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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)

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

407 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 407
Reviews: 340
rAvg: 4.02
pDev: 10.45%
Wants: 4
Gots: 25 | 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:
This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: blackie on 11-02-2009)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 407 | Reviews: 340 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of bump8628
3.93/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Typical 12oz Anchor Brewing bottle. Poured into a snifter.

Deep brown with a mat of tan head that slowly recedes and leaves plenty of foam and lacing all over the glass.

Aroma has hints of ginger and cinnamon with some roasted malts and hints of caramel and herbal hops.

The taste is a wonderful holiday blend of roasted malts reminiscent of charred cocoa, a light holiday spiciness, caramel, toffee, and background herbal/fruity hoppiness.

One of the better Anchor Christmas Ales I've had in the last few years. This is like a nice, roasty porter with hints of holiday spice. Well Done.

bump8628, Nov 27, 2009
Photo of Vengeance526
3.55/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a dark ruby brown color with a 1-finger tan head that holds up a for a little while, then slowly subsides and leaves a decent amount of lacing.

Aroma of cloves and cinnamon upfront with light hops and some wood in the back.

Taste has a very sharp note of licorice upfront. The spices come in to a lesser degree and the finish again brings out the hoppy/woody flavors. Lots of sweetness at the beginning of each sip, maybe a little more sweet than spicy.

Medium body with a medium to high level of carbonation. For some reason, this year just didn't do it for me. It looks and smells a lot better than it tastes, but I'll still hang on to a few bottles and see how it changes next year.

Vengeance526, Nov 27, 2009
Photo of Jwale73
4.22/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz. bottle served in a standard pint glass. Poured the color of cola with a frothy one inch, khaki-colored head that eventually settles into a quarter inch, consistent cap. Thick swaths of lacing are revealed during the tasting. Mild nose - malty, with maybe a hint of lactose and dark fruit. Taste reveals cocoa, toffee, a hint of dark fruit, perhaps some nutmeg and a roasty quality. Mouthfeel is medium-light with an even background carbonation. This beer is tasting great this year. Extremely drinkable without being cloying - great flavor balance. I'm going to need to make this a holiday staple.

Jwale73, Nov 27, 2009
Photo of WeisGuy
3.83/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

a - pours a deep brown color with some burgundy highlights, one-finger khaki colored head, retention around the edges, not much lacing

s - lots of spice on the nose, clove and cinnamon dominate, mixed with a nice amount of caramel, hints of piney hops, not much alcohol

t - like the aroma, mixed spice with caramel dominate the taste, lots of clove with mild notes of cinnamon, slight bitterness on the finish balances out the moderately sweet maltiness and spiciness nicely, much more well-balanced than I remember past vintages being

m - medium-bodied, somewhat higher carbonation, very lively in the mouth, well-balanced finish, on the dry side overall

d - fairly drinkable for a winter warmer, though the spices limit it for me somewhat, a good sipper for sure, but not a beer I'm going to drink multiple bottles of in any given evening

WeisGuy, Nov 27, 2009
Photo of lackenhauser
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep chestnut brown color. 2nd bottle was a bit of a gusher leaving a very nice head. Piney/spruce aroma. Mild spiciness to it. Solid malty flavor with a nice level of spices and a pine-like flavor to it. Lingering spruce flavor. Decent body. Very drinkable beer. The beer seems to be very similar year after year but once again a perennial favorite that always pleases. Well worth getting and savoring now and later.

lackenhauser, Nov 26, 2009
Photo of kingcrowing
4/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Magnum bottle poured into a Sam Adams oktoberfest stein.

Pours a lightly thick dark brown with some light ruby notes with a huge fluffy light brow head. Nose is sweet, malty, and it has some Christmas spices as well!

Taste has a nice light spice to it without being over powering. Has a crisp maltiness and not too much carbonation to increase the drinkability. Overall it's a nice holiday beer, and the magnum is a great beer to sip with thanksgiving!

kingcrowing, Nov 26, 2009
Photo of Gmann
3.85/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a chestnut brown color with a frothy tan head that settles into a solid cap. The aroma is roasted malt with a hint of chocolate, spice, candied orange, juniper and sprucey hops. Big sprucey hop flavor hits first followed by a rich roasted malt, chocolate, some buttery notes as well as juniper. This year the OSA is big on the malt, the hops are just along for the ride. The feel is full bodied with tingly carbonation; sweet from the malt but finishes sour from what I will say is juniper (but it might not be). This is a nice big roasty brew with a nice earthy spice profile. The sour aspect limits the drinkability for me a bit.

