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Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale) - Anchor Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale)Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale)

Educational use only; do not reuse.

340 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 340
Hads: 413
Avg: 4.02
pDev: 10.45%
Wants: 4
Gots: 30 | FT: 0
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: blackie on 11-02-2009

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (26) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 340 | Hads: 413
Photo of xnicknj
3.68/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into snifter glass - thanks joe

Pours a deep auburn with some burnt hues, a lighter white head bubbles up, dissipates and leaves some spotty lacing on the glass.

Plenty of spice in the nose, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bit of sweetness. Piny notes really make this smell like the holidays.

Begins with a nice wave of malty caramel, mixed in with dates and figs. Spice is the main flavor though with some piny hops and brown sugar. Finishes pretty clear with a note of sweetness and slight cherry.

Lighter medium body, mild carbonation, smooth feel and solid drinking. Not something I'd want to drink all month long, but a nice one to share with friends during the holidays.

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Photo of Rifugium
4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First had: on tap at Casey's, Newtown Square, PA

I like this slightly more than the '07 batch, mainly because it definitely wasn't a Mad Elf rip-off this year. Dark brown pour, semi-opaque with a tan head and some lacing. Aroma is more sugars and spices, and less fruits. Taste similarly yields less honey and fruit than previous years, and more light brown sugar and coffee taste to it, with a dash of spice. Medium bodied, slightly syrupy with moderate carbonation. Pretty easily drinkable.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.12/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On draft at the Thorpe residence. Thanks Mike and Amy!

A: The beer is a dark walnut hue. After a somewhat vigorous pour from the tap, the beer yields a thick beige head that leaves a few random traces of lacing.

S: There is so much going on in terms of the aroma. Christmas spices, brown sugar, nutmeg, caramels, clove, cinnamon, and more.

T: Easily identifiable as a Christmas ale, no denying that. The beer has mellowed nicely with an extra year of aging. I do believe that I like this beer better with a little age on it. There is a sweetness throughout that is present but not cloying.

M: Medium bodied with moderate to low carbonation.

D: A great beer to enjoy by the Christmas tree and celebrate the holiday season.

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Photo of nerdrocker101
3.87/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a magnificent mahogany brown with a thick, cream colored head that lingers like a snowfall.

The smell contains copious amounts of sweet cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and brown sugar.

Tastes like sugar coated dark fruits, more plum than raisin, but both are somewhat mild. Spices much like the nose with some bready notes. A little cardboard on the back end.

Medium body, sweet and spicy overall. A little dry and yet sticky. Mild carbonation.

Nice winter warmer. Hasn't aged that well though.

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Photo of zoolzoo
3.42/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

About a year in the cellar, lets see...

A: Pours a rich looking mahogany. Thick off white head, approaching light brown. Excellent retention, yet little to no lacing.

S: Still nice and spicy. Orange zest, anise, black pepper. The ginger has held up well in the aroma. Dark fruit is quite present here, perhaps more now than when fresh. I'm getting a touch of chocolate and, well maybe this is a stretch, but a little coffee bean? The aroma is a little wild but as a whole it screams Christmas, so high marks here.

T: Up front is dry, bitter and woody...in a spicy tree bark sort of way. Dark malts gently roll in along with crystallized candy ginger sweetness. Once again, gobs of ginger. I appreciated it a bit more in the nose....it's becoming a bit soapy. bitter and perhaps almost tart on the back of my tongue.

M: Mouthfeel is right on point, smooth and creamy yet with ample carbonation.

D: Not bad, but eventually becomes tiring on the palate. This is an interesting take on a winter warmer. However, at the end of the day I would probably choose something more typical.

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Photo of BlackBearForge
3.88/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Found some cases of this 2009 Edition at Richey's East in Pensacola while visiting over the weekend. Said what the hell, I've been wanting to try this for years and it never makes it here to Tallahassee. Pours dark mahogany with a small tan head leaving minimal amounts of sudsy lacing.

The aroma has little in the way of hop character, smelling mainly of dark malts, hints of chocolate and coffee and a generalized fruitiness with a little ginger.

The flavor is a smooth amalgam of dark toasted malts and dark fruits with a generalized spiciness that doesn't spell out any given flavor though there are hints of ginger and cinnamon. With warming the flavors come more alive and mouthfilling though they are all still melded together. Slightly bitter, just a touch sour in a nice fruity sort of way. The flavor definitely grows on you the more you drink.

Mouthfeel is medium-light, very smooth and somewhat slick striking me as somewhat porterish though with a bit more carbonation.

A year unrefrigerated on the floor at the liquor store doesn't seem to have been ideal for this beer but conversely it doesn't seem to have hurt much either. I really need to try a fresh model, perhaps it will get here this year!

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Photo of SpdKilz
4.02/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This has been in my cellar for I'd say a year now. Had one last year but never got around to reviewing it. Here goes!

Appearance - Pours a mahogany color with about two fingers of tan head that recedes at a moderate pace, leaving slight lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell - I remember this being "in your face" pine needles last year. With a year on it, it has seemed to have softened a bit. There is still an obvious and distinct aroma of pine needles, pine sap, dark fruits, brown sugar, and caramel.

Taste - Damn. With a year on this it is freaking great. I remember having this both in the bottle and on tap and it was a bit of an overload for me last year. With a year on it the spices and pine have mellowed a bit, and have allowed the caramel and dark fruits (i.e. read raisins and plums) to make a more strong appearance. Licorice, cinnamon, nutmeg, roasted malts, etc. are all present here. This really is Christmas in a bottle.

Mouthfeel - Medium bodied, decent carbonation.

Drinkability - As with many spiced Christmas beers, this is more of a "one and done" type of brew. I do freaking enjoy every drop of it, though having a few of these in a sitting may be a bit much. It is nice to switch it up between having a SN Celebration and then one of these, and then another Celebration Ale. Glad I kept a couple to age for a year and more pleasant than I remember from last year.

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Photo of July2Nov
4.15/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

* 2009 edition has been in my refrigerator for close to a year and finally decided to review the last one today.

Appearance: Dark reddish color...almost black if you didn't know any better. Nice thin, frothy lace that holds up very well. Quite beautiful.

Smell: Smells like Christmas! Those "holiday" spices really come out. Has an egg-nog spiced scent that is very noticeable. Slight maltiness at the end. Mmmm!

Taste & Mouthfeel: Smooth upfront and very mild. Hints of dry-roasted chestnuts, chocolate, butter and a slight cherry syrup taste are noted. Dry and light acidic aftertaste. Tended to be a bit "chewy" on the tongue. Nice.

Drinkability: One of the Christmas beers that I look forward to at the end of the year because it doesn't disappoint no matter what they do to the recipe. This 2009 model was so good that I'm anxiously looking forward to the 2010 edition. Hopefully Santa stuffs a few of these in my stocking!

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Photo of Morey
4.23/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Aged one year. Consumed 11/18/2010. Thought for sure that I reviewed this last year, but apparently not. Too bad, I was hoping to compare.

Looks dark brown almost black in color, but when held up to the light you see deep red colors with good clarity for such a dark beer. Nice fluffy beige head with pretty impressive retention. An intriguing beer to say the least.

The aroma seems to have mellowed a bit with age. I'm getting some caramel and molasses with a hint of dark ripe fruits.

Taste is very unique and hard to describe as usual. Incredibly smooth. Spices have mellowed a bit and settled into the beer making it tough to discern and pick apart this holiday ale. Think porter meets an easy drinking pale ale with holiday spices thrown in.

Medium body with relatively soft carbonation.

I could easily drink more if I had more. Instead I'll be moving on to a fresh 2010 bottle next!

Morey's Bottom Line: The recipe changes yearly, but not by much. This is one unique beer, and Fritz knows it. They're not going to stray too far from the base recipe. It's too darn good.

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Photo of Chaney
4.33/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I picked this up at Wegman's grocery store recently. I can't believe they had last year's Christmas Ale in a grocery store. What a treat!

A: Not a single sliver of light passed through this bad boy, however, this isn't a dark beer. As a matter of fact, as I studied the idle liquid a bit closer, I saw that it had somewhat of a reddish hue. The head on this one is a frothy brown, almost golden, that stayed afloat for the entire session.

S: Licorice, prunes, raisons, and other dark fruit, all wrapped up in a mild Belgian funk... at least, in a Unibroue sort of way.

T: All of the stuff I just mentioned on the nose, only better. It is really tough to describe the taste but here goes: a dark fruit smoothie, combined with liquified pine cone, and seasoned well with frankinsense. I really appreciate the fact that Anchor didn't go overboard on the spices. Many breweries add stuff like cinnamon, brown sugar, peppermint, etc. in order to make a "Christmas Ale" (ex. Shlafly). There is a very refreshing quality to this brew.

M: Full body and taste, but the liquid itself is not too thick or syrupy in any way.... quite the contrary. The lacing is small, yet still there, and the sweetness is kept in check and balanced out by the other ingredients.

D: There is no other Christmas Ale I look forward to more than this one. After the season was over last year, I remember telling someone how much I missed the Anchor Holiday brew. My Christmas spirit is now up!

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Photo of stingrayvr6
4.3/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked this up at Bertelli's in Clifton, NJ along with the 2010 release. Paired with some whole wheat crackers, extra sharp cheddar and baba ghanouj. Poured into a pint glass, absolutely beautiful deep reddish brown with fantastic brown head that stuck around the whole time and clung to the glass. Smell bready and malty, sweet bruned caramel. Taste similar with roasted barley up front, burned caramelized sugar, plum-like sweetness and some spicy bite in the finish. Very good beer. Grew on me after a few minutes.

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Photo of biggred1
4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark, russet brown with a whipped looking creamy tan head that leaves fine lace on the glass. Cinnamon, orange zest and a slightly dialed back spruciness than other recent vintages if memory serves. Truly "holiday" spicy with notes of frankincense and myrrh with roasty almond-like notes. Creamy and medium bodied with a sticky mouthfeel. This seems like one of the better Anchor OSA's and I suppose it would be the last one under Fritz's command. Drinking well right now but I couldn't drink more than one of these in a sitting.

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Photo of dogfishandi
4.17/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1-31-2010 - fresh bottle - bottled 10-2009

12oz bottle poured into a pint glass. pours pretty black. some red reveals itself when held up to the light. nice big tannish, biege head with some good retention. a little bit of lacing on the glass as well.

lots of different things going on in the aroma. some piney like earthiness. definately has the spice. cinnamin, nutmeg. some black licorice, anise, raisons. maybe a hint of some roasted malts. lots of earthy tones, quite nice.

a complex aroma follows up with a complex, enjoyable taste. some piney, sprucy like qualities gives way to some nice spice, nutmeg, cinniamin, anise, licorice, raisons, and other such dark fruits. some roasted malts. maybe a touch of some dark chocolate in the finish with a subtle lingering bitterness. the only other anchor christmas ale ive had was last years, and although very similar, this one is definately the more favorite in my opinion.

medium bodied, very nice carbonation. this beer is very easy to drink but it might be a little much pounding back a few of these as it tends to sit a little heavy in the stomach after a few. but i really enjoyed this brew and is definately one of my favorite winter warmers if not my number one favorite.

10-14-2010 - bottled 10-2009 - aged one year

decided to pull this from the cellar about a week ago and place in my fridge. poured into a bulb glass. pours pretty much black, but actually a dark brown, a little red. big biege colored head with nice retention. lots of sticky lace.

emm...that great aroma. raisons, figs, plums, chocolate, roasted malts. nutmeg, earthy.

packs a lots of flavor with a small body, but still has some nice chewiness to it. raisons, dark dried fruits, piney, sprucy qualitites, roasted malts, anise, black licorice. sparkly, bitey carbonation. not much has changed here, which is a good thing IMO.

id drink as much as this as i can, anytime of year, too bad i only got 2 bottles left.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.22/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes. Consumed within a few days of Christmas 2009.

Pours an amber brown with an off white head. Nose is dark fruits, teas, gingerbread spicing, and a bit of citrus. A bit of a roasted characteristic as well. The spices along with a bit of sweetness dominate the taste. Quite complex and what a winter warmer should be. I love that ever year Anchor brings this forward with a different recipe, yet it never seems to be overspiced like the majority of winter warmers. Looking forward to verticals involving this.

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Photo of mexikrainian
4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz poured into Brasserie de l'Abbaye des Rocs chalice.

Appearance: ruby violet with off-white head and solid lacing.

Aroma: nutty, roasted malts, coffee and licorice.

Taste: there is a lot going here. gentle spice, dark fruit, molasses and chocolate hit the palate first, followed by caramel and hidden sweetness.

Mouthfeel: smooth yet syrupy texture with medium body and light carbonation.

Overall impression: definitely unique. i can't have too many, but i can't wait for next year's batch!

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Photo of ManuelHerrera
4.05/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

I was pretty impressed with this beer overall. As another mystery beer pull and no prior knowledge to this special ale, I was more than a little curious about how the meeting would go down. I'm don't find Anchor Steam to be an amazing beer considering its cult status, but this output by Anchor Brewing was pretty good.

The beer pours a deep ruby with a decent 2 inch head and fine lacing. The aroma fills the nose with malt sweetness with light hints of espresso and caramel.

This beer isn't particularly heavy, though it does have the syrupy flavor of those wintertime ales. There is an earthy spiciness to it that complements the malt flavor pretty well. The carbonation makes this beer seem a bit lighter and easier to drink, so overall the beer works pretty well.

Not bad, guys. Not too shabby.

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Photo of wl0307
3.78/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Purchased at the UTOBEER stall in the Borough Market, London; BB 10/2011, served cool in a straight pint glass.

A: pours the colour of black plums, very dark brown with purple-ish hues, coming with very tight and thick dark beige pillowy head with very good retention, due to the lively carbonation I think.
S: ripe black stone-fruits dominate the nose, like dates & raisins & black prunes, plus a touch of marmalade-like richly sweet citrus preserve, on a par with rich and aromatic melted black sugar, bitter-sweet herb-flavoured candy such as licorice- and ginger-candy, and traces of flowery hops. Overall, it's a bit too sweet and thick at the expense of a preferable balance.
T: a very smooth swallow of dark malts, sour-ish dried black fruits, and lightly chewy notes of herbal tea leads towards an aromatic mid-taste mixed of black-dates and light smokiness as of dried longan-fruits, before more sour-prune-ish notes and mixed herbs linger freely in the end. Not as sweet as the nose lead me to believe - good!
M&D: the mouthfeel is generally lightly-carbonated and smooth-ish, going well with a medium body, and the overall flavour profile gears towards the sour-sweet fruity side and not quite hoppy or herbal/spicy as some other previous vintages, while the herbal-sweet elements lend delicately to the overall balance, manifesting well esp. in the aftertaste of each sip. Not bad.

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Photo of claybeer
3.33/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Anchor Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2009 is a real dark cherry maroon color. The head is a light chocolate tint. BIG spicy nose! WOW...a lot of popery notes. All the spices, pine, and floral notes rush through my nose and stick to the back of my tongue before I even take the first sip. The taste is really tight and a little tart. It leaves a little bit of a soap like feeling on the back of my throat. I'm glad to see this beer is still developing but it needs to go back in the cellar for another year or more. I'm going to rate this low but look for it get better and better with the years to come.

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Photo of chickencoop
3.75/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

For what this is, it is a solid winter beer that has become a tradition, ...but this just came off to spiced and having a odd metalic twang throughout. I love Anchor, remember this in the day in college when you'd be all like, winter beers rock, then pound one and puke, good times.

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Photo of DrJay
3.21/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Dark, but clear with ruby/purple highlights. Fine beige foam, really sticky with sheets of bubbles coating the glass. Good head retention too. Spicy aroma, cinnamon and nutmeg, with dark malts and dried fruits in the background, notes of cocoa and nuts. If the spice was toned down a bit, it would be easier to pick these characteristics out, but as it is the spices are not to the point of being cloying. Malty flavour up front, caramel and a bit of molasses. Chocolate and spices follow, with a dry chalkiness in the finish. Light fruitiness throughout, low to moderate bitterness. Decent texture with light carbonation, medium body. I didn't mind it, but I wasn't sold on the balance of spices and the chalky flavour.

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Photo of DaveJanssen
3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Reviewed 11/26/2009. 12 oz poured into large snifter.

Ar: spice, cloves, gingerbread, cherries, brown sugar, toasty malt, chocolate, citrus, sweet caramel, spicy and sweet, floral

Ap: med/dense tan head, good retention, rocky, very dark brown, clear, lace hints

t: Toasty malt, spicy, cloves, cinnamon, gingerbread, earthy, very prominent spice but works well with the rest of the beer, light cherry and mild fruit, brown sugar, light raisin, sweet but balanced, lingering spice and dark caramel end, chocolate hints, floral sweet, fruity

M: medium/thin body, medium carbonation, smooth spicy end, could be thicker

O: very good, spice heavy but pleasant, rich smooth and unique, whit i expected, fruitier than 2008, definitely spice heavy but very good

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Photo of tombcrypt
4.01/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Appearance: Very dark brown upon bright light, otherwise black. Good head upon pour, doesn't last long though.

Smell:I'm getting pine, vanilla, allspice. A touch of alchol. Very interesting and really makes you want to taste it.

Taste: Lots of spices are at the front. Anise/licorice, perhaps slightly minty, but not in a menthol sort of way. Sweet, with chocolate and nuttiness. Slight hop flavor is in there too.

Mouthfeel: Medium thickness, carbonation keeps things from sticking to the tongue too much.

Drinkability: At first taste, I thought I'd want to drink the whole big bottle to myself. However, the spice flavor is just too strong to keep drinking more than a glass. If I did drink more than that it would only be because the spice flavors are so intriguing.

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Photo of NittanyBeerFan
3.96/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Another beer in my mid-spring winter warmer sampling.

This is one gorgeous beer. The pour yields a deep mahogany liquid capped by a creamy and fine fluffy head that reaches a full inch in height. Lacing clings to the glass like a white wall as the head lingers for the entire length of time that it takes me to drink this.

The aroma is fairly light. Piney hops highlight an aroma mostly dominated by various spices. Anise, allspice, and nutmeg make a great impression. The taste is similar to the aroma, but the licorice character from the anise is more evident. The spice is again very prominent, as nutmeg comes to the front as the pine fades into the back a bit. The finish surprises me with chocolate undertones.

The feel is tingly initially, evolving to creamy, almost like an oatmeal stout in the finish. The texture is medium. Unfortunately, there is a bit too much spice in here to make it a "few in a night" type beer. I would like a bigger malty backbone to balance it out. Since I got a sixer, let's see how this one ages.

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Photo of aasher
4.54/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured out of a 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Black in color with caramel tinged head

Smell: Very aromatic and smells of cranberries and/or strawberries, as well as a slight porter smell

Taste: Excellent flavor, is sweet but not too sweet. Definitely has accents of cranberry or strawberry. Is almost like a fruity porter.

Mouthfeel: Good mouthfeel. Not too thick and flavor resonates.

Drinkability: Very drinkable for a winter beer. Has excellent flavor and smells very, very good.

I'd recommend this to anyone around Christmas time. It's delicious and is nothing like anything else you can find throughout the year. I've passed this on to friends and family and they love it as well.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.83/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Dark walnut brown that becomes dark brick red mixed with dark burnt orange when bright sunshine is allowed to stream through the glass. The firmly creamy crown is golden ecru in color and is developing a mesa-like surface as it melts. Good looking beer.

The nose features the usual nut brown maltiness and seems to have less pine than usual, although there's still some foam in the way. Besides, so much time passes between OSA reviews that comparisons are difficult at best.

This '09 version (Cupressus macrocarpa) tastes less bold and definitely less evergreeny than previous iterations. It also has a more distinct nuttiness and maybe even a little cream ale-vanilla vibe. Either my palate is off today or the boys at Anchor deviated farther from their basic blueprint this time around.

The beer is sweetish early and bitterish late, though neither one makes a big push. Guess that makes it balanced. Of all the OSAs to date, this one might be the most drinkable... in the sense that several bottles in a row wouldn't be any trouble at all. That doesn't mean the flavor profile is so all-fired amazing.

The mouthfeel seems thinner than remembered and this version hasn't even seen its first birthday. While the bubbles are fine, more substance would improve things considerably.

Our Special Ale 2009 is my 12th OSA. Anchor deserve kudos for changing things up this time (assuming they actually did), but I'll never be a huge fan of this particular seasonal. That said, it was still an enjoyable brew on this sunny May morning, so far removed from Christmas '09.

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Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 340 ratings.