a dimpled doughnut like appearance as it rises above the rim of my imperial pint glass. Chunky sporadic bands of lacing form on the sides after each sip, great looking brew from Anchor. Smells of fresh cut pine needles with a big earthy component accompanying some Christmas spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. Mild roasted malt and chocolate notes transcend on my palate with a touch of citrus, possibly orange peel in the background, this stuff is decadent. Bitterness seems to arrive from light herbal hops and waves of those same spices noted in the aroma definitely nutmeg and cinnamon maybe even a touch of anise. Excellent tea like quality, mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with a soft but ample carbonation nothing bears down to heavily on my palate. Drinkability is great like a christmas tree in a bottle definitely smooth with spruce tips, spices, and warming alcohol. There's no abv listed but I suspect since it's not available in West Virginia that it must be higher than 6%, go seek some out and save some for the holidays. It will definitely pair well with festive foods from that time of year, and I've aged bottles in the past with excellent results so keep it longer if you can.

Photo of Domingo
3.77/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours a cloudy reddish brown.
Pretty heavily spiced (as always) but luckily everything seems to keep the flavors in check. Allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, peppermint, and spruce tips are just some guesses at what might be in there. Pretty similar to the 2007 version, only I'm picking up a much more obvious malty chocolate profile...and I can actually taste a little bit of hops that keep it from being too sweet.
It's never going to be something you're drinking more than a bottle or two of, but it's improved over last year's in the balance department.
Even if it's not a world beater, there's something really nice about this brew on a winter's night.
Everyone should at least try it.

Photo of Brad007
3.9/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours a dark red color with a thin one-finger head to it.

Aroma is soft and spicy with a hint of nutmeg and very mild cinnamon to it. It doesn't overpower the nose.

Taste starts out with chewy malt and hints of nutmeg and possibly cinnamon in the middle. Subtle.

Mouthfeel is a bit rough thanks to the carbonation. It still echoes the lingering spicy and chewy malt as seen in the taste.

Overall, it is an interesting beer but when I think about the 2007 version, I recall being more enthralled with that version. Perhaps it's my tastes but I feel that the carbonation level in this year's version is too high. Still drinkable but nowhere near my opinion of last year's version.

Photo of naterock
3.51/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

poured from 12 oz bottle into a tulip.
dark brown with a red hue, this head that doesn't last long.

smells of a sweet malt, Nutmeg is out front but some cinnamon and chocolatey malt in the background.

taste is, thin. chocolatey with some spices, but too thin to really pick apart the flavor. to me this should be a bit more of a hop character.

mouth is too carbonated, overpowers the flavor. By far not the best vintage of this great seasonal tradition.

Photo of argock
3.6/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served on-tap in an 8oz clear taper tasting glass

A: Raisin-brown color with thin cap of off-white head and a light sprinkling of lace. It has a very porter-like appearance.

S: Hefty chocolate maltiness with cinnamon and nutmeg spice notes and only a very light leafy hops contribution

T: Significantly more chocolate in character than previous vintages with an almost cinnamon cappuccino or mocha flavor with a bit of dark fruit thrown in and more prominent cinnamon and nutmeg spicing. Hops are almost nonexistent which leaves a very sweet roasted and chocolate flavor complemented with pretty heavy-handed spice flavors. I have like previous annuals better than this, especially those with more ale character.

M: More thin in body than I prefer with fairly active carbonation and a raisinette aftertaste.

D: Not my favorite Anchor OSA but it will please the folks who like there holiday ales on the sweet and chocolaty side.

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Our Special Ale 2008 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
87 out of 100 based on 452 ratings.