Gmann, Nov 26, 2009
Photo of dpodratsky3
4.03/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into pint glass

A: Very dark brown, just a little amberish hint where the light comes through, brown/tan creamy, rih head, big three fingers

S: Nice roasted malts and a distinct dark bread aroma lends some sweetness

T: Complexity is here, but pleasant, again that dark roasted flavor is there, not quite coffee roast, but a fair amount of bitter roast, sweetness is also present again, hops are detectable and add to the profile, but don't stand out too much

M: Healthy carbonation lightens, not heavy at all

D: Not too high in general, but nothing in it to detract from drinkability, just some complexity, but tastes very good

Notes: My first OSA and it is a good one. Exactly what I want in a Christmas beer. Nice, dark, and complex, but still so enjoyable . Just pleasant all around.

dpodratsky3, Nov 26, 2009
Photo of Billolick
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

An old friend that comes back for a visit every year, been enjoying this every year for decades! Pours near black, under a large dark khaki head, fading to a very thick collar, film and low sheeting. Nose of dark malts, holiday spiced with nutmeg and orange coming to the front. Yummy winter warmer, more dark malts all over this one, with roasted nuts, more nutmeg, and mulled oranges. Cooler weather, holidays, and this holiday gift from groundbreaker Anchor- seemingly getting better every year

Billolick, Nov 26, 2009
Photo of cassanoj
3.88/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a pilsner glass. Beautiful tanned head with a light brown body.

This is one of the nicest smelling beers I've had. Rich evergreens, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg. Undertones of flowers and chocolate.

Taste is not as creamy as the smell led me to believe. Vanilla, nutmeg, orange, banana, maybe some ginger - all rather faint. Becomes bitter. I do enjoy the light hop character.

Mouthfeel is thin and crisp. I wish it was thick and creamy.

Overall, the smell drives this beer. It's Christmas in a bottle.

cassanoj, Nov 25, 2009
Photo of DrinkinBoy
3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

This years Anchor Christmas appears a deep dark brown, allowing a small amount of light in. The head is a deep creamy tan, but only has okay retention.

The smell lacks really any recognizable smell of beer except for a faint roasted note. Mostly it smells like egg nog along with some other Christmas scent staples.

Its taste immediately brings in the egg nog/ nut meg that reflects the smell. On the mid palate cinnamon spice is more pronounced. It finishes with roasted and chocolate taste that is very familar with this dark of a beer.

On the mouth the beer is heavy with a little more carbonation that I would have liked.

Overall, this is a really good seasonal offering. It is a little different that most Winter Warmers because the spice is delicate and it doesn't have a huge fruit character. I enjoyed the complexity and would definitely suggest it.

DrinkinBoy, Nov 25, 2009
Photo of WolfmanK
3.78/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had this on tap last night, and it's possible that my impressions were tainted because I had the last glass before the keg kicked.

I found the so called complexity of this beer a bit off. All the flavor notes seemed distinctly separated. It was almost like I tasted spices in one sip, Ale in the next, wood the next, it was not combining for me in one well balanced even pull of the brew.

However that being said it was still very good. The spiced flavors were not over the top, as so often is found in this type of beer, and it finished clean.

I want to try it again, I may pick up a six pack some time of head back to the bar to see if they have a fresh keg.

WolfmanK, Nov 25, 2009
Photo of ElGordo
4.1/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the 12oz bottle into a Maudite snifter. A pretty, dark tan head tops a rich, mahogany-colored body. Aroma of ginger, anise, licorice, allspice, and some other spices, with a good dose of mild roasted malt in the background.
Palate is redolent of somewhat sweet up front, the roasted malt blending nicely with and carrying the interesting spice profile. Licorice and allspice stand out, with a gentle ginger note hanging around in the background. Finish is nice and smooth, malty but with less emphasis on the roasted character. Body is creamy, more so than in years past, but still sturdy enough to convey the serious malt content of this beer. The lack of pine and other "tree" flavors is a mild disappointment, but at the same time makes this a more approachable edition of the series. Always interesting, this is a must-try every year.

ElGordo, Nov 25, 2009
Photo of necrat
3.25/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

It poured a dark cloudy beer with a light head to it.

The smell was of pine, spice, cinnamon, malts, and a hint of hops.

The taste was weird to me. The taste did not reflect the smell at all. Some spice notes, some pine notes, a little chocolate and coffee and not much else, and it left with a dry but spicy finish.

The mouthfeel was average, moderate level of carbonation.

This beer is decent, it beats a lager any day but it doesn't stand out of the crowd either.

necrat, Nov 25, 2009
Photo of coldmeat23
3.98/5  rDev -1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

GLASS: Sam Adams Perfect Pint Glass
TEMP: Cellared @ approx 50 degrees

This years version pours a deep, dark, ruby tinted brown color. A head, over two-fingers thick, of chocolate colored foam sits on top. Retention is very good and the lacing is like a wall and very sticky.

Lots of molasses, along with spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg. Definite hints of roasted nuts. Buttered toast. Gingerbread galore.
Very christmas-like and appealing.

The gingerbread stands out, flavor-wise. Hints of butter and molasses. Light notes of caramel and toasted nuts and brown sugar. Light hints of chocolate, a bit of coffee bitterness and a kiss of hops.
Nicely balanced, but a touch on the mild side.

This has a medium body and a mild-to-medium level of carbonation. This brings about a light touch of creaminess, but also leaves it a touch thin.

The 5.50%abv is not even a thought, it's hidden so well. This, along with the light and balanced flavor profile, helps make this one a great session beer.
Perhaps not the best batch ever, but still a great seasonal release. I'll consume three or four cases over the next couple of months, easily.

coldmeat23, Nov 25, 2009
Photo of Kanyon22
3.13/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Lets just say I love Anchor Brewing Company's bottle style, something about those screams buy me. Okay on to the beer.

A: First off its a very dark brown color with red hue coming through, small tan head.

S: The aroma on this baby has some spicy/herbal smell with a bit of clove and allspice coming through also.

T: Not what i was expecting it was not as spicy as the nose was making it seem. Also seemed a little unbalanced with that roasted chocolate taste in the back end, that seemed to coat that back of the throat. It just didn't mix well for me.

M: Felt good going down had a nice thick feel to it.

D: This was an okay winter warmer, it came off like a spicy light porter that my mouth wasn't digging.

Kanyon22, Nov 25, 2009
Photo of thebeerdoctor
3.6/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A lively, dark mahogany colored pour, with the prerequisite spruce-spicy aroma in the nose, which is a recipe trademark of this wassail whose parameters vary from year to year.
This year's edition for me, misses the mark. Mind you, I have been sampling "Our Special Ale" since the 17th edition, and this one seems a bit out of focus, A citrus-soapy character is found in the front end of the palate, and then gives way to some chocolate notes that are hesitant at best.
This is not a particularly memorable version. It is fairly easy to drink, but the other 5 bottles of this six pack will be sitting in my beer cave fridge for awhile. In other words: I do not covet bottles of this version.

thebeerdoctor, Nov 24, 2009
Photo of BEERchitect
4.13/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

What a tremendously complex beer for a 5.5%er. With a foocus on burnt woods, spices, and a Brown Ale base, Anchor hits another home run.

Dark brown and nearly opaque, this Brown has a daintyy but persistent tanned head that leaces convincing amounts of lacing behind.

The Brown ale gives a lot of aroma and flavor of rch colas, root beer, and caramelized molassas. Laced with charred cedar, burnt cocoa, roasted almonds, nutty coffees, aand light peat; this is one largeky complex malt profile.

Spices of spruce, sage, nutmeg, orange peel, and cinnamon give a varying balance to the malts especially with the lighter hop contributions.

Crisp and well attenuared for the most part; maybe too much so. The beer kinda empties its creaminess too early; allowing the astringencies and flatness to dominate a large portion of the mid-palate. Later, the dry and crisp texture is appreciated, but this comes in too late.

Still the best annual Christmmas beer on the market.

BEERchitect, Nov 24, 2009
Photo of bum732
4.55/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a very dark red, almost black. Nice creamy head with decent retention. Smells of mellow holiday spices, some nutmeg, cinnamon, touch of fruitiness, roastiness. Subtle spices give way to a rich malt with a nice earthy backbone. Bitterness is fairly low with a great chocolate component near the finish. Finishes a little sweet with a nice blend of spices and chocolate. Nice full mouthfeel, carbonation fairly low.

This years OSHA is fantastic, the best i've ever tasted. There is a more chocolate richness in this years version that works beautifully with the spices. Probably my favorite Christmas beer so far. Highly recommend.

bum732, Nov 23, 2009
Photo of Finn
4.47/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark brown with an ample head. Aroma is diverse and complex: spruce, chocolate, biscuits, ginger, cinnamon, cola, bread, molasses. The flavor reveals some of the same aspects as the aroma by opening with a "sprucey" flavor that leaves a refreshing aftertaste. hints of gingerbread, vanilla and spice come and go, and the finish is almost a tad dry and thin, in a good way, with some dark malts drying it out. Mouthfeel is full and smooth, with a very complementary carbonation level, not too much, but enough to bring out some flavors. This is one of the most unique and interesting beers I've tried in a long time, and the drinkability is very good, considering the complexity of flavors that are packed in. Admittedly I haven't tried a ton of spiced beers, but this one is excellently balanced by the malts and bready character that hold the spices in check. I like that it's only 5.5% abv too, sometimes you want a complex beer without a big ABV commitment. I definitely will be buying at least a couple six packs of this to enjoy throughout the year, and to stash some away for aging.

Finn, Nov 23, 2009
Photo of BeerMeHearMe
4.75/5  rDev +18.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

So I have a bottle with 903 etched in the back of the bottle. Don't know what it means - but it seems to be a pertinent detail in some reviews. Anywho, I have bottle 903!

The beer was poured into a frozen 12oz dimpled beer mug this time. Poured dark caramel mahogany brown with a 1/2 finger head. Mild carbonation remains for a good 7 minutes which helps keep the thin head retention.

First taste and smell is of gingerbread, nutmeg, and cinnamon coated pine-needles, caramel - with caramel being the least strong of the 4. I also get a faint chocolate/coffee note and aftertaste. At first it tastes almost like a Russian Imperial Stout, a lighter one albeit, but still full of it's own unique set of flavors as usual with the Special Ale.

It seems less malty than the past few years' brew - maybe not. Which is not bad or good. But no matter that, at 5.5% alc./vol. this one could be a session ale to some crowds, including me. Makes for a great 2009 Special Ale from Anchor Brewing!
Update: and I agree with Hoplover82..the beer stays so tasty the entire time!

BeerMeHearMe, Nov 22, 2009
Photo of drumrboy22
3.78/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a New Belgium globe. Beer was a dark, reddish brown color, with a one-finger head. Moderate carbonation and no lacing.

Aroma was wood, maple syrup, nuts, cookies, malt and caramel.

Taste was vanilla, gingerbread cookies, nuts, malt and very light hops.

Easy drinking and balanced.

drumrboy22, Nov 22, 2009
Photo of Mebuzzard
3.93/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A deep mahogany, maple pour. Big sticky head. Nice lacing, and retention wasn't as good as it started out to seem.
A mild holiday spice in the nose. Some cinnamon and nutmeg, nothing dominant of strong. Malty and sweet.
I was a bit disappointed in the mouthfeel on this one. Tastes pretty good. Malt and caramel with the blend of spices. Again, not powerful...more tingly. But I felt the feel was a bit thin. Not very warming or residual. I would almost call this a 'light' winter warmer wassail.
Still, it's solid and not a bad beer.

Mebuzzard, Nov 22, 2009
Photo of Avagadro
4.65/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

A: Mahogany in color with a reddish head. Great retention.

S: The bouquet is pungent, filled with gingerbread, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

T: One of a kind. Very reminiscent of gingerbread cookies, or gingersnaps. There are hints of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and earl gray tea.

M: Thin mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. I would have liked something thicker.

D: Another great Special Ale from Anchor. I love tasting these every year to see how they change. Worth picking up!

Avagadro, Nov 22, 2009
Photo of StarlightSeraph
3.43/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a deep reddish-brown with one finger of off white head. The head subsides moderately slowly. Good lacing.

Smell: Cinnamon, nutmeg...lots of pumpkin pie spice. Some clove in there too. Smells like a pumpkin pie without the pumpkin. A little bit misleading for a winter warmer.

Taste: A quick bite from the spices, backed by bitter malt. There's a distinct bitterness that goes well into the aftertaste, but I think it's more from dark malts than hops. The initial spicy flavors fade surprisingly quickly, but there is a hint of sweet spice that permeates each sip. It doesn't really taste like the smell, however, and I'm not sure what to make of it. There's almost a slight sour note that comes through in the aftertaste as well.

Mouthfeel: Overly carbonated, but otherwise nothing to complain about.

Drinkability: It is easy drinking, and not too high in alcohol, either. I'm not really sure what to make of it. It's not a bad beer, but not my favorite winter warmer, either.

StarlightSeraph, Nov 22, 2009
Our Special Ale 2009 (Anchor Christmas Ale) from Anchor Brewing Company
90 out of 100 based on 407 ratings